7 Ways for You to Build Your Business Acumen


Definition: a·cu·men əˈkyo͞omən,ˈakyəmən/ noun

  1. the ability to make good judgments and quick decisions, typically in a particular domain.

“business acumen”


astuteness, shrewdness, acuitysharpness, sharp-wittedness, cleverness, smartness, brains

How do successful bankers differentiate themselves? Products? No. Service? Yes, but with the understanding that it’s tough to do with many prospects. Pricing? Unlikely, because most bankers freely acknowledge that (a) their employer isn’t the low-cost provider and (b) some crazy competitor can always undercut them. So what’s the answer?

High-performing business and commercial RMs have figured out that it’s about demonstrating business acumen. Business acumen is bringing business issue insights and unsolicited financial ideas to the table. It is a significant differentiator in a competitive marketplace and is highly effective in proactive situations.

Business acumen is conversational competence in business issues; it is not the same as being a “Business Expert” or “Industry Expert”. Business acumen is conversational competence around the industry sector changes and potential business challenges affecting businesses within that industry.
Don’t misinterpret this. Product acumen is very important, particularly in reactive situations. But it is less of a differentiator in proactive situations.

So how can you develop your business acumen? Here are 7 ideas for you to consider. Pick a few that you want to implement. If you’re not getting the response you want, try something else. 

1. Read the Wall Street Journal, local business journals and one monthly business magazine (Fortune, INC, Forbes, etc.)

2. For your top business clients and prospects study the industry research from VerticalIQ, IBIS World, First Research or Lexis Nexis.

3. Attend local or regional trade association events to learn more about what trends are impacting your customers and prospects.

4. Keep asking clients and prospects “What’s New?”

5. Set up Google alerts on any companies that you are interested in.

6. Prepare at least 5 questions for every call you make to (a) demonstrate industry knowledge and (b) show you have done your homework.

7. Write an article for a business publication or develop a presentation on a topic that would be of interest to your top prospects.

Bonus tip: Ask your boss for advice on this.  

What do you think? What has worked for you? How have you developed your business acumen? Please share your insights and experiences in the COMMENTS area below…

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