This month I recorded a podcast with the superbly confident sales guru Andrew Buchanan, on the subject of commercial awareness.
It strikes me that most people I meet are not confident on this topic.
Maybe we feel like we’re not commercial or strategic enough in our thinking. Or, in many cases, we’re not even sure what it means to be more commercial or strategic!
Let’s make this clear and simple, strategic thinking is about bigger picture and longer-term. Don’t just think about your current task, project or department, think about the broader context and how this task contributes to long-term success.
One coaching client I worked with had been told for years that they needed to be more strategic, but they hadn’t been given any guidance on what that meant or how to do it. Let’s call them Lee. We talked about Lee’s projects and it was clear that their focus was on tactical delivery – this is what was needed, this was the deadline. Lee was lacking the broader why – why is this project important? What value does it add to the business? How does it support other departments in meeting their objectives? When Lee then needed to influence upwards for more budget, there was a lack of buy-in.
Switching the language was critical.
Lee shifted from “I’m doing XYZ and need more budget,” to, “In order to meet the broader business objective of ABC, and achieve growth of X, we need to invest in this project. This is the cost and this is the potential value to the business.” And the response was vastly different too: meetings were shorter, decisions made quicker and Lee was invited onto more project teams.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all plain-sailing, as Lee was later challenged to prove the value-add they had quoted was being realised! Being strategic doesn’t just mean talking a good game, we need to back that up as well.
Commercial thinking can be equally clear and simple, it’s about thinking like a business owner. Asking yourself and others questions like, how am I making money? What are my costs? Who buys from me? Why? Who are my competitors? What are they doing and how do I compare? How do I improve my sales and reduce my costs?
Could you feel more confident in meetings with senior colleagues, just by having these thoughts in your mind?
Could you add more value to meetings and projects, by thinking bigger picture, and more like a business owner? And how much would that support your personal brand and potential career development?
The great news is that you don’t need to have an MBA or wait years to build these skills, you can just start asking yourself and others different questions, and you are already on the way.
Give it a go, and let me know how you get on!
All the best,