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In the past, there were certain attributes and skills that defined successful salespeople. Salespeople that had the ability to close deals, for example, were highly sought after. It was also important that they had the abilities to describe their product’s features and benefits. They needed to know things like how to overcome objections.

More and more, the disruptive changes that are affecting all businesses are making the attributes and skills of the past less and less valuable to salespeople. Sales acumen is no longer the primary attribute that indicates that a salesperson will succeed.

What’s taking precedence over sales acumen? Business acumen is the new sales acumen.

The problems with business acumen

Some people don’t like to think about the importance of business acumen. They believe it’s too difficult to define, and it’s even more difficult to determine whether a salesperson has it. So was sales acumen, but that didn’t prevent sales acumen from being effective in the past, even though it was hard to determine who possessed it and who didin’t. Like sales acumen, you can learn a lot about it from reading, but to really gain any mastery you have to feel it by being involved in business and making decisions.

Business acumen is difficult to acquire. You can go to an Ivy League school and get an MBA and still not have business acumen. But there are things that you can do to develop business acumen. You can learn the language of business. You can learn the major concepts and ideas. You can make a study, and you can collect the experiences that hone your business thinking. You can learn from others who have it.

Opening is the New Closing

My favorite example of how much business acumen is the new sales acumen is in how little closing matters when contrasted with opening. Closing isn’t a problem anymore. Opening is the far bigger and much greater challenge.

The salespeople that have the greatest ability to open the relationships that open opportunities have an easier time because they are able to create more value than their peers. They think about solving real business challenges and providing real business results. They understand that providing leadership around providing business results entitles them to deep, lasting relationships.

And, they speak the language of business.


What sales skills have become less important as the game of sales has changed?

What changes in the business environment have required that sales people acquire new skills?

How do you acquire business acumen?

Why do your clients need their salespeople to possess a level of business acumen?

Sales 2012
Post by Anthony Iannarino on January 10, 2012

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. He is the author of four books on the modern sales approach, one book on sales leadership, and his latest book called The Negativity Fast releases on 10.31.23. Anthony posts daily content here at TheSalesBlog.com.
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