How to Adapt Your Sales Strategy to Customers and Prospects

Salespeople are always projecting an image to customers. Even if you’re just sending a quick email to a prospect, everything you do has an impact on how customers perceive and trust you. To succeed as a salesperson, you should tailor your approach with different people. If necessary, you need to be able to pivot so you can provide the best service to your customers and prospects.

Projecting an image isn’t pretending to be someone you’re not. You will be most successful when you appropriately channel different aspects of yourself when talking with customers. This means adapting your sales strategy to the prospect.

The importance of versatility

The stakeholders you talk to vary widely in terms of personality, communication preference, and goals. Yet, you need to be able to form a connection with all of them. To successfully reach every stakeholder, think of yourself as a chameleon. You want to adapt your approach to the customer so that you are well-positioned to gain their trust.

There are several constants in your self-presentation. No matter who you’re talking to, you want to demonstrate professionalism and expertise. However, other aspects of your approach should change depending on the strategy you want to take. This includes your body language, overall communication style, and how you go through the sales process. For one person, you might need to ask a lot of questions that gently guide the prospect through the process. Another stakeholder might prefer a salesperson who takes charge and makes a lot of declarative statements.

Different options for your approach

There are many different approaches you can take. In the right circumstances, all can be successful. Here are four potential approaches and when to use them:

1) The Confident Closer

Closers are authoritative and decisive. They develop a reputation for being straight talkers who don’t waste time. They want to help customers achieve their goals and are results-driven. Closers communicate in declarative statements and pointed questions. They get to the point quickly and don’t waste time on small talk. In pitching a product, they often emphasize hard numbers.

This approach tends to work well for people who are themselves direct, confident, and results-oriented. Many C-level executives and people in business development appreciate this approach. They are responsible for delivering a number and want to know how you can help them deliver. Oftentimes, their time is precious and they want to lock down a decision without too much fuss. They’re all about the bottom line and the big picture.

When you assume this strategy, it’s critical to project confidence and decisiveness. These customers want to know that you can be trusted on your word. Always conclude your communications by explicitly defining the next steps in the process.

2) The Trusted Consultant

Consultants take a more collaborative approach to sales. They ask lots of questions during the sales process and know how to listen with empathy. Their goal is to show prospects that they are on the same team. Oftentimes, they talk prospects through the decision-making process. Storytelling is oftentimes particularly effective for consultants.

For consultants, the goal of all communications is twofold. They want to develop an amicable relationship with the prospect. At the same time, they must also show their expertise and trustworthiness.

This approach tends to work best with people-oriented prospects who value teamwork. These prospects are less concerned with making a fast decision than with making the right decision that works for everyone on their team. They highly value personal relationships.

When you utilize this sales strategy, be prepared to spend more time on relationship-building. It’s particularly important to use your listening abilities and figuring out what the prospect really needs. Position yourself as a member of the team, not the person in charge.

3) The Knowledgeable Expert

Experts are all about the details and demonstrating their knowledge of the industry. They support their points with data and other evidence. Whenever possible, they show prospects that they’re deeply familiar with the industry. They’re willing to get into the gritty details about product features. Teaching is one of the expert’s most important tools.

Prospects who themselves are deeply knowledgeable and detail-oriented tend to appreciate this approach. They want to work with salespeople who are equally invested in getting all of the little things right. Sometimes they might challenge a salesperson on their claims. It’s critical to respond with hard facts and a solid argument. Emotional appeals are less likely to be successful.

4) The Project Manager

Project managers take a very hands-on approach to selling. They are comfortable taking charge of the process and assume accountability for the results. Oftentimes, they frame their approach in terms of goals. They gently but firmly help guide along the process by providing explicit instructions.

This approach is often successful for prospects who are short on time. They care about results, but may not have the resources to take control themselves. They want to know that the project is in good hands and that the salesperson can deliver results.

Deciding on an image

To decide on the right image, you need to pay attention to the customer’s personality and what they respond best to. Since people are multi-faceted, it may sometimes be helpful to combine elements of different personas. In some sales, it may be appropriate to adopt one strategy early on in the sales process and then switch to another as you move along.

As you gain experience, you will likely observe some general tendencies. C-level executives have different preferences than product developers. People who manage others will have different priorities than individual contributors. However, it’s still important to consider each customer as an individual. If you find that one approach just isn’t landing with your customer, switch to another.

By learning how to adapt your image and sales strategy, you can better connect to customers and increase your chances of closing a deal.