Adaptive Selling: How to Personalize Your Sales Approach

These days, customers expect a lot of the salespeople they interact with. According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer Report, 73% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, 62% expect salespeople to anticipate their needs, and 56% of customers expect offers to be personalized.

While some customers will always expect to be treated like VIPs, this mindset has become more prevalent in recent years. Technology has improved and personalized the buyer’s journey. The impact of the pandemic also can’t be underplayed: during lockdown, digital selling increased exponentially. Buyers now expect to be able to purchase almost anything online — and they expect an excellent experience during the transaction.

Personalization at scale isn’t easy; particularly not for overworked sales teams, who often face burnout in the best of times. Although there is no one definitive report, sales turnover hovers around 33% and more recently, sales turnover rates appear to be 58% higher than in 2020. This is no surprise; sales organizations have had to weather a recession, and sales teams who used to sell in person are now learning new online sales skills.

The additional expectation of providing personalized attention to every single prospect may seem daunting. However, there is a strategy that can help: adaptive selling.

What is adaptive selling?

Adaptive selling is a sales methodology that involves a tailored approach to each individual customer. This means the sales rep takes several things into account, including the type of customer, the sales situation, and the customers’ unique needs. It also means the salesperson doesn’t stick to a script: they adapt their sales pitch or presentation to the customer.

For example, a rep might be able to offer customized rates if a customer needs to order a specific number of items. A salesperson might also customize an insurance package to a customer based on that customer’s specific needs.

Adaptive selling is, traditionally, based on relationships. The sales rep builds a relationship with the customer and in the process, learns more about them. However, more recently, technology is starting to move into the adaptive space, making it easier for sales teams to tailor pitches and deals for each customer by analyzing data, such as site visits, or previous purchases.

Getting started with adaptive selling

To an outsider, adaptive sales might not sound complex; it’s just listening to your prospect’s needs and responding, right? While that’s true on some levels, adaptive selling requires skills some reps might not yet have. New reps, especially, may need sales training before they can expect to provide customized service.

If your sales team is planning to take an adaptive sales approach, you may need to provide training in the following areas:

  • Soft skills:

    Soft, or transferable skills, might be better called people skills. They include the ability to listen, a polite phone manner, timeliness, and all the skills that make someone a pleasure to work with. Because adaptable sales is about relationship building, people skills are critical in your reps. They need to be able to ask questions, truly listen to what each customer says, and understand that customer’s unique challenges.

  • Product knowledge:

    Your reps can’t tailor offerings to each client if they aren’t thoroughly grounded in the benefits of the product you’re selling. They need to know your offers backward and forward so they can adapt their pitch to the clients’ needs.

  • Adaptive selling skills:

    The flexibility associated with the adaptive selling approach can be confusing for new reps. Learning to adapt and think on their feet is a skill, and one that can be learned. Rather than looking to a manager for permission to change a pitch or presentation, reps need to learn how to seize the moment (as well as which changes are and are not allowed by the organization).

To get your team started with this sales methodology, check out Litmos’ course on Adaptive Selling. The course provides an overview of personalization in sales and the people skills that can help reps become better listeners — and better sellers.