8 min read
Sep 14, 2020

What Is Adaptive Selling? And How You Can Ace It

Every customer and every sales situation requires a unique approach. Learn how to ace the process of personalized selling in three simple steps.

Gitanjali MariaSr. Content Analyst

We all have our favorites. Favorite TV shows, favorite food, favorite brands, and even favorite sales reps. Yes, you read that right! 

When visiting your favorite store, do you like interacting with the same salesperson? Does he or she understand your needs better than the other sales personnel at the same store? Why do you think this happens? 

The answer is simple: Some sales reps, more so than others, understand customers better. They listen to a buyer’s pain points and ask relevant questions to suggest the most suitable options. And this is what adaptive selling is all about—changing your sales strategy to suit different types of customers and situations.

You must, therefore, sell how your customers want to buy. When interacting with prospects, assess their behavior and needs, and change your selling style accordingly. 

In this article, we’ll discuss how adaptive selling can get you more customers by strengthening your sales arm. We’ll also share three simple steps to ace adaptive selling.  

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What is adaptive selling?

Adaptive selling is all about customized selling. It involves matching your selling style to the customer’s communication style as well as the sales situation. You take a consultative approach and put your customers’ needs at the center of the sales process. 

Adaptive selling is a sales methodology where sellers use judgment to adjust their sales approach based on their buyers’ situation and state of mind.

Mike Kunkle, VP, Sales Transformation Services at Digital Transformation Inc.

Adaptive selling techniques are geared toward creating long-term personal relationships with prospects, which helps enhance customer experience. Research suggests that brands offering superior customer experience make 5.7 times more revenue than their competitors.

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Why should you sell adaptively?

You and your sales staff stand to gain much from adaptive selling. Let’s check out the key benefits of using an adaptive selling approach.

Convert more leads

Leads are likely to convert better when your sales approach matches the “wavelength” of customers’ thoughts and actions. Understand the needs and preferences of individual buyers, and adapt your sales strategy accordingly. For instance, some buyers prefer closing deals fast, while others take time to build a relationship before finalizing any deal. The more accurately you assess your prospects, the easier it’ll be to convert them.

Get more upselling and cross-selling opportunities 

Ask the right questions to learn which products customers already have and what more they want or need. Also, understand their social and personality traits to start a conversation and gain trust. Use this rapport to suggest product upgrades, premium offerings, or related services.

Build customer trust and loyalty 

When you build a personal relationship with customers by adapting to their buying approach, you boost their trust in you. And higher customer trust means more brand loyalty. Studies suggest strong customer relationships increase the likelihood of sales and a loyal repeat customer base. Thus, a large number of sales leaders are focussing on relationship building.

51% of sales leaders focus on increasing customer retention through deeper relationships.
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3 simple steps to ace adaptive selling

Adaptive selling is a skill you must train your sales staff on. Some may be instinctively using this approach, while others will need to be coached. Here are three simple steps your team should follow to ace adaptive selling.

Step #1: Match the customer’s communication style

Speak in a language and tone customers are familiar with. Adapting to customers’ communication style helps build a rapport and makes it easier for customers to trust you. 

The table below highlights examples of the different communication styles customers have and how you can adapt your sales strategy accordingly.

Communication style Customer characteristics Sales tips
The aggressor-asserter Values money and is results-oriented and direct in feedback. Focus on the benefits your product can deliver. Stick to the point, and don’t give too many details. If required, the customer will ask for more specifics.
The socializer Enjoys chatting with people, works at a leisurely pace, and wants to connect on a personal level. Don’t get to the “business talk” immediately. Warm up to these customers with general conversations and get to know them better. Meet them in informal settings, preferably, and be prepared to have long, casual discussions.
The analyzer Highly attentive to detail, interested in hard numbers, and comes prepared for meetings. Send meeting invites in advance, so they have time to prepare. Limit the warmup talk, and explain things in detail. Be prepared to answer many questions. Inquire about their business processes/operations, and highlight how you can help them.

Step #2: Understand the customer’s social style

Understanding a customer’s social style is also important for building rapport. The social style matrix helps identify the approach customers tend to take in their interactions. If you fail to match your selling strategy with your customer’s social style, chances are the interaction will not go well.

Here are the four different social styles customers have, and how you can tweak your sales strategy for each of them.

Social style Customer characteristics Sales tips
The driver Assertive, smart, determined, task-oriented, likes to make decisions quickly, and may not care about personal relationships. Be professional in your approach, establish rapport quickly, use facts and logic, and focus on the benefits.
The analytical Reserved in interactions, exercises self-control, follows strict timetables, and relies on facts and details over opinion for decision-making. Provide facts, success stories, and complete details of your product/service in a structured, organized format. Respect and appreciate the customer’s thought process and knowledge.
The amiable Values relationships with trusted individuals, looks for long-term association, and believes in taking consensus when making decisions. Don’t jump into the product specificity immediately. Keep a warm and personal tone, show empathy, and provide personal commitments.
The expressive Strong persuasive skills, can see the big picture, and likes to build relationships to gain status and recognition. Be energetic in your talks, discuss the aspects of your product in detail, summarize points, and provide short case studies. Appeal to their emotions by asking what they think of the product.
The social style matrix

The social style matrix (Source)

Step #3: Adapt to the sales situation

You’ll also need to tweak your sales technique according to the situation in which you’ll be meeting your customers. 

For instance, how you sell to a manufacturing client looking to buy a new machine is different from how you’ll pitch if the same client is looking for replacement equipment after a critical unit catches fire. In the latter situation, the client is tense and wants a quick solution, while in the former, he is more relaxed and has time to evaluate options closely.

Pro tip

Practice different sales styles by conducting mock pitches before meeting clients. Train with communication and psychology experts to understand how and when to switch your “style gears.” Watch and follow how experts adapt their technique to the sales situation

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Befriend data to up your sales game

Individual sales skills, intuition, and experience are important in adaptive selling, but what’s equally important is leveraging data insights. You may not always accurately read a customer’s behavior and style. That’s where data can help! 

Analysis of the customer data you already have can help identify what buyers like or dislike and their interests, strengths, and weaknesses. This data can come from multiple sources, including social media, your CRM system, loyalty program, and shopping carts. 

Data insights are especially helpful for salespeople who have a hard time understanding customer behaviors. Businesses are increasingly relying on data insights to power their marketing and operations decisions and improve their sales performance. 

79% of sales teams are currently using or planning to use sales analytics technology to increase efficiency.

Need help collecting customer data insights? Visit our analytics software directory to get a comprehensive list of analytics tools for mining customer data.

Segmenting customers by various parameters in LiveSession sales analytics tool

Segmenting customers by various parameters in LiveSession sales analytics tool (Source)

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Conclusion: Invest in technology to sell with confidence

Besides leveraging customer data insights and your own sales knowledge and experience, invest in technology to improve your adaptive selling capabilities. You can try various software tools such as CRM and sales enablement solutions. 

CRM software stores customer details at a centralized location, automatically builds customer profiles, and predicts customer preferences to help you sell better. Sales enablement software automates a wide range of activities, including sales communication, sales asset creation, and cross-functional communication, and acts as a centralized repository for all your sales collaterals.

Sales force automation, sales forecasting and analytics, and collaboration software solutions are some other tools to automate tasks, improve salesperson performance, communicate with teammates, and get relevant data to boost your sales pitch.

Various widgets available in Whatfix sales enablement tool

Various widgets available in Whatfix sales enablement tool (Source)

GetApp can help you choose the right software to build your sales tech stack. A well-built, integrated tech stack can become the biggest strength of your sales team. Check out all relevant sales tools here.

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