ATD Blog

Nailing the Right Deal Strategy for Your Situation

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

It’s time to stop using your old sales strategy in today’s selling world. Buyers have changed. Sales reps have changed. You have changed.

However, high performers of all types—from highly trained military operators to elite athletes to world-class surgeons—share one common trait: situational adaptability. These people all observe a variety of data points, rapidly synthesize that information into recognizable patterns, and execute the correct response for the situation they are facing. More importantly, they recognize that each situation is unique, so they don’t just “tweak” what has worked before.

Case in point: golf fans recently had the honor of seeing situational adaptability in action when Jordan Spieth won the 2017 British Open. To outperform his competitors, Jordan and his caddie had to go through a process of observation, orientation, and execution for each of the 268 shots he hit during his championship performance.

To illustrate Jordan’s usage of situational adaptability, let’s walk through some of the factors that might influence his decision around what type of shot to play.

What type of lie do I have? Hitting the ball from short grass allows for much better contact and control than hitting from long grass or trouble areas like sand traps.

How far am I from the hole? If Jordan is unable to reach the hole, he will need to think about where he wants the ball to finish to give him the best odds of putting the ball in the hole on his next shot.


Is there anything between me and the hole? It is important to avoid problem areas like water hazards, sand traps, out of bounds areas, or heavy rough.

How will the environment influence ball flight? Rain and cold weather can reduce the distance the ball goes, even on purely struck shots. Similarly, the direction of the wind can positively or negatively impact your desired ball flight.

How aggressive should I be with my target? Jordan has to weigh the risks and benefits of choosing an aggressive target versus a more conservative approach, given where he stands on the leaderboard.

For elite performers like Jordan, running through each of these criteria is a critical part of identifying the situation they are in and developing the right course of action to put them in a strong position going forward. The practice of situational adaptability is a major influencer of overall performance, but it doesn’t happen overnight. He just didn’t take his US Open playbook (which he won as well) and make some tweaks. It was a completely different approach due to the situation.


Just like Jordan, a salesperson’s ability to identify key situational factors and use them to execute the right selling actions in the right situations will greatly influence how often he or she wins or loses the deal. To master this skill, salespeople must first identify the factors that reliably characterize the situation.

Bottom line: one size does not fit all. Situational factors WILL be unique to your business, but they can be found by analyzing the common criteria that are present in your wins and losses. Nailing down those factors that helped you win or lose will help you accurately identify common selling scenarios.

This is the first step toward building an organizational capability for adaptive selling. Next time you’re reviewing a deal, list the four or five deal factors that would help you quickly identify other prospects that are in the same situation.

Enable your teams to make the number and hoist their own Claret Jug! Join me and co-facilitator Brian Williams on September 14 for the ATD webinar, The Game Plan for Solving Sales Methodology Adoption. We walk through how to use these factors to develop strategies that help you win more often in your most common selling scenarios.

About the Author

Ralph is a partner with The Brevet Group, and for 20 years he has led sales performance teams in the United States and Asia. Recently he also served as a sales leader in both the media and technology industries. Ralph’s work has focused on a unique blend of management consulting and sales enablement to help companies execute their sales strategies. Prior to this role, Ralph was the APAC sales effectiveness leader at Mercer.

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