Adapting to Behavior on the Fly

The Situation

Sanya is in charge of events for her company, which hosts quite a few lunches and dinners. To perform well, she needs a good food caterer.

She is currently looking for a new vendor because she feels her current provider does not offer enough variety for clients who have restrictive dietary requirements. While she has to keep other concerns in mind, such as budget, this is her primary reason for making a change.

Today, she is talking with Bart, a catering rep who specializes in business events. Bart has finished his laptop presentation, emphasizing the value his company provides at competitive prices. Sanya responds:

Sanya: I just want to make sure you have a good selection for vegetarians, vegans, or diets restricted for religious reasons. I’ve gotten some real pushback on that, and I don’t like disappointing clients.
Bart: Oh, sure, not a problem. In fact, you may have noticed in my presentation that we do more local sourcing of food than any of our competitors. That’s very popular right now.
Sanya: That’s fine, but I’m not sure if that applies here, unless it means more choices for our international clients, who often have restricted diets. Our current supplier just doesn’t offer enough alternative menus.
Bart: Oh, we’ve got you covered! Look at our photo gallery of our many dishes again.
Sanya: Well, I understand you have variety in general. I’m wondering how good of a match you’ll be for our foreign guests. I’m the one who has to look out for them.
Bart: All I can say is that we’ve been doing this for 20 years. Our people are trained to do it right!

How’s Bart Doing?

What are the chances Sanya will choose Bart’s company? From what you’ve learned about Q4 selling, what sizing-up skills does he need to employ to influence his prospect more effectively?

Respond to the Person in Front of You

Anyone can see that Bart isn’t really listening as Sanya expresses her specific business needs in this conversation. She’s asking about restricted-diet meals, and he’s breezing by her concerns, bringing up local food sourcing. He is referencing his set list of bullet points designed to appeal to a typical prospect.


But Sanya is not typical — she is telling Bart about a specific concern. He does what many salespeople do, glossing over potential objections with flat assertions such as “not a problem” and “we’ve got you covered.”


But Sanya’s pushback should be viewed as an opportunity to learn specifically what is motivating her decision-making. Bart might have said, “Tell me more about the kind of restrictions you frequently encounter” and “What specifically would you like to see that you’re not getting?”


Address Prospects’ Needs

Probing Sanya’s needs is Bart’s first step to solving Sanya’s problem. He could far outshine his competition if he starts adapting his responses to her specific needs!


You may have also noticed that Sanya is expressing a personal need to succeed in choosing a better vendor, and that she hates letting her clients down. She may have a Q3 need to please and may be extra-sensitive to clients’ negative reactions.


If Bart would address these personal needs, it could be an additional reason for her to choose him. The prospect will see him as someone who wants to help her satisfy her clients. This would give him an added pathway to a sale.


They Are Looking for a Problem Solver — You!

Obviously, you have to go into a selling situation prepared. However, to be perceived as the solution to a prospect’s problems — a terrific position to be in — you have to listen; probe to understand fully; and then adapt your presentation to meet the unique and specific needs of the other person.