4 Adaptive Selling Strategies to Adopt in 2022

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

When it comes to selling, you might find yourself getting into a rut, overly relying on your cold call scripts, and going through the motions of just trying to get that sale.

And if you are doing this, you may find your sales numbers and passion dwindling.

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So, maybe it's time to try a new strategy. One that will help you keep your wit sharp by utilizing your people skills, improv skills, and ability to read social cues.

We're talking about adaptive selling, the improv theatre of the selling world.

In this article, we'll go through four great adaptive sales strategies for you to adopt, as well as going through what adaptive selling is, its benefits, challenges, and much more.

So, let's get into it!

What is Adaptive Selling

What is Adaptive Selling

The adaptive selling definition is when a salesperson adjusts the way they're trying to sell, depending on the information they have and the situation they are in. It involves being able to read people and situations well, think quickly on your feet, and improvise. All of which is easier said than done. However, it's an effective strategy.

You can use adaptive selling in combination with other methods of selling or achieving your sales strategy. This is because adaptive selling is a method, not a plan of attack. It is almost vague in its stratagem.

We compared it to improv theatre above, so let's stick with that for a moment. Basically, in adaptive selling, making a sale is the objective of the scene, with the customer being your unwitting improv partner. You need to figure out their character, motivations, needs, etc., and how best to convince them to buy your products.

You can ask yourself questions based on your knowledge of your target customer, such as:

  • What sort of approach will work best for them? Should you be aggressive? Professional? Straightforward? Friendly? Subtle? Etc.
  • What is it that they need, and which product you're selling would be best to fulfill that?
  • What obstacles do you need to overcome to convince them of that? Are they mistrustful of you? Are they cautious by nature? Is there a monetary problem? Etc.

These are calculations you need to be able to make without tipping off your prospect and making them feel like you're manipulating them. And you need to make sure you're not thinking of it as such. You aren't manipulating these customers. You're trying to best explain so they can understand why your products can help them.

Whether or not you know it, these are probably skills you already possess, at least to some degree, as a successful salesperson. They're baked into the sales process, really. Think about it, the 7 sales cycle stages are:

  1. Prospect
  2. Qualify
  3. Contact
  4. Present
  5. Nurture
  6. Close Deal
  7. Request Referral

You're already establishing the character of your prospect and what they need within the first three steps of the cycle. You'll probably be adjusting your strategy if it's not working in stage five until you close the deal in stage six. That's adaptive selling!

Benefits of Adaptive Selling

Allows for Flexibility

With adaptive selling, you aren't beholden to a script or a particular set of steps. Instead, you can rely on your judgment to forge a more individualized and effective path forward with your prospect.

The individualized aspect of that sentence is important. Because this new path forward should be based on what your prospect needs. Essentially, you're customizing a sales experience for them. And adaptive selling allows you to do that.

However, there are still some limitations to the flexibility. You still shouldn't be deceitful, share inaccurate information, do anything unethical or illegal, etc.

What you should do, as explained above, is evaluate your prospect and adjust how (and maybe even what) you're selling accordingly to give your customer an easier, more trusting sales experience.

And this leads us to our second benefit.

Makes Prospects More Comfortable

If you've properly evaluated your prospect, adaptive selling should make your prospect more at ease and more trusting of you — because you understand what they need. You've done the work earlier in the sales cycle and directly with them to understand them. Customers will feel more at ease if they feel a salesperson is invested in them as people and in ensuring they have a comfortable, easy sales experience to get the products they need.

Trust can be a big barrier to salespeople. HubSpot found that only 6.7% of people found sales information and advice trustworthy, with 33.6% saying it's somewhat trustworthy. That leaves 40.3% of people who seemingly found it untrustworthy.

However, that same HubSpot study found that at the top of the list of how sales can create a positive experience for customers is to listen to their needs. And that's what adaptive selling is all about!

(Although 83% of salespeople also reported in that study that they did that, there may be some disconnect between the opinions of the salesperson and the customer in interactions. Keep that in mind when analyzing the situation.)

There are other things you can do, as well, to establish that trust. For instance, if a customer asks you about a fancy add-on that you know they don't need, explain why you wouldn't recommend them. That sort of honesty will make them trust you more, too.

And this even goes with a product you may have originally recommended to them. If you no longer would suggest they purchase it, tell them, including why.

Although, also use your judgment. This is another example of scripted advice, and if you've evaluated that with this prospect being so upfront isn't the way to go; that's adaptive selling, baby. Do what you've got to do (within reason, ethically, and legally).

Generates More Sales

Great customer service is a great way to generate more sales. better customer service brings in almost six times more revenue than your competitors.

Adaptive selling relies on great customer service to work. That's why you're focusing so much on adapting your sales strategy to your customers' needs – so they'll have a great sales experience. Doing this will earn your customers' trust and make them feel more comfortable and, therefore, more likely to purchase the recommended products, as we mentioned above.

