Adaptive Selling – Definition

Cite this article as:"Adaptive Selling – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated September 20, 2019, last accessed December 4, 2020,


Adaptive Selling Definition

Adaptive selling is a customized selling approach which is based on several factors such as the feedback received from the customer, the sales situation and the customer you are selling to.

One important feature of this selling approach is to understand the customer’s social life. The aim of adaptive selling is to offer a more consultative selling approach especially in an industry or global economic world which is full of uncertainty, fear, instability, and complexity.

A Little More on What is Adaptive Selling

In adaptive selling approach, the normal selling techniques which include automated emails and random cold calls is broken. This selling technique requires the person in charge of sales to be able to adapt to the customer’s needs and problems. The main strategy for this approach to be efficient is for the seller to adapt or customize his selling techniques based on the customers’ style.

This approach is said to be customer-centric and focuses on meeting the needs of a customer and ensuring they are happy and satisfied. Customer-centric is a tactic in which a business focuses on maximizing the services and products offered to the customers and creating a good relationship with the customer.

Adaptive selling ensures the customer is at the center of all ideas, operations and decisions made in the business. It entails listening to the client, identifying his needs and solve his problem by giving them customized service or product. Adaptive selling approach helps to generate more leads and help a business to be a competitive differentiator in the market.

The business focuses on establishing and maintaining relationships with the client and also adapting to their needs so as to provide a better customer service which in turn brings in more sales. This approach has been in use for a long time and is essential whenever a company or business wants to create a rapport with customers.

Adaptive selling requirements 

  • Adaptive selling requires a well-trained sales people and customer service team. This is because the approach is more consultative and based on the customers need.
  • The sales team should have enough knowledge on the product they are selling and be able to use their selling techniques based on the customers need and expectation.
  • Needs to understand the need of a customer before persuading a client into buying.
  • Needs to understand the characteristics of the customer and adapt their sales behavior to it. For instance, a customer may be in a hurry, the salesperson should be able to notice it and change their selling words to be more precise and effective.
  • Should adapt to the customer social and communication style so as to create a good relationship and build rapport. A good salesperson not only sells the product but also sells and maintain a good relationship with the customer.
  • Should be able to control the sales process and be confident enough to lead the client to a successful sale transaction.
  • Should be able to identify the needs, desires and fears of a client even without the client talking about them.

Some businesses and companies have turned selling process from being an art into  a science in order to respond to the client quickly. They do so by ensuring that they only hire highly qualified salespeople who are also excellent in customer service.

They have come up with ways of collecting and analyzing feedback from their customers which in turn help them customize a product or service which meets their needs. Companies then use this data to train complex sales teams who can provide customer service.

The adaptive selling is effectively used today in e-commerce and tech industries. This is because they are able to use the data collected and computer algorithms to accurately target the market according to their clients need, taste, preferences, demographics and past purchase.

Benefits of adaptive selling to the salesperson

There are several benefits of adaptive selling enjoyed the salesperson:

  • The sales person has a chance to learn other selling channels
  • The salesperson is able to come across different types of customers with different needs and be able to analyze their needs.
  • Sales person has a chance to develop capability of adapting clients need

 Reference for “Adaptive Selling”…/13807-adaptive-selling.html › Investing › Financial Analysis › SALES MANAGEMENT

Academics research on “Adaptive Selling”

Adaptive selling: Conceptualization, measurement, and nomological validity, Spiro, R. L., & Weitz, B. A. (1990). Adaptive selling: Conceptualization, measurement, and nomological validity. Journal of marketing Research, 27(1), 61-69. A 16-item scale is developed to measure the degree to which salespeople practice adaptive selling—the degree to which they alter their sales presentation across and during customer interactions in response to the perceived nature of the sales situation. This paper-and-pencil scale assesses self-reports of five facets of adaptive selling: (1) recognition that different sales approaches are needed for different customers, (2) confidence in ability to use a variety of approaches, (3) confidence in ability to alter approach during an interaction, (4) collection of information to facilitate adaptation, and (5) actual use of different approaches. The reliability of the scale is .85. Support for the nomological validity of the scale is found by failure to disconfirm relationships with an antecedent (intrinsic motivation), several general personality measures of interpersonal flexibility (self-monitoring, empathy, locus of control, and androgyny), and a consequence (self-reported performance).

Salesperson adaptive selling behavior and customer orientation: a meta-analysis, Franke, G. R., & Park, J. E. (2006). Salesperson adaptive selling behavior and customer orientation: a meta-analysis. Journal of marketing Research, 43(4), 693-702.


Influence tactics for effective adaptive selling, McFarland, R. G., Challagalla, G. N., & Shervani, T. A. (2006). Influence tactics for effective adaptive selling. Journal of Marketing, 70(4), 103-117.


Toward a shortened measure of adaptive selling, Robinson Jr, L., Marshall, G. W., Moncrief, W. C., & Lassk, F. G. (2002). Toward a shortened measure of adaptive selling. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 22(2), 111-118. This study investigates the psychometric properties of the adaptive selling scale (ADAPTS) developed by Spiro and Weitz (1990). A multiple industry sample of 1042 salespeople is employed, which provides the ability to more fully explore the dimensions of adaptive selling within a diverse cross-section of sales situations. An assessment utilizing confirmatory factor analysis suggests a shortened version of the scale consisting of five items that represent four of the facets originally proposed by Spiro and Weitz (1990). Based on its psychometric properties and measurement efficiency for business applications, this scale (labeled ADAPTS-SV, for shortened version) is recommended for future applications where appropriate.

Adaptive selling behavior revisited: An empirical examination of learning orientation, sales performance, and job satisfaction, Park, J. E., & Holloway, B. B. (2003). Adaptive selling behavior revisited: An empirical examination of learning orientation, sales performance, and job satisfaction. Journal of personal selling & sales management, 23(3), 239-251.’ Adaptive selling behavior (ASB) is an important factor in salesperson success with customers. Although significant progress has occurred in understanding the ASB concept, a number of conflicting issues remain related to its determinants and outcomes. This paper presents a review of the ASB literature, highlights noteworthy areas of disagreement, and empirically examines the relationships among learning orientation, ASB, sales performance, and job satisfaction with a sample of Korean automobile salespeople. The authors offer a number of implications for research and practice, and suggest directions for future ASB research to further improve our understanding of this topic.

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