Business Acumen – The Bridge Connecting Sales Pros and their Customers.

How important is Business Acumen?

I recently read an article by Brian Hill that nicely describes what Business Acumen is.  He says….

“General business acumen involves the ability to effectively communicate with all functional areas in the organization. Individuals with acumen are always looking ahead, trying to gain insight into what opportunities will be coming and what competitive threats are likely to emerge. Acumen means having the ability to devise strategies to remain one step ahead of competitors, a quality sometimes called vision. Great quarterbacks are said to have an unusual ability to “see the whole field.” In business, individuals with acumen have this quality as well”

This description impacted me because it relates to the LACK of Business Acumen we often see in many salespeople.   Let me explain…..

We work with Senior Sales Leaders who want their salespeople to ask better questions and really DIG into customer business issues that drive urgency and help establish alignment and focus.

When we deliver our training workshops, we do a meaningful exercise where we take a sample of a product and list four features for that product. We then challenge participants to come up with questions that highlight the business issues, the benefits that the feature addresses.

Let’s assume that one of the features is around frequency of delivery.  The typical salesperson might say:

“One of the features of this product is that it is delivered twice a week instead of once a week.”  Most salespeople simply state the feature – twice weekly deliveries – without flushing out the benefit of the feature for the customer.

Instead of simply stating the feature, maybe asking a question would be better.  “What would be the impact to your business, Mr. Customer, if we can cut your inventory level in half, relieving you of some space, while doubling the number of turns in inventory?”

It’s amazing how challenging this exercise is for industry veterans with product expertise. I believe it’s challenging because many don’t truly understand their customers’ business. They don’t have the acumen that provides the confidence to talk about business issues. They focus on their products. And that does not differentiate.

We do a lot of sales training and I am passionate about continuous improvement. You want your sales people to be more effective?  Train them in industry business acumen as well.  The more your team understands what’s really going on in the world of their customer – the overall big picture, the better they’ll relate and offer meaningful solutions. The more solutions they have, the more value they bring. The more value they bring, the more valuable they become.

Are your sales managers coaching to process, strategy, skill and acumen?

I welcome your thoughts or a conversation.


Brian Weiss