Industry acumen for sales effectiveness


Published on: May 2022

Written by: Barbara Adey

Customer empathy is key for sellers who want to win in today’s hyper-competitive environment. This ability to anticipate customer needs, produce thoughtfully tailored solutions, and drive meaningful outcomes for clients is not an innate ability that only a few select sellers possess, but a skill that all sellers need to actively cultivate.

Developing customer empathy begins with gaining a deep understanding of your customers’ business, otherwise known as industry acumen. Industry acumen provides the critical foundation for customer empathy by helping sellers identify customer pain points, key goals and metrics, and the critical business drivers and care-abouts for each function within an organization.

If sellers and organizations are willing to invest in building industry acumen, they will most certainly reap the rewards. In the case of one cloud services provider, sellers with industry acumen training delivered a 31% higher pipeline than their peers. Facilitating industry acumen leads to bigger, better sales opportunities. So, how do you help your salespeople develop industry acumen?

  1. Practice makes perfect
    One of the best ways to embed new skills and knowledge is through practice. By leveraging role-plays or AI-powered platforms to simulate conversations with customers, sellers learn to “walk a mile in their customers’ shoes.” These simulated experiences immerse sellers in the opportunities, challenges, and strategic decisions faced by executive teams in specific industry verticals. Sellers also gain an understanding of the care-abouts for different functional executives (e.g. Chief Financial Officer, Chief Marketing Officer), overall developing a strong sense of industry acumen.
  1. Customization is key
    Every organization is different, but individuals within your go-to-market team will likely require different levels of skill-building. For sellers who are entirely new to vertical selling, training must begin by building a foundational knowledge of their industry vertical. On the other hand, there may be members of the team with backgrounds in vertical selling who need a more tailored approach to improving client conversations.
    It’s also critical to consider different levels of specialization. For example, mastery of the healthcare industry in general may be enough to get by at one company. At another company, however, it may be crucial to drill down on Provider, Pharmaceutical, Medical Device, and Payer verticals to reach the level of sophistication needed to converse with industry executives.
  1. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate
    For this verticalized, go-to-market approach to be successful, many groups within the company must work together. The sales enablement team can no longer just deliver sales skills training – the team must also work with product management and with marketing to create customized value propositions and use cases for different verticals.

Developing industry acumen is made easier by leveraging simulations, whether standard, self-paced ones or fully customized and facilitated experiences. Investing in sellers’ abilities to connect more deeply with their customers will result in better solutions, which will ultimately lead to larger deals and faster time to close those deals.

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