Sunday 7 June 2015

What Is Adaptive Selling & Why Is It Important To Your Sales Success?

In the past, salespeople were often trained to follow a very standard “one size fits all” sales presentation or sales script.  The idea being that the standard presentation or script contained tried and tested selling techniques that would persuade the prospective customer to say ‘yes’.
This approach was symptomatic of the more traditional, transactional “push” style of selling that was prevalent in the past.  It is sometimes referred to as “spray and pray” or “show up and throw up”.  That is you deliver your standard sales message to every prospective customer and hope that sometimes it will get you a positive result.

As the world of selling evolved, perhaps in response to customers becoming more educated and resistant to the standard and all too common “push” approach, a shift towards a more consultative and tailored approach to sales became more common.

The salesperson spent more time understanding the customer’s context, circumstances and challenges so that a more customised solution could be devised that would more accurately reflect the customer’s unique needs.  This is sometimes referred to a “pull” approach, as the information the salesperson requires and, to varying degrees, the structure of the solution is “pulled” or elicited from the customer.

More and more salespeople began to be trained in consultative selling techniques and on the whole these have proved to be more effective than the traditional “push” approach.  In addition, more and more customers have experienced the consultative approach and have come to expect it and prefer it.

Criticism has sometimes been leveled at the more consultative approach that it is a more lengthy and time consuming approach.  Salespeople using a consultative approach have been criticised for being too customer-orientated and lacking the ability to challenge their customers and drive the sale to a conclusion.

So it would appear that broadly speaking we have two approaches to selling.  In my opinion debating the validity of the two approaches is short sighted.  What we appear to have is a continuum of selling styles and approaches ranging from at one extreme, a “push” or “hardball” approach and at the other extreme a highly consultative “pull” approach.

To debate the superiority of these two extremes adopting an either / or approach is to my mind a very narrow and unproductive exercise. 

What will be more productive and useful is to explore an approach to selling that is practical, flexible in approach (avoiding either a one size fits all or either / or approach and indeed incorporating the best of each approach as required), and most importantly is proven to improve sales performance.  Allow me to introduce you to – adaptive selling!

When using adaptive selling, the salesperson flexes, alters and varies their selling approach depending upon:
  • The nature of the selling situation
  • The stage of the buying process that the customer is currently in
  • The specific interests and needs that the customer has in relation to the product / service in question
  • The personality and buying style of the customer. The adaptive salesperson will tailor their questioning, probing, sales presentation and closing methodology based on the customer’s behavioural preference.  They will also respond to feedback (both verbal and non-verbal) that they receive from the individual and adapt accordingly.
Adaptive selling is a practical and powerful approach to selling.   Indeed research has demonstrated that the practice of adaptive selling is welcomed by salespeople and has been shown to increase their sales performance.

A research paper by James Maxham at Louisiana State University concluded that:
 “In the midst of increased competition and rising training costs, management should consider incorporating adaptive sales training into their training structure. Salespeople in this study buy into adaptive selling as an effective method. It has been shown to increase sales performance, and salespeople have indicated in this study that more adaptive sales training is necessary, in relation to other training topics.”

The theory behind adaptive selling is that the successful outcome of a selling situation is determined by both the customer’s deliberation of the benefits of the product / service being offered and the customer’s experience during the sales interaction.  The salesperson’s ability to create the right chemistry, rapport and connection with the customer will be as important as their ability to communicate the key benefits of their proposal to the customer.

Neuroscience research into how the brain functions would support this thinking. Reason and emotion are intertwined elements of our decision-making process.  They influence and are influenced by each other.

Adaptive selling is an approach that acknowledges the importance of both reason and emotion with regards to selling successfully.

Good luck and good selling!

Simon Hazeldine

Simon Hazeldine MSc FinstSMM is an international speaker and consultant in the areas of sales, negotiation, performance leadership and applied neuroscience.He is the bestselling author of five business books:
  • Neuro-Sell: How Neuroscience Can Power Your Sales Success
  • Bare Knuckle Selling
  • Bare Knuckle Negotiating
  • Bare Knuckle Customer Service
  • The Inner Winner
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