Business Acumen for Sales Professionals: The Ultimate Guide to Improving It

There is a lot of talk about what skills and traits are necessary for successful salespeople, but it turns out that business acumen (or more specifically, the ability to be good at selling) plays an important role.

The most important attributes for a salesperson are product knowledge, customer empathy, problem solving skills and persuasiveness. They cannot be successful without strategic thinking or affinity to technology.

Without these skills, salespeople are at a huge disadvantage.

There are many skills needed to be a good salesperson.

One of the most important traits in a candidate is their ability to learn and understand how business works.

  • Business acumen is the ability to see all of a company’s operations and be able to use that knowledge for good.
  • A company’s ability to be profitable is dependent on the level of business sales acumen. The stronger a company’s business acumen, the more likely it will succeed in this globalized market.
  • How to Develop Business Sales Acumen
  • Here are some examples of how business acumen has helped companies save money and grow.
  • Excellent salespeople are often indistinguishable from business leaders.

The problem with this assumption is that people are not only motivated by money. In fact, I’ve found that there’s a lot more to it than just pay and commissions.

Need Help Automating Your Sales Prospecting Process?

LeadFuze gives you all the data you need to find ideal leads, including full contact information.

Go through a variety of filters to zero in on the leads you want to reach. This is crazy specific, but you could find all the people that match the following: 

  • A company in the Financial Services or Banking industry
  • Who have more than 10 employees
  • That spend money on Adwords
  • Who use Hubspot
  • Who currently have job openings for marketing help
  • With the role of HR Manager
  • That has only been in this role for less than 1 year
Just to give you an idea. 😀

Business Acumen Definition

Business acumen is the knowledge of business situations, enabling one to quickly assess risks and opportunities. It?s also called ?business sense,? or even just a general understanding of what it takes to succeed in life.

The idea of business sales acumen is to have a practical understanding of the different aspects, units, processes and roles that make up an efficient company. It means having knowledge about how these components relate to each other.

In essence, business acumen is knowing how businesses behave.

How Do You Demonstrate Business Acumen in Your Daily Life

Business savvy people are able to take initiative, think outside the box and innovate. They should be good at business strategy.

  • A company’s success is not only in the hands of executives, but also in how employees are treated.
  • Determine how a specific business is able to make money and stay afloat.
  • A business is not always able to predict the ways in which major events can affect their industry. For example, if there was a sudden change in technology or legislation that made it easier for your competitors to operate more efficiently than you are currently doing so, this could have an impact on sales and eventually lead you into bankruptcy.
  • It is crucial to have a basic understanding of the fundamentals, such as financial statements and company documents.
  • Be aware of company objectives and map out different ways to achieve them.
  • I learned that I needed to understand the way a business owner thinks and solve problems accordingly.

The Difference of Bussines Acumen and Sales Acumen

The qualities that make a salesperson excellent are their abilities to prospect, articulate the value of your product or service in an appropriate way for each customer, handle objections and negotiate. They also need empathy with customers as well as self-motivation skills.

On the other hand, if you want to be a successful B2B salesperson, you need business acumen. Business knowledge is essential for doing well in this field.

  • If a salesperson lacks knowledge about the industry, it will be hard to have successful conversations with prospects. It is more difficult for them to know what questions are relevant and meaningful when they don’t understand how business works.
  • In B2B sales, it is critical to have a thorough understanding of the business that you are trying to sell into. In order for your solutionproduct(s) be properly implemented and used by an organization’s employees, one must understand what they do every day.

A large part of the job is understanding how to sell. However, business acumen becomes nearly as important in today’s world because people are more customer-centric than ever before.

In this era of customers seeking out trusted advisors and consultants, it is impossible to be a successful salesperson without the skills needed for running your own business.

  • To keep your sales team up to date with the latest in business, they need a good understanding of what is going on and how it will affect them.
  • Every business is different, and the only way to come up with a custom solution that suits your customer?s needs is by taking their perspective.
  • It is important to have a strong business foundation, as well as articulate why your solution would be the best investment for them.

