10 Essentials: Adaptable vs. Prepared

The fifth in series of ten posts in a series titled: 10 Essential B2B Sales Rep Attributes (and their 10 Essential Opposites).


Once you step through the prospect’s door there is no telling what you may encounter. The prospect could throw out concerns to test your responses and your ability to respond. Maybe he is a little adversarial because so many salespeople before you have wasted his time and has decided to make you prove your mettle before going too far. The prospect could also be faced with a business challenge that you and your company have never seen before, leaving you wholly unprepared.

The best salespeople have the ability to think on their feet. Regardless of whether the challenge is a difficult personality or a difficult business situation, great salespeople have the ability to adapt and respond in a way that allows them to gain credibility and move the sale forward. These salespeople have the ability to stay cool in the board room with 15 people firing (extremely) challenging questions at them in rapid fire succession.

What happens if you are not adaptable and you can’t think on your feet? You lose. But this essential attribute by itself is problematic. Too many salespeople with this attribute rely too heavily upon it, and so they do nothing to prepare.


Preparedness comes with it’s own set of advantages. Developing a profile of the company, understanding their place in their industry or marketplace, finding some of their potential challenges and opportunities, and discovering the background of the contacts can help the salesperson develop opportunities they would not have otherwise. Before ever stepping foot into the board room for the final presentation, the prepared salesperson will have reached out to every contact to uncover their questions so as to have prepared responses (knowing that there will still be new challenging questions thrown at them). These salespeople use the pre-call planner with the same regularity and thoroughness a pilot uses the pre-flight checklist. This preparedness gives the salesperson confidence.

What happens when you are unprepared? You lose opportunities.

But preparedness can also be taken too far. Too many salespeople spend far too much researching the company before ever picking up the phone to schedule an appointment. They always feel that one more fact, one more news story, one more press release is going to give them the advantage they need to create value. It isn’t. This is simply call reluctance.


Great salespeople have to be adaptable. They also have to take the measures necessary to be prepared. Being brilliant under fire doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t also have the advantages and understanding that accompany preparedness. Equally, there are some things that cannot be anticipated; you will have to deal with what is thrown at you with confidence and quick-thinking. To succeed in sales you need equal parts adaptability and preparedness.


  1. Do you love the thrill and challenge of thinking on your feet? Fine. Are you using your skill as a crutch so you don’t have to prepare?
  2. What could you do to be better prepared for your next call? Your next presentation?
  3. Are you spending more time researching the prospects at the top of your funnel than you spend actually attempting to get an appointment?
  4. Are you afraid you don’t know enough to be able to respond well or to create value for the prospect during the sales encounter?

Filed under: Sales 3.0

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