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A few of us have been having a conversation about whether adaptability and agility are important in sales. I think we are in uniform agreement it is important, however, my initial reaction was, “Why are we even asking this question, isn’t it a foundation to selling?”

As I reflected on the issue, I get why it’s an important conversation. It seems so much of “contemporary” sales practice is going in the opposite direction. Between rigidly applied sales processes, scripting, and “predictable” approaches to selling, much of the ability to be agile has been taken out of selling. The lack skill/competency in basic curiosity, critical thinking, and problem-solving limits their ability to engage customers in conversations most important to them.

Every customer, even within a buying group, is different. And what they want/need changes as they progress through the buying process. The way customers respond individually, is very different from the way they respond in a group. There is infinite variability in how we engage from customer to customer and over time. In order to deal with this, engaging the customers in ways that enable us to create value with them, sales people have to be agile, they have to be able to rapidly adapt what they do and how they engage the customer in impactful ways.

Unfortunately, too often we don’t equip our salespeople with the ability to adapt to the unique occurring with each customer conversation. They don’t have the knowledge of the customer, their business, or the nuances of how our solutions help them achieve their goals. They don’t have the listening skills or critical thinking skills to adapt to the situations.

We have to enable our salespeople to manage the paradox they face every day. The need to leverage the sales process, our account management, our prospecting, and value creation approaches. After all, these represent our best practice in engaging customers. At the same time, they must be agile or flexible enough to adapt to the specific customer or situation.