A good B2B salesperson has an understanding of the business they are in, not just their own. They can help guide customers through any problem or obstacle.

What Is the Importance of Business Acumen?

Salespeople often fail to build strong relationships with clients because they don’t understand how business operates. They might have the skills and knowledge of what their product does, but it’s not enough for them to win over new customers.

Understanding Business Sales Acumen

The ability to understand the inner workings of a business is not only for owners, entrepreneurs or leaders. In order for companies to succeed in highly competitive environments, their sales force should be staffed by people who truly know how businesses work and how enterprises behave depending on different scenarios.

Sales professionals without business sales acumen will find it difficult to build and sustain strong relationships with corporate clients.

Salespeople who are good at their jobs know how to manage themselves and can do the following things:

  • Provide value to the customer by determining their needs and providing a customized strategy.
  • Building trust with customers is about conveying a strong understanding of the business and what it values.
  • You should ask the right questions in order to get your answers quickly.
  • It is important to understand the pain points of a salesperson’s job.
  • Keep your conversations with clients interesting and meaningful.
  • Build a solution with the customer to fix pain points.
  • Determine whether the vendor can provide a custom solution that is financially feasible and sustainable.
  • Finding the perfect balance between vendor and customer is essential for success.

Sales Acumen and Business Acumen Are Frequently Linked

Selling is simple:

You won?t go very far if you don?t know your customer.

Businesses today don?t need salespeople in the traditional sense. They want to find and consume product information online at their own convenience, not be bothered by phone calls from a rabid salesperson who is following an aggressive quota system with scripted words that they are conditioned not to go beyond.

When hiring salespeople, it is important to not just focus on commission structure and base pay. Businesses need employees who are experts in their field – accomplished advisors or consultants.

  • It is important to understand what your client’s needs are.
  • The first step to solving a problem is identifying the source of it. Ask about what their day-to-day work entails, and identify where there might be frustrations with those tasks.
  • I have a knack for finding creative solutions to difficult problems.
  • The success of a business hinges on recognizing what is most important to the company and how it can lead them in achieving their goals.

The best salespeople are those who have a lot of business knowledge.

How to Learn Business Acumen

For both entrepreneurs and those who want to be, one thing is clear: business acumen.

Anyone can be taught how to run a business.

There is no such thing as natural business skills. They can be learned through experience, self-learning by reading and networking with leaders in the field, or training.

When you first start as a salesperson, it is important to learn about the industry that your company works in. You should know all of the different factors that affect this industry and how they work.

They can also learn more about their own organization, the different units that comprise it, and how they operate. This gives them a chance to get involved in other areas of the company outside of just sales.

Tools, Books, and Other Resources to Aid in the Development of Business Sales Acumen

Next, you need to take a step back and broaden your knowledge by reading books or watching videos that will help you learn how to be more successful in business.

Formal training is not the only way to get ahead in business. You can go to school, take workshops and seminars with high-quality providers, or you could save on costs by taking free online courses first.

One of the best ways to find salespeople is by looking for those who are already well-known in your industry. This will help you avoid wasting time and money with unqualified candidates.


1) Business Insider

2) Entrepreneur

3) Inc.

4) Fast Company

The Harvard Business Review also found that people are not just motivated by a paycheck.

6) Bloomberg Businessweek


1) The Sales Hacker Podcast

In his B2B Sales Talk, John Barrows stresses the importance of being proactive and persistent. He says that salespeople should “stop waiting for customers to come back” but instead try harder to reach out more often.

It is important to maintain a strong entrepreneurial spirit, especially when things get tough.

4) Duct Tape Marketing

5) HBR Ideacast

6) B2B Nation: Smarketing

7) THE $100 MBA

According to the article, there are 56 best sales podcasts worth following in 2020.


The article is about how to build credibility, career growth and company success by having a solid understanding of the business world.