Well, all that combines to create great customer service. And, customers who've dealt with your business and felt like the customer service was exceptional are more likely to recommend you to someone else.

That will bring your business even more customers – or at least prospects on which you can work your adaptive selling magic.

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Allows You to Re-Adjust

If at first, you don't succeed, try, try again — with a new strategy better tailored to your prospects. You don't want to harass your prospects or come off as the dreaded pushy salesperson, but with adaptive selling, if you feel you failed the first call, you can re-adjust your strategy and reach out to them again. Maybe not right away. That'll depend on your strategy. But you'll get another chance to come at them with a new attitude.

Statistically speaking, you aren't likely to make the sale on the first call. In 2009, six calls leads to a 93% chance in contact likelihood, resulting in higher conversion.

So, if you blew that call, or even one of the few after it, you can get off that call, take a deep breath, whip out your CRM and analyze what you've learned. Ask yourself questions like

  • When did that call fall apart?
  • What went wrong?
  • How did the prospect seem when finishing up the call?
  • What do you know about them?
  • Where should you go from here?
  • Have you had prospects like them in the past?
  • What worked for them?
  • What strategies do you think would work best here?
  • And of those, which are you going to try?

Once you've answered those questions, you'll be able to go into the next call more prepared, and you can get that rare second chance to make a good first impression.

Of course, you can also do this on the fly, too. If you can switch the tide of the call while you're on it, even better. That's still adjusting.

Either way, the point is that adaptive selling allows you to be flexible in your sales approach, so if your strategy isn't going well, you can regroup and try something else. Really, that's what it's all about.

Challenges of Adaptive Selling

Challenges of Adaptive Selling

Quick Thinking

Although we've talked about adaptive selling as if it will make selling easier (and it will), that's not to say that it's an easy strategy to adopt. There can be a certain amount of quick thinking necessary if you're going to switch up your sales approach with a customer mid-conversation.

And that kind of quick thinking can be hard to execute and hard to learn.

However, given the nature of sales in general, we'd be willing to bet that quick-thinking skills are something you already have. You may just need some practice honing them in on adaptive selling.

Accurately Reading the Situation

Adaptive selling takes a good eye for reading social situations, including body language, social cues, vocal tone, between the lines, etc. This isn't easy to do, and some, even salespeople, may struggle with it — particularly if you're new to sales.

However, it is something you can get better at with time. And, due to the flexible nature of adaptive selling, you don't need to get it right the first time.

Although we should say, you may eventually strike out if you keep switching up your strategy to your customer. The changes may be too noticeable, and the customer may feel manipulated. That's why accurately reading the situation and adjusting accordingly to match your customer is important. You want to avoid that image of being manipulative.

Going Off-Script

From emails to cold call scripts, we like our scripts in sales. So, if you're new or someone who's not used to going off-script, it can seem daunting, especially when that going off-script is paired with the two previous challenges.

Take comfort, though, that going off-script is something that's done in sales all the time. You've probably done it. Everyone who's ever worked in retail certainly has. There's no script for when a customer comes up to you with a specific request while you're folding the sweaters at the boutique you're a sales associate at.

Therefore, although we have it listed as a challenge here, certainly don't be discouraged by going off-script. Surely the improv will soon become your bread and butter.

Adaptive Selling Examples

Adaptive Selling

Description and Example

Tailoring Products to Your Customer

Make sure the products (or services) you're offering your customers would be genuinely beneficial for them once you have enough information to begin tailoring specific products to them.

Ex. You're a car insurance salesperson offering a specific package to a customer after finding out their budget, what type of car they have, what they currently pay, how many accidents they've been in, etc., because you know this package best fits with their needs.

Tailoring Communication to Your Customer

By this, we mean both the style in which you communicate (friendly, professional, overly explanatory vs. brief, etc.) and how you communicate (via phone call, SMS, email, in-person, etc.).

Ex. You communicate with your client mainly by a phone call around 1 pm when you know they're on break from their job, and through SMS communication after 5 pm when you know they're off work. Some SMS communications are automated messages you've scheduled ahead of time, following up on calls, reminding them of meetings, etc.

Going Off-Script

If you've got a script developed for your communication with your customer, but it's not working, you can go off-script to get the conversation back on track in the direction you want.

Ex. You're using a script for a cold call, but your customer does not understand precisely what you're saying, so you go off script to better explain what you mean in a way your customer understands and appreciates. You illustrate your point by comparing it to something relevant to their own life that you've learned.

4 Adaptive Selling Strategies

Adaptive Selling Strategies

And now finally, we're here. The meat and potatoes of our article. So, without further ado, here are our four strategies for adaptive selling

  1. Use a CRM to collect and organize customer information
  2. Target your customer through direct communication
  3. Target your customer using technology
  4. Use the means of communication your customer responds best to

Allow us to explain.

Use a CRM to Collect and Organize Customer Information

Are we biased? Maybe. But are we right? Yes. Adopting a CRM will undoubtedly make it easier for you to invest in adaptive selling.

