Business Acumen – Fuelling Pharmaceutical Sales Growth

Business Acumen (BA) has been identified by sales leaders as the critical sales skill in order 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 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 reps and front lines sale managers.

BA is defined as the critical business thinking, decisions making and resource allocation to meet ones objectives. Although sales leaders have recognised that the pathway to achieving sales growth is BA, many sales leaders are finding it challenging to put it into practice.

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 development of business acumen skills
2. Sales managers are unsure how to coach BA
3. Most reps do not have strong BA 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 3 weeks I will be examining the challenges sales leaders face as they build in developing strong business acumen. BA Strategies to ensure the success of your BA strategy can provide 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 by adapting a combination of talent development and process realignment to gain the greatest traction in the industry.

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