How to Develop and Sharpen Your Business Acumen for Sales

In last week’s post, we explained why possessing business acumen is a critical tool for successful consultative selling, especially for salespeople who want to be more than just order takers. In today’s post, we want to dig deeper and discuss specifics on how to develop and refine this attribute.

The first step generally consists of gaining a better understanding of your own thought processes, and how they contribute to the development of your business acumen. For example, are you the type of person who thinks about possible solutions ahead of time, or are you solving a problem through trial and error?

Identifying the kind of person you are in the face of problems, including how you react, will greatly guide this process. It will help you analyze and use your strengths to your advantage. It ultimately boils down to wanting to improve upon your knowledge through questioning, examining, and studying.

Developing strong business acumen also requires a broader understanding of the many aspects of business. It is not just about knowing how one organization operates, but wanting to understand how entire industries function. Without showing an interest in broadening your horizon, it will be improbable to offer comprehensive solutions and strategies.

A quick and easy way to get started? Add sources such as Business Insider or Harvard Business Review to your regular reading list. Use a combination of media sources such as newspapers, websites, blogs, and books to gain information. Study financial statements and annual reports. Anyone wanting to acquire business acumen should be receptive to new information and insights. Aside from that, another great way to learn is by shadowing others within your organization.

Some choose to do this by listening or sitting in on meetings and sales calls, which is a good option in the beginning. However, listening in will not suffice – the key is to discuss the calls and outcomes afterwards. Ask questions why and how things went the way they went, and what could have been done differently.

Another way of acquiring business acumen is by learning through doing. In our research-based workshops, we frequently employ role-playing exercises to put theory into practice through the simulation of industry-relevant, real-world situations. Role-playing scenarios offer a twofold benefit: it is a fun and effective way to reinforce newly acquired knowledge while it also enhances existing skills. Real-life simulations and role-playing games can provide a fast track toward the learning and retaining of complex subject matter.

The success of such exercises can be attributed to the competitive nature many sales professionals possess. Most tend to appreciate that discovery learning transfers knowledge more quickly than other forms of instruction.

Besides the classroom, role-playing exercises can easily be set up during one-on-one coaching sessions, or by teaming up with a colleague for 30 minutes once a week.

Bottomline: Carving out some time to develop and hone business acumen will pay off. It’s instrumental in establishing long and productive business relationships with your clients. It’ll aid you in making sound judgments and creating sales strategies that will lead to better business results. The key to sharpening your business acumen is curiosity by wanting to learn and acquire knowledge that goes beyond a specific organization, but entire industries and the business world in general. It’s a process that will take time and is one that never stops.