Sales professionals with a strong business acumen are often the most successful. Unlike sales acumen, which involves prospecting, closing and overcoming objections, business acumen encompasses a larger picture. David J.P. Fisher, a coach and author, says business acumen is the ability to combine experience, knowledge, perspective and awareness to make sound business decisions.

Developing business acumen can help your career in several ways. For example, it helps you think about how your actions impact your colleagues and organization today and in the future. This helps you become a better collaborator. When you boost your business acumen, you also learn how to better understand complex prospect situations, says Fisher.

If you want to learn how to improve your business acumen, read on. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Fisher’s guidance on how to develop a strong business acumen.

Stay aware. To build your business acumen, you have to keep your eyes open and pay attention to what’s happening around you. Do you see any trends? Are there are recurring problems? Learning to identify and solve for these situations will help set you apart, says Fisher. Always pay attention to business challenges and be early in presenting solutions.

Identify mentors. Instead of trying to emulate one successful professional, Fisher suggests finding several mentors—ideally with different expertise. Aim to surround yourself with supportive mentors to improve many career areas simultaneously, he says.

Establish contacts beyond the sales department. Another way to develop your business acumen is to learn to network with professionals in other departments. You will likely face situations when you need to get help from other areas, such as accounting or HR. Having contacts in these fields will be illuminating and helpful when you need their expertise, says Fisher.

Continually learn. In addition to reading sales material, dive into books on other topics, including business, psychology and economics. Fisher says that when you are always studying and learning, your career will never stop advancing.

Get to know your clients better. Another impactful way to grow your business acumen is to learn the ins and outs of your clients’ operations. Take time to build a relationship with them and then ask questions such as “How do you find qualified candidates for X department” and “What do you look for in a leader at your company?”

Learn about different management styles. Fisher notes that every company uses different management. When you understand these different processes, you can get a better grasp of the company’s operations.

Consider your decision-making strategy. It’s also important to understand how you think about challenges and how you respond to problems, according to Fisher. For example, do you tend to decide quickly, or do you need more time to fully think things through? Reflecting on your own thought processes helps you understand interpersonal dynamics.

Developing your business acumen takes commitment and hard work. You have to be willing to stay self-aware, expand your network, embrace continual learning and contemplate your own thought processes. It’s worth it though, because you will end up contributing more effectively and building more productive business relationships.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: David J.P. Fisher is a speaker, coach and author of seven books, including the best-selling Hyper-Connected Selling and Networking in the 21st Century: Why Your Network Sucks and What to Do About It.