John Maxwell has compiled his experience and research in the field of leadership into a book called “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.”

Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson present their ideas about management in The New One Minute Manager, which is a fast read that simplifies the process of creating an effective work environment.

Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, states that our drive to succeed is not just driven by money and financial incentives. It’s also the desire for mastery over a skill or task as well as autonomy in how we do it.

Wickman’s book offers advice for managers on how to manage themselves and their teams.

The Goal is a business novel about the importance of having an organization-wide goal and how it should be divided into small, incremental goals.

Linchpin is a book by Seth Godin that discusses the difference between management and leadership. It focuses on how to be indispensable, which means you’re constantly giving more than what’s expected of you.

Jim Collins talks about how some companies are able to make the leap from being just good to becoming great, and why others cannot.

Bonus:  Recommended Reading by Sales Hacker is a list of the best sales books for 2021.

Free Online Courses

Management Principles, Saylor Academy

The article explains that managers should consider the economic analysis of business decisions, which can include changes in supply and demand curves.

A course on finance that I took at the University of Michigan

Stanford University has a course that helps business owners understand their organization. It analyzes the company from every angle and then makes recommendations for improvement.

MIT has started a new initiative called U.Lab that is designed to give students the skills they need for future careers in business, society and self.

University of Toronto offers a course on behavioural economics and the psychology behind human behaviour.

One of the most important aspects to consider when hiring salespeople is how innovative they are. It’s crucial that your team members have a thirst for creativity and aren’t afraid to think outside of the box.

Business Sales Acumen in Action: Real-World Examples

When people talk about business acumen, they often mention the same few figures. You’ll hear comments or anecdotes from Richard Branson, Henry Ford, Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs.

Here are a few concrete examples of how these industry giants gain advantage by using their business acumen:

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett’s business experience and acumen grew from his ability to run a string of businesses since he was young.

When he was a kid, Buffett worked in different jobs. One of his most successful business ventures when he was young happened during high school. He and one friend invested $25 for a pinball machine that they strategically placed at barber shops around town; the venture quickly expanded to several machines across multiple locations before being sold after just over year.

Buffett is a billionaire investor and he uses his knowledge of business to make decisions about whether or not the company will be profitable.

Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos is the founder and CEO of Amazon, which currently has more revenue than any other online retailer.

When Amazon first started, they didn’t know much about their customers. Now that the company has collected data over a number of years, it is able to understand what motivates its customer base and can use this information for business decisions such as acquisitions or product innovations.

Richard Branson

Like Warren Buffett, Richard Branson started a business at an early age.

Branson has led a successful conglomerate for over thirty years, controlling more than 400 businesses. He started by publishing magazines and operating mail-order business when he was just 16.

Excellent Salespeople Hold the Capability to Think Like Business Leaders.

Sales skills alone may have been enough to close deals in the past, but now we need a new playbook. Business acumen is crucial for all salespeople and that’s why I pay attention to it.

Enterprise customers are looking for more than just sales reps these days. They want someone who understands their business and the different factors that affect them, like competition or technology.

Business acumen is an important skill for salespeople to have because it enables them to build trust, create sound engagement strategies, make smart calls and deliver solutions that address their customer?s problems. This also means they can orchestrate business outcomes the client expects.

Salespeople with knowledge of the business are much more powerful in B2B selling. They know how to help companies succeed and eventually this pays off for their own company.

Need Help Automating Your Sales Prospecting Process?

LeadFuze gives you all the data you need to find ideal leads, including full contact information.

Go through a variety of filters to zero in on the leads you want to reach. This is crazy specific, but you could find all the people that match the following: 

  • A company in the Financial Services or Banking industry
  • Who have more than 10 employees
  • That spend money on Adwords
  • Who use Hubspot
  • Who currently have job openings for marketing help
  • With the role of HR Manager
  • That has only been in this role for less than 1 year
Just to give you an idea. 😀
Editors Note:

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Justin McGill
About Author: Justin McGill
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