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Business Acumen: The What, Why, and How for Salespeople

The Secret to Sales Success: Business Acumen

As a salesperson, you are the frontline of your company's revenue. Your success is a critical factor in the success of the business. To be successful, you need more than just the ability to sell; you need business acumen. In this article, we will explore what business acumen is, why it is essential for salespeople, and how you can develop it.

What is Business Acumen?

Business acumen is the ability to understand and apply fundamental business principles to make informed decisions that drive business success. It includes a deep understanding of the organization's strategy, its products, and its customers, as well as the economic and market forces that drive the business. Business acumen also requires an understanding of financial statements and how the organization generates revenue and profits. In short, it is the ability to see the big picture of the business and to make decisions that align with its overall strategy.

Why is Business Acumen Important for Salespeople?

Salespeople with strong business acumen are better equipped to understand their customer's needs and offer solutions that meet those needs. They can identify opportunities to sell more products and services and create deeper relationships with customers, leading to increased revenue and customer loyalty. Additionally, salespeople with strong business acumen are better able to communicate the value of their products and services to customers, creating more successful sales. They understand the competitive landscape and can position their products and services to stand out from the competition.

Salespeople with strong business acumen are also valuable assets to their companies. They can identify new market opportunities, assess risks, and make informed decisions that drive the business forward. They understand the financial implications of their decisions and can use financial data to create sales plans and forecasts.

Test your Business Acumen Skills:

Take this quick quiz to test your business acumen skills and see how you compare to your peers!

How Can Salespeople Develop Business Acumen?

Developing business acumen requires a commitment to learning and staying up-to-date on industry trends and best practices. Here are a few strategies for developing business acumen:

1. Read business books and articles: There are countless books and articles available that can help salespeople gain a deeper understanding of business principles. Our favorite book for developing business acumen include "Seeing the Big Picture" by Kevin Cope. As Kevin Cope writes, "Business acumen is not a function of intelligence. It is a function of curiosity, the willingness to learn, and the ability to see the big picture."

2. Attend industry conferences and events: Attending conferences and events can provide opportunities to learn from experts in the field and to network with other professionals. Salespeople can gain insights into emerging trends and best practices and make connections with potential customers.

3. Seek feedback and mentorship: Seeking feedback from managers, peers, and mentors can help salespeople identify areas where they need to improve their business acumen. Mentors can offer guidance and support in developing new skills and making informed decisions.

4. Analyze financial data: Salespeople can develop their financial acumen by analyzing financial data such as revenue reports, profit and loss statements, and balance sheets. They can use this data to identify trends, forecast future revenue, and make informed decisions.

The 5 Business Drivers of Sales:

At the core of business acumen there's this fundamental mental model that we use, that we call the five drivers. And the five drivers is a model that every CEO and every executive of every business, public or private, US/outside the US, every industry, that every business and every executive fundamentally thinks about. Those five drivers are cash, profit, assets, growth, and people. People right in the center of this model.

So this is a mental model that executives use to determine strategy, priorities, and choices and what are the ripple effect financial implications of those choices. Being able to use these tools that are available for you and the art of being able to question and probe into where their priorities are, starts to help you really understand what the other side of the table really cares about. And then better position your products and solutions to that language is a real art. We invite you into this journey of this art and science of building your business acumen.

Real-Life Example of Business Acumen Skills: Jeff Bezos

A great example of a business leader with impressive business acumen skills is Jeff Bezos, the founder and former CEO of Amazon. He is widely regarded as one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time. He founded Amazon in 1994 as an online bookstore and transformed it into one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world. Much of his success can be attributed to his strong business acumen.

He is known for his focus on the customer experience, which has helped to create a loyal customer base and drive sales. He famously declared that "the most important single thing is to focus obsessively on the customer." This customer-centric approach has led Amazon to develop new services such as Prime, which offers fast and free shipping, streaming of movies and TV shows, and other benefits. Prime has become a significant driver of Amazon's growth, with over 200 million members worldwide.

Because Bezos has a deep understanding of business acumen, he is able to assess the company's business model and the competitive landscape in which it operates. He is not afraid to take risks and make bold decisions. Bezos also understands the financial implications of his decisions and has a keen eye for identifying cost-saving opportunities. For example, he famously introduced the "two-pizza rule" for meetings, which limits the number of people in a meeting to those who can be fed by two pizzas, to encourage smaller, more efficient meetings.

Overall, Jeff Bezos is an excellent example of someone with impressive business acumen skills. His ability to identify new market opportunities, make bold strategic decisions, and focus on the customer experience has helped Amazon to become one of the most successful companies in the world. Salespeople can learn from his example by developing a deep understanding of their company's business model, identifying new market opportunities, and focusing on the needs of their customers.

The Benefits of Business Acumen for Sales:

One big challenge of senior executives is individuals coming to sell them. They don’t want somebody showing them all of their gadgets. What they need is need somebody who can come in, understand their business as well as they can, and then help them see how their products or service can drive towards their goals. And that's what business acumen allows us to do. It helps that individual or sales person move from a sales, product, or service expert to a business expert who happens to sell. And that's where that transition happens. We're not a methodology company, we're not teaching sales methodology, we're not teaching sales platforms or technology.

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