34 points of light to boost your Business Acumen

by Chris Arlen on October 11, 2012

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34 Points of Light to Boost Business AcumenBusiness acumen is your keenness and quickness in understanding and dealing with a business situation. Here are 34 points of light that I wished I’d been taught when I first started my career. Knowing and using them all those years ago would’ve made me smarter, faster and more successful.

Although you may not be familiar with all 34, you’ll find opportunities for using them in selling, planning, and managing. Here they are, in no particular order.

Strategic Analysis

* Value Chain, from the book “Competitive Advantage” (affiliate link) is a graphic representation of primary & support activities that every business engages in; value chains connect suppliers to customers to consumers – understanding this concept is the single greatest key towards selling solutions as a business case justification.

* SWOT Analysis (Strength Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) helps analyze & present a plan or course of action, simple and easy for tactical decisions and in-depth for larger, strategic ones.

* PESTE Analysis (Political, Economic, Societal, Technological, & Environmental) takes a broad, macro-level look at  long-term situational factors that may affect planning & strategic implementation.

* 5 Forces Analysis from the book “Competitive Strategy
” (affiliate link) (the 5 are Industry Competitors, Buyers, Suppliers, Substitutes, Potential Entrants) provides a competitive landscape for forces driving industry competition, helpful for long-term strategic decision making

Planning

* Gantt Chart is a bar chart that illustrates a project schedule with task start/finish dates, dependencies and precedences – can be a simple graphic (using PowerPoint) or a complex, voluminous project plan, using Microsoft Project Plan.

* Plan Hierarchy – is a cascading series where a Business Plan contains a Marketing Plan (aka Go-To Market Plan) that contains a Sales Plan that contains an Action Plan

* Integrating the Organization – is a strategic planning process that first defines a firm’s Mission (purpose), Values (guiding principles), Vision (future state), Strategies (ways towards Vision) before defining its Goals and Objectives.

Quality Improvement

* Pareto Chart  – graphically shows data ordered by frequency of its occurrence, combining a bar chart with line graph – it shows the “Vital Few” versus the “Useful Many”, which is part of the Pareto Principle, known for the 80/20 rule, eg. 80% of sales come from 20% of a firm’s customers.

* Understanding basics of Lean Six Sigma
(affiliate link) – this understanding is essential when working or selling in manufacturing environments, but it is increasingly popping up in service industries.

* Process Mapping  – is a simple way to illustrate complex, time based activities, identify decision & failure points, and can incorporate more complex steps when using  Swim Lanes.

* Understanding basics of DMAIC, PDCA , 5S  – are quality improvement methodologies that are commonly used when selling to, or working in manufacturing environments.

Marketing

* Inbound Marketing  – is an effective and efficient lead generation and sales positioning approach using blogs, social media, organic search (SEO) and paid search (PPC). However, it takes time and effort but little cost.

* Outbound Marketing  – is the traditional form of interruption marketing that is costly, ineffective and inefficient, but it’s familiar: ads, PR, telemarketing, direct mail, and tradeshows.

* Permission Marketing – a respectful approach to engaging an audience of prospective customers through the exchange of valuable information (from the marketer) for permission and access to prospective customers.

* Double Opt-In – is a process for enrolling in a Permission-based marketing program, where the prospective customer initially signs up (1st opt-in) for an email subscription and then must activate their subscription by clicking on a confirming email (2nd opt-in). The purpose is to ensure the customer intended to subscribe and didn’t inadvertently sign up the first time.

* CANSPAM  – is the U.S. law that marketers must adhere to or risk up to $16,000 for each separate email violation.

Branding

* Customer Promise – (aka Brand)  is the sum of all customer interactions with the company, intentional and unintentional, it is the promise the company keeps with its customers – not the marketing promises the company makes.

* Messaging Platform – is a group of messaging tools used for producing aligned and consistent marketing messages, some tools provide visual guidance, others guide the writing of text copy.

* Positioning Statement – (aka Elevator Statement) is a 15-30 second introductory statement used in selling situations, the better ones include what business you’re in, what customer benefits your offer provides, and why your offer is better than others.

* Corporate Identify – (mistakenly confused for the Messaging Platform) is a design guideline that indicates authorized corporate colors, fonts, logo usage and placement.

Sales

* Consultative Selling – occurs in many b2b sales situations, where the salesperson first seeks to understand/uncover the customer’s pains to be fixed or the gains to be made, and then sells a solution that fixes the problems and/or delivers the gains.

* Persuasiveness – in selling occurs when customers are presented and select a solution that solves their problems and/or delivers their desired gains.

* Value Proposition  – is the “What’s In It For Me” rationale that customers buy, the most important sales message to develop on a customer by customer, offer by offer basis. Don’t confuse a value proposition with a USP (Unique Selling Proposition), which is the sales version of the value proposition, but the USP attempts to define a unique value, which is rare in sales’ offers.

* Prospecting Intelligently – is the process of working through suspects to find prospective customers, doing it intelligently means wasting as little time and money as possible while producing valuable results.

* Client-Directed, Interactive Presentations –  are the live performance opportunity to persuade customers to select your offer, and are most successful when the presentation is dynamic (able to jump to customer directed topics) and engages customers in a conversation rather than lecturing at them.

* Persuasive Sales Proposals  – are the formalized written sales offer that are best presented in a persuasive document structure using a consultative selling methodology.

* RFx – represents any of the various written or electronic requests customers use to solicit proposals, information, or quotes. They include Request for Proposal (RFP), Information (RFI), Quote (RFQ).

Negotiation

* Focus on Interests, not Positions – is a negotiating skill from the book Getting to Yes (affiliate link) that was developed from the Harvard Negotiation project.

* Take time to make decisions – when possible, whether accepting or counter offering, postpone the decision to give yourself the time to think without pressure.

* When asked to lower your sales price, don’t without also changing the quantity, delivery, scope, scale or terms. If you give customers something without an obvious return benefit to yourself, they’ll believe you were over charging in the first place.

Finance

* Understanding how to read a Profit & Loss Statement – if it’s your business or your customer’s, you’ll need to know your way around a P&L.

* Understanding how to read a Balance Sheet  – the importance of the Balance Sheet is second only to your understanding of the P&L.

* Calculating ROI, Break Even  & CAGR – are three financial calculations commonly used in selling situations, when presenting business case justifications.

* Understanding Profit Margin vs. Markup – the often confused difference between the two typically doesn’t make much of a difference except in large dollar sales, then the percentages add up.

Summary

These are the points of light I find use in my work. What do you use regularly that you find useful and that’s not listed here?

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