Business Acumen for Sales Professionals

Business Acumen for sales professionals has been identified as the critical sales skill to compete and win in the new era of leaner and meaner sales forces. With fewer sales reps and resources companies have become more reliant on the existing sales reps to deliver sales.

Pharma companies have shifted away from the traditional marketing driven model to a customer-centric business model. As a result greater decision making has shifted from product managers to sales reps and front lines sale managers.

Business acumen for sales professionals is defined as the critical business thinking, decisions making and resource allocation to meet one’s sales objectives. Although sales leaders have recognized that the pathway to achieving sales growth is business acumen, many sales leaders are finding it challenging to put it into practice.


Business Acumen for Sales Professionals

The problem is multi-dimensional because to be effective at business acumen companies need to adapt both the people and process side. Initiatives that only address one or the other are doomed to fail. The solution requires changes in business processes, skills, and mindsets at all levels of the organization.

Key people challenges:

  1. The training department is well prepared to support the development of business acumen skills
  2. Sales managers are unsure how to coach business acumen
  3. Most sales reps do not have strong business acumen skills
  4. Marketing, sales, and training need to change their mindset

The 2011 Canadian Pharmaceutical Sales Management Report, found that 84% of respondents felt that business planning/acumen was an important responsibility of the sales manager and 67% agreed that their organization put a high level of importance on business planning.

Only 20% of respondents agreed that their organization was providing ongoing support in developing their sales managers business planning skills.

Key processes:

  1. Sales and marketing planning processes need to be aligned
  2. Sales and script data needs to be aligned with sales objectives
  3. Territory business planning
  4. Business review processes

Over the next few weeks, I will be examining the challenges sales leaders face as they build Business Acumen Strategies to ensure they can deliver sustainable sales growth. We will look at the people and process issues that are critical to success.


Business acumen is going to be one of the key drivers of sales growth in the new era of pharmaceutical sales. To succeed sales leaders will need to take a comprehensive approach to adopting a combination of talent development and process realignment to gain the greatest traction in the industry.