ATD Blog

An Insight Selling Approach Is Risky—if You Lack Business Acumen

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Insight selling is an important evolution in selling, but it seems that sales professionals are adopting this methodology and providing insights for the sake of providing insights. They are blindly offering clients and prospects data points without truly understanding what they mean. Forrester has found that in today’s selling environment, only 27 percent of B2B buyers think salespeople are knowledgeable about the buyer's specific business. Additionally, a study by Corporate Visions found that customers believe sales reps are 88 percent knowledgeable on product, but only 24 percent knowledgeable on business expertise. These are big gaps in the selling process, and the perception will only get worse as clients see through vailed attempts to provide value through surface level insights. 

Your sales teams need the dialogue skills and the business acumen skills to effectively provide value and differentiate your products, services, and solutions. Sales professionals need to understand their customers from a business perspective. They must not only be able to ask the right questions, but ask those questions in the context of your client’s business. They need to be able to position insights and value in terms of customer business metrics and in relation to a customer’s strategy, not just data points or “how great” a solution is. 

I define business acumen as a germane understanding of how your company makes money and, from a selling perspective, how your customers make money. It includes an awareness of what drives profitability and cash flow, a market-focused approach to the business, and an overall knowledge of the business and its interrelationships. Developing a strong business acumen core enables sales professionals to understand the business side of selling. It helps sellers recognize their customers’ business strategy and current financial situation. It teaches sales professionals how an insight relates to the value of the solution, and it allows them to be better prepared to respond to questions and objections to their insights by having a deep understanding of the systems of your client’s business.


Today, sales professionals must learn how to read and comprehend the impact of their customer’s financial statements. They need to be able to take a dialogue framework and learn to ask appropriate business situational questions, business challenge questions, and business opportunity questions. The bottom line? With a strong business acumen knowledge base, sales professionals will improve their ability to position value from their customer’s business perspective and fully leverage an insight selling approach.

About the Author

Jim Brodo is chief marketing officer at Advantexe Learning Solutions. With more than 25 years of experience in marketing, training and development, and business simulation development, Jim is an award-winning marketing executive with a proven background in driving pipeline value, revenue creation, and return on marketing investment through innovative demand generation strategies and tactics across digital and traditional mediums.  Jim has been recognized as top CMO by SmartCEO, Best of Biz Marketing Executive, and his marketing programs have been awarded numerous awards from the Stevie and Killer Content Awards. Jim’s specialties include search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), brand development and execution, content-based marketing and syndication, account-based marketing, strategic market planning, marketing automation, and sales enablement. Email: [email protected] LinkedIn - Twitter - @jimbrodo

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