Sales Professionals Earn The Right To Sit At The Business Table, Are You?

“Don’t just get involved. Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table.”

Barack Obama

If you wish to gain a seat at the business table with executive decision-makers, key influencers, or those that can make a difference, you must learn, consume and mirror their characteristics.

Check out what Gartner’s research says…

“Today’s B2B buying involves more stakeholders than ever before. In a typical firm with 100 to 500 employees, an average of seven people are involved in most buying decisions, each armed with four or five pieces of information they have gathered for themselves.”

Question for all those in sales… How well are you grabbing the attention of all these decision-makers and what are you bringing to the table that is any different?

Don’t Expect a Seat if You Don’t Bring Anything to the Table

To reinforce this, even more, let this quote from Marc Miller, who wrote the book, “A Seat at the Table” sink in,

“In today’s commoditized business world, customers only care about one thing: value. To offer real value you must stop being a salesperson and become a businessperson who sells.”

Do you have what it takes to gain a seat at the table?

Are you bringing business substance to the table?

Are you a salesperson or a businessperson who sells?

I would like all those in sales and sales leadership to stop for a moment:

Are the conversations you are having right now earning you a consistent seat at the business table?


Each person who is sitting at the table has business goals and challenges. It’s up to you to attach your offerings to their challenges in the form of strategic help, now this is true value.

What does each of these individuals care about?

What is important to them?

Why you?

“When you suggest solutions that add value to critical customer strategies, you leave your competitors in the dust. Since your competition is myopically focused on selling products and services that add little value to the higher picture strategy of the customer, these traditional competitors will no longer even be on your radar of competition.”

Marc Miller, A Seat at the Table.

You may be asking yourself, “What is equal business stature?”

I believe people do business with those they respect, those they trust, and those they view as being credible. If you are viewed as less capable or less professional, why would someone trust you with their business?

Perception is reality in the eyes of those that matter… All those at the business table.

First impressions are everything when it comes to equal business stature.

  • Does your business walk match your business talk?
  • Are you speaking your own sales language or their business language?
  • How do you perceive yourself?

Projecting and portraying an executive presence, combined with the way you deliver your message, will cause executives to take notice. 

This is the wholly grail… Confidence, competence, business acumen, business conversation, and business knowledge.

Business conversation combined with business acumen will get you equal business stature.


Sales professionals consume business acumen for breakfast

Let’s look into each word…

Business: “The knowledge and understanding of the financial, accounting, marketing and operational functions of an organization.”- SHRM’s Business Literacy Glossary

Acumen: “Leanness and depth of perception, discernment, or discrimination especially in practical matters.”- Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Wikipedia defines business acumen as the…

“Keenness and quickness in understanding and dealing with a business situation in a manner that is likely to lead to a good outcome.”

I ask you to think about the following…

Are you communicating clearly with every individual who is sitting at the table and earning their respect?

Are you collaborating creatively to help them uncover new ways of doing better business?

In digging deeper into business acumen, I came across Ray Reilly, a professor of business administration at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. He consults with corporations and has reported how few executives know what business acumen is or why it’s important. He describes one with business acumen as someone who understands the key things they need to know to make a decision, synthesize complex and apparently unconnected data, and react positively to events when they do not happen as expected.

I believe this can be applied to salespeople.

Sales professionals eat business speak every morning.

They learn the language of business. They learn the language of business executives and they speak their language.


Remember, C-level executives and mid-level decision makers are business savvy. You must engage in business-oriented conversations to establish your credibility and to differentiate yourself from the competition. 

Want to establish trust… Speak their language, not yours. You must understand their industry and their competitive environment.

  • What are you eating for breakfast?
  • What are you reading and listening to with breakfast?
  • What knowledge do you think business executives consume for breakfast?

Sales professionals understand their clients and future client’s business.


With daily discipline and determination, sales professionals develop an appetite for business acumen.

Increasing your business literacy will improve your business acumen.

I encourage you to

  • Read company reports
  • Follow business market trends
  • Gain a solid understanding of finance
  • Learn the terminology that businesspeople use
  • Allow your clients to teach you their business

One can earn a PhD in business from their clients if they are willing to invest in asking for help

Sales professionals understand that business literacy is one of the greatest investments they can make. It truly is a gift that keeps on giving.


The business world is rapidly changing. This doesn’t allow any of you to take your own sweet time to learn new things.

Salespeople… You must create acumen urgency if you wish to sit at the head of the business table.

Sales professionals are committed to professional development with the goal of building a disciplined and consistent approach to analyzing business problems, as they use this to help their clients make informed decisions.

I will leave you all with a quote from my very dear friend, Mike Garrison,

“If you only know how to relate based upon what you get paid for you will only be viewed as an expert on that very subject. On the other hand, if you can demonstrate that you are an expert (or at least a credible peer) on what your prospects get paid for you are someone that will be welcomed into the ‘inner sanctum’ of their business and will be a valued and respected advisor…no matter what you sell.”

My sales friend’s business acumen is an asset and will help you earn the right to sit at the business table.

Do not allow it to become a liability.

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