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How To Develop, Improve and Demonstrate Sales Acumen

Chris Orlob
December 13, 2023

What separates a good salesperson from the great ones? Sales acumen.

It’s a superpower that requires critical thinking and deep understanding of your prospect’s world (and everything inside of it). 

This goes far beyond your classic B2B sales skills like sales prospecting, cold calling, sending follow-ups and social media selling.  

To truly master the ability to close deals, you must develop business acumen skills to separate from the pack of average sellers — especially if you’re dealing with executive level decision makers in your sales conversations. 

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • What is sales acumen?
  • How to improve sales acumen
  • Fundamental traits of sales acumen

Who is this guide for? 

  • Entry level salespeople who are looking to break into SaaS sales
  • Junior B2B salespeople who are seeking to advance their sales careers. 
  • SDRs who want to work better with deal champions and decision makers. 

What is Sales Acumen?

Sales acumen is the ability to connect with prospects on a deeper level by understanding their unique problems, anticipating their needs and leveraging your knowledge of their business to recommend the best possible solution — irrespective of whether or not it results in a closed deal. 

Another sign of sales acumen is the ability to detect bad fit opportunities, and avoid the pursuit of deals that will never close. For example, through proper sales discovery, strong business acumen can reveal when your solution is NOT the best fit for a client. Rather than chasing, make an alternative recommendation, win their respect and ask them to keep you top of mind for future referrals

Business Acumen

Sales acumen is really about having strong business acumen. This means you need to know the world of your prospect intimately — including things like common problems in their industry, metrics that matter to them, definitions and terminology, financial assessments, business processes and ways of working. 

Having strong business acumen also means being able to build a strong business case that demonstrates ROI

Great product knowledge is a given, but to unlock sales success, you must be able to demonstrate how the product delivers ROI and solves problems. 

Negotiation Skills

If you are a strong negotiator, does that mean you have sales acumen? Maybe.

Negotiation skills enhance sales acumen by demonstrating patience, understanding and creativity throughout the objection handling process. 

By exemplifying business acumen during the negotiation process, you can clearly articulate the financial impacts of each option you're presenting.

Signs of Sales Acumen

  • Understanding of your customer’s needs and buying motivations at a deep level.
  • Understanding of product knowledge that goes far beyond feature dumping. 
  • Understanding of how your prospect makes strategic business decisions. 
  • Understanding the intersection of your sales process and methodology with the customer’s buying process. 
  • Understanding of metrics, financial statements, and ROI your product can yield for the customer. 
  • Understanding of common industry definitions, terminology and jargon. 
  • Understanding of regulations, laws and compliance requirements. 
  • Understanding of how to react confidently in each unique business situation and offer the right recommendation. 

The bottom line is that you must position yourself as a strategic partner rather than just a vendor. 

How to Improve Sales Acumen

The number one thing to keep in mind to improve sales acumen: think like a customer. 

There are endless discovery questions you can ask, but ultimately it comes down to knowing your customer’s business as intimately as they do. 

Here are four techniques for leveling up your business acumen. 

1. Take Massive Initiative

The best sales reps have remarkable self-motivation. They’re not sitting around waiting for their sales managers to light a fire. You need to take massive initiative if you want to succeed in sales — this means recognizing your own lack of business acumen, followed by swift action to improve it. 

Some recommendations:

  • Subscribe to the Pclub podcast on Apple or Spotify
  • Subscribe to Chris Orlob’s YouTube Channel for expert tips and free advice.
  • Subscribe to Jocko Willinks podcast and listen to his TedTalk on extreme ownership. 
  • Read the greatest books of all-time on sales leadership.
  • Attend sales conferences, workshops and local meetups with peers. 
  • Master the art of active listening by genuinely listening to prospects and resist the urge to rush into the “sales pitch” until discovery is complete. 
  • Learn how to craft a mutual success action plan for deal acceleration.
  • Stay on top of the latest trends and developments in your industry by following relevant blogs, podcasts, and social media accounts. 
  • Improve your presence on LinkedIn. Engage in relevant discussions and connect with fellow sales professionals to share experiences and share notes. 

2. Master Your Product Demos (But Avoid Feature Vomit)

The first step of the sales process is to know your product inside and out.

However, the key to running a great SaaS sales demo is to avoid feature vomiting. We’ve all been on those brutal demos where the seller just goes on a feature rampage without considering what the prospect actually cares about. 

You should be able to explain features, benefits, and potential limitations — but tailor the conversation and avoid running blind with your sales scripts.

Related: Sales Demo Tips That Have Closed Over $100M Worth of SaaS

3. Understand Your Customer’s Business Model

Besides deeply understanding your prospect’s top pain points and buying motivations, you also need to intimately understand their business model. 

Knowing the business model is not just about technical stuff, it’s knowing how your customers MAKE MONEY — and how your solution will help them increase profitability. 

Ultimately, all solutions help prospects drive more revenue or save costs. That’s the frame of mind you need for a winning sales strategy. 

