The traditional sales role is dead. In today’s marketplace of informed buyers, selling has evolved to be more about consultation and collaboration with customers than catchy taglines and flashy advertisements. So what traits should you look for when hiring for sales 2.0?
In this era of relationship building, adaptive selling skills – defined as “the altering of sales behaviors during a customer interaction or across customer interactions based on perceived information about the nature of the selling situation”; (Weitz, Sujan, & Sujan, 1986) – may be particularly useful.
Based on sales reps’ knowledge of selling situations, customer types, and selling strategies (Weitz, Sujan, & Sujan 1986), adaptive selling involves tailoring the sales message to each customer’s unique needs and preferences. These adaptations may include differences in a sales rep’s reactions to comments, answers to questions, and changes in body language in order to heighten rapport and overcome objectives (Franke & Park, 2006).
The first study on adaptive selling skills found salespeople who were higher in these skills were more likely to be empathetic and flexible during social interactions, find sales inherently rewarding, and report higher sales (Spiro & Weitz, 1990). More recently, a meta-analysis of 31,428 salespeople by Professors Franke and Park (2006) found that adaptive selling behaviors increase objective sales performance as well as job satisfaction.
Furthermore, an intriguing new study conducted by Professor Hughes and his colleagues found that salespeople higher in adaptive selling skills were successfully able to gain and leverage the competitive intelligence provided by their customers. These findings demonstrate the advantages of assessing potential salespeople for their ability to think on their feet and adapt to new situations.
Traditional selling skills such as prospecting, qualifying, and closing (Rentz et al., 2002) remain the foundation of sales success. With today’s focus on providing value to the customer, however, hiring salespeople with the critical thinking, analytical abilities, and negotiation skills required to assess customers’ needs and motivations, analyze market trends, develop customized solutions, and provide novel insights is increasingly important.
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