Business Acumen is an Essential Part of Selling


Written by Lauren Keen, Sales consultant, Paradigm Learning


By most accounts, sales today is much different from how it used to be. The primary component of a salesperson is no longer simply to know your product inside and out and be able to eloquently describe its features and benefits. Now the salesperson must engage in solution selling. Defined by The Challenger Sale as a shift in focus from “transactional sales of individual products” to “broad-based consultative sales of ‘bundles’ of products and services.” In order to succeed, salespeople need to understand business – their customer’s business. That diabolical little gremlin known as business acumen.


According to Daniel Pink in his book To Sell is Human, 1 in 9 Americans work in sales. I joined this elite force with Paradigm Learning over a year ago. We believe in training that is fun and engaging, that leaves an impression and sticks with participants long after the training has ended. Over 20 years ago, Paradigm Learning applied this then-novel idea to the sometimes-dry topic of business acumen. Increasingly, sales leaders come to us because they want their reps “to improve their business acumen so they can converse” with decision makers in their own terms ( Davis, Slow Down, Sell Faster! ). Mark Roberge of Hubspot agrees, saying “salespeople need a high degree of business acumen in order to fully understand their buyers’ goals” (The Sales Acceleration Formula).


Just last week, I met with a gentleman who explained how his industry is changing – the margins on products are decreasing and can no longer grab market share by simply offering the lowest price on their products. Customers motivated by this reason are quick to change suppliers the next time around. Their salespeople need to win business based on their services, which ultimately leads to more products sales in the future. My contact told me that in order for his salespeople to win the right kind of sales, they need to be more consultative. They need to talk to executives in their own language. Salespeople need to understand their customers business, so they can add value.