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Situational Adaptability

by David Brock on August 18th, 2021

I got a prospecting call. We had actually arranged a conversation, the company had something that interested me–software for our business. I had reached out, checking the box, “please contact me…..”

The sales person called, he started his questions. They weren’t really relevant, I had actually done my homework and I had questions on several specific issues.

I stopped the sales person, saying, “Here’s what I’m concerned about…….”

The sales person paused, then started asking questions, but they weren’t about my issues. I suspected his playbook had another set of questions–not about my issues, but they must have been “plan b” in the playbook.

I stopped him again, trying to be patient, “I’m sorry to be changing things on you, but this is really what I’d like to learn…..”

I could hear the panic and confusion in the sales person’s voice. He didn’t know what to do, apparently he couldn’t find my issues and questions in his playbook. He didn’t know what to do. And since this possibility wasn’t in his playbook, he couldn’t even suggest, “Let me get someone who’s an expert on your concerns to call you…”

We ended the call, he agreed to check something and call me back. It’s been several weeks.

I still have the problem and want to do something about it. I finally found someone who could answer my questions, she works for a competitor.

I see this happening too much, not just with sales people trying to sell me, but also as I watch sales people with my clients. Too frequently, sales people are limited by their scripts or playbooks. They don’t know how to adapt to what the customer cares about, or what may be happening with the customer that may be different.

Too often, we continue to drive our sales execution strategies based on what we need and our objectives–ultimately to get the order.

  • We ask the questions important to us, or about what we think should be important to the customer. They may be driven based on our experiences in prior situations and customers.
  • We assess our progress based on the activities we have complete in our sales process, not based on where the customer is in their buying process..
  • We base our next steps based on our process and needs, not based on what the customer cares about.

To be fair, much of this is driven by our prior experience with customers. We think, “the majority of opportunities we have competed in before progress this way….. We’ve been successful when we do these things in this sequence….”

And it works until it doesn’t, unfortunately, this is becoming increasingly frequent.

The reality, each deal, each buying situation is different. Our customer issues and problems aren’t the same. There may be some general commonalities, there may be some overlap, but each customer has different issues, problems, challenges an goals. Each buyer is different. While they may fit our personas; they are persons, human beings, not personas. While they may be CXOs of some other similar title, their goals, key performance metrics, problems, opportunities and challenges are unique to them. They are unique at a point in time, and they may change the next day.

Our job is to meet the customers where they are at, not where we are at or want them to be. We have to be nimble in how we engage our customers. Our playbooks, processes, help us meet the customers where they are at, more quickly. But we have to adapt them to each customer, each situation, each conversation, each deal.

Situational adaptability or nimbleness is critical to our ability to engage customers in meaningful ways.

Or you can send them a copy of your playbook, saying, “I’m on page 10, your role is ‘customer,’…..”

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