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In The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, you will find three competencies that most salespeople are lacking. The first is leadership, which is necessary to lead your clients. The second is change management, a set of skills that is becoming increasingly valuable for salespeople. And third competency is business acumen, without which it is impossible to be a consultative salesperson.

Business acumen is the knowledge and understanding of business concepts and issues. It is critically important to B2B salespeople because clients recognize who has it and who lacks it. A sales enablement for this competency will create an advantage over your competition.

Key Components of Business Acumen in B2B Sales

To answer the question of what business acumen in B2B sales is, we will look at its three key components.

Understanding Industry and Market Trends

The ability to understand their industry and their market allows a B2B salesperson to understand the big picture. In order to have business acumen, salespeople must understand the forces and factors that impact their industry and its impact on their clients and potential customers. This also helps them to use a differentiation sales strategy in the B2B sales process.

Financial Acumen and Analysis

Salespeople need financial acumen when pursuing companies. This is more important when targeting enterprise-level sales opportunities. When we consider what business acumen is, some part of it is financial.

Few sales reps will make the effort to read a company’s annual report and mine it for insights. Those who will read the report will have a better first meeting with business leaders because they will be better informed.

Strategic Thinking and Problem-Solving

Sales organizations spend too much time teaching their salesforce about their products and services instead of learning to understand their clients’ business. Business acumen allows salespeople to exercise their strategic thinking and improve their ability to solve problems. Without strong business acumen, it is impossible to create value for buyers and decision-makers. These stakeholders are looking for good counsel on a business decision, and only a salesperson with business acumen can offer that.


Why Business Acumen Is Important in B2B Sales

Here are four key reasons why B2B salespeople need business acumen.

  1. Improved decision-making: A salesperson who has a high level of acumen around business will make different choices than a salesperson who lacks this level of expertise. They will also help their clients with their decision-making. The reason a salesperson can lead their client is because they have valuable knowledge and experience that their client lacks. We call this being One-Up, and you can learn how to do this in Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative.
  2. Building credibility with clients: Too few sales teams have an easy time building their credibility with their clients. When we suggest that sales is broken, we are describing the gap between what buyers need and what salespeople deliver. The salespeople who win large clients take on a role like a consultant, not an order taker.
  3. Adapting to changes in the industry: In this business environment, we experience constant, accelerating, disruptive change. Salespeople who don’t pay attention to these changes cannot help their clients adapt. When you have business acumen, you can help your clients change before they are harmed.
  4. Increased sales effectiveness and efficiency: A salesperson with business acumen will win at a higher percentage. They are also likely to have a shorter sales cycle because of their sales approach.

Developing Business Acumen in B2B Sales

There are a number of ways to grow business acumen and enable the sales force. Here are four strategies to learn what you need to know about business.

  1. Continuous learning and self-education: You can acquire business acumen by watching CNBC early in the morning. You will see and hear leaders talk about their businesses and how they work. You can also read business books and magazines to acquire key concepts.
  2. Seeking mentorship and coaching: You can turn your clients into mentors by asking questions to better understand their industry and their strategy. Carry a journal with you so you can document what you learned and how you can use it in future conversations with clients.
  3. Collaborating with colleagues and industry experts: When someone has insights and a perspective about business, it is worth capturing their ideas. If you rarely follow industry experts, build a list of links, and read their work. We call these people “synthesizers,” because they read everything and publish it.
  4. Utilizing online resources and training programs: A lot of loud voices on social media talk poorly about education. A business degree or an MBA will provide business acumen far beyond what most salespeople achieve, but you can also do a lot of this professional development online. If you have the time and resources, it will help you in sales and business.

What Is Business Acumen for B2B Sales?

Business acumen in B2B sales is a strategic advantage for salespeople and sales teams. From understanding their own industry to their clients’ industry, they improve their sales conversations by offering business leaders valuable insights. When salespeople suggest they want to be their client’s trusted advisor, they need to know that the “advice” means they are a business advisor, something they cannot become without business acumen.

As the legacy approach to sales continues to fail salespeople and their clients, sales organizations need to adopt a new B2B sales methodology built on business acumen. Buyers and decision-makers will buy from people who can help them decide for their business.

After reading this article, spend 10 minutes listing resources you can access to build your business acumen. If you need more help, go here: solve for sales.

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Sales 2023
Post by Anthony Iannarino on May 12, 2023

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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