Why?

Because CRMs help with customer organization, data collection, and customer communication, using the information your CRM has gathered and you've recorded on the platform can be a great way to help you understand your customers' wants and needs so that you can understand how to adapt your selling strategy to best cater to them.

Before making initial contact, you can devise a personalized strategy. If that's not working, you can re-analyze in between communications and adjust. And (within reason, as mentioned previously) you can continue to do that, making sure you're keeping your customer's needs in mind as communication continues and you move along the sales cycle with them.

Target Your Customer Through Direct Communication

This strategy was touched on briefly in our adaptive selling examples, but one adaptive selling strategy is to target your customers through direct communication and develop your strategy for selling directly to your customer (again, adjusting as you go). This can include communications done over the phone, email, SMS, in-person, etc.

With direct communication, you'll develop an initial strategy for targeting your prospect using the initial prospecting and researching stages of the sales cycle. (Don't forget to use a CRM to make this easier).

Then, as you go through the sales cycle stages, you can adjust how you communicate with your customer as necessary.. Does your customer prefer phone calls, in-person meetings, texts, emails, or a combination of some or any of the above? And when?

And then, from there, it's about finding the right approaches and styles of communication, the right products to offer, etc.

Target Your Customer Using Your Technology

Targeting your customer through direct communications may seem like the obvious mode of adaptive selling, but there's another way, too. You can leverage technology to ensure a customized experience for your customers. A few examples of that include

  • Using drip campaigns. These types of campaigns are launched through technology like emails. Different customer segments will be sent different emails, and then depending on what they do with those emails (e.g. open them and take no action, or open them and click a link), they'll receive different emails, and so on and so forth until the end of the campaign. So, for example, you may have different emails for hot leads, cold leads, and customers who've bought something before. But, all will include a CTA to learn more about a new product. Those who click the CTA button will receive a different email than those that don't. For those that do, the second round of emails may include a follow-up on the new product. For those that don't, the next emails may include more supplementary information about the product and why it's useful.
  • Using landing pages. Returning to our drip campaign, the CTA button about your new product could lead to different landing pages for the same product customized for your hot leads, cold leads, and return customers. For example, if you're selling a new type of nail product, your hot leads landing page would focus more on the product alone, while the cold leads landing page would also include information about your company so those leads could be introduced to it. A landing page for return customers could include a button asking if they want to re-order products, too, like nail polish and other products that need to be replaced.
  • Using social media ads. On platforms like Facebook (with detailed targeting), you can customize who's seeing your ads so you can target them to those specific people.

Use the Means of Communication Your Customer Responds Best To

This is similar to communicating directly with your customer. With the initial contact you make with your prospect, find out who the decision-maker is and how and when the best ways of communicating are. And then only use those ways unless there's some sort of sales emergency. (This may work best if there are at least two means of communication, so if you can establish a primary and a secondary communication style, do.)

If your customer only wants to be contacted by phone, except for the odd email to make plans and iron out details, then every time you need to address them, you'll have to pick up that phone or type out an email.

If your customer only wants to be texted with the odd phone call, if something needs to be elaborated on or discussed immediately, then you know what to do.

And so on, for every means and combination of communication.

Adaptive Selling Success Stories

Success Stories

In the table below, we've included some examples of successful companies that use adaptive selling strategies, including examples of those strategies in work.

Not all of these companies (if any) brag about their adaptive selling strategies. However, the sales strategies they're using can be considered as such.

Business

Description

Amazon

Amazon tailors its products to you in several ways. You might have noticed that after you make purchases on Amazon, you'll be recommended similar products when next on the website. Or, when looking at a product, you can scroll down and see other product recommendations and recommendations of things that are often bought together.

Book Outlet

This is an online discount book retailer. After you've created an account and browsed the website, you may receive emails recommending similar books to ones you looked at, letting you know when a book you've favorited is back in stock, etc.

Instagram

This platform will show you ads based on things it's determined you're interested in. You can even see these interests if you go into your settings.

FAQ

Why is adaptive selling important?

Adaptive selling is important because it puts the needs of the customer first by having a salesperson speak their language, making them feel more comfortable and more likely to purchase a product from your business. More customers buying from your business results in more revenue. Which is important for a successful business.

Conclusion

If you haven't adopted adaptive selling into your selling strategy, we recommend you at least consider it.

  • It allows you more flexibility
  • Creates more trust with your customers
  • Generates more sales
  • And allows you to re-adjust.

But, if that's not enough, we've also given you a number of strategies to work with. Let's just roll through them again, just to keep them fresh in your mind

  1. Use a CRM to collect and organize customer information
  2. Target your customer through direct communication
  3. Target your customer using technology
  4. Use the means of communication your customer responds best to

And, to make it easier for you, consider purchasing a CRM like Ringy! You can request a demo to see how it works or start a free trial to try it for yourself.

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