You should understand a mix of the following:

  • Their supply chain
  • Their business lifecycle
  • Their positioning and messaging
  • Their competition and external market forces
  • Their go to market strategy
  • Their monetization strategy

4. Get Sales Training & Coaching

Serious about advancing your sales career? There are plenty of great sales training and virtual coaching options available. 

  • Find a dedicated sales coach – 1:1 coaching is growing in popularity, and luckily the team at Pclub has developed a program where you can find a sales coach that’s right for your needs. 
  • Try some online courses – browse through this selection of B2B training courses to learn at your own pace. 
  • Enroll in Pclub’s platinum passport – unlock this “Vault” of SaaS sales video courses to improve your business acumen, increase quota attainment and develop lifelong sales skills you’ll utilize forever. 
  • Get specialized SDR training – the team at Pclub has developed a set of training courses dedicated to SDRs and their unique needs. 
  • Get specialized sales management training – sales managers have unique needs, that’s why the team at Pclub has curated this list of free and paid training resources for sales leaders. 
  • Get training for your entire sales organization – Address every role and skill level in your sales organization. Perfect for business owners and sales leaders seeking to roll out training across a growing sales team. 

Fundamental Sales Acumen Traits

These are the most fundamental traits for developing, improving and demonstrating sales acumen. 

Emotional intelligence 

Emotional intelligence is a vital skill for demonstrating business acumen. 

Addressing your clients' feelings and empathizing with them during the sales process makes them feel heard and seen. This has to be genuine though and don’t just do it because you want to “get the sale.” A genuine, empathetic sales person is more likely to build genuine and strong relationships with their customers.

Emotional intelligence also means you can stay calm, handle challenges positively, and solve complex social situations gracefully. 


Sales is about solving problems, not pitching features. Period, end of story. 

You must think critically, be creative, and practice active listening to demonstrate your problem-solving ability in sales. 

Here are some examples: 

  • Developing creative financing options for price-related objection handling. 
  • Building customized product offerings tailored to meet the unique requirements of individual customers – a good example is Docebo’s LMS for employee onboarding
  • Utilizing social proof and testimonials to establish confidence and credibility with prospective clients – a good example is Chili Piper’s wall of love
  • Cultivating alliances and partnerships with adjacent companies to fulfill a certain aspect of the client’s needs that can’t be supported through a direct integration – an example would be DCKAP’s custom integration for Salesforce and Netsuite

Recognizing Bad-Fit Deals

The faster you get to a “no”, the faster you’ll advance your sales career. There’s nothing more demoralizing than chasing an opportunity that doesn’t have any real potential. 

Recognize the warning signs of a bad deal, and how to abandon it FAST:

  • Low Responsiveness: The prospect shows decreasing interest or responsiveness. They stop responding to emails, calls, or other forms of communication.
  • Unresolved Concerns: The prospect has persistent objections that cannot be overcome. 
  • Lack of Cooperation: They can’t provide necessary information or documentation.
  • Excessive Decision-Making Timeline: The decision-making process is continually delayed without clear reasons.
  • Budget Constraints: Lack of cash flow can be a legitimate deal-breaker, but this should be determined way upfront, long before it gets to late stages of the sales process. 
  • Leadership Changes: Organizational disruptions such as restructuring or leadership turnover can kill deals fast. Sometimes, there’s no choice but to abandon an opportunity when this happens. 
  • Competitive Forces: Dealing with competition with sales can be challenging, but it’s part of the game. Check out Pclub’s expert guide to learn how to win against stiff competition. 

👉Recommended: How To Deal With Competition in Sales (And Win)

Financial Acumen

Sales is about numbers. Here’s a short list of items to conquer for financial mastery in sales. 

  • Understanding Financial Statements: Ability to interpret financial statements like balance sheets and cash flow statements to assess a prospect's financial health.
  • ROI Demonstration: This is sales 101. Check out this technique from Chris Orlob to help you when it comes to illustrating ROI. 
  • Budgeting and Forecasting: Proficiency in understanding and working with budgeting processes, as well as forecasting future financial outcomes related to sales efforts.
  • Pricing Strategies: Knowledge of pricing strategies is critical in B2B sales. Often, closing deals may come down to justify pricing decisions based on the perceived value. 
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: This skill can help potential customers understand the financial impact of their investment in the offered solution. You can also position this as, “What happens if you DON’T solve this problem in your business?”
  • Risk Assessment: Mature sellers should know how to flag potential financial risks associated with a sales transaction, and explain the risks transparently. 

Improving Business Acumen Never Stops

Continuous learning is the key to longevity in sales. Even the best sellers never stop learning.

There are endless resources available today — everything from podcasts, to sales books, to YouTube tutorials to corporate sales training programs.

With all this valuable information at your fingertips, there’s really no excuse for mediocrity. 

Ready to level up your SaaS sales acumen? Sign up for Platinum Passport — One of the greatest sales training programs on the planet.

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