• April 27, 2022

B2B Sellers Should Focus on Situational Buyer Insights

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B2B sales organizations must approach prospective buyers with more situational awareness that demonstrates empathy for and personalization around their unique states, according to a new report from Gartner.

Standardized customer engagement in today’s buying environment will only get sellers so far, even with the best methodology, the firm suggests.

“Today’s buyers have strong preferences and seemingly endless choice in their purchase decisions,” says Tom Cosgrove, senior director analyst in the Gartner Sales practice. “Simply being sensitive to this reality is woefully inadequate for sellers and marketers to cut through the noise and differentiate themselves in buyers’ eyes. The clearest path to success lies at the intersection of sense-making tactics and buyer situational awareness.”

Sense-making tactics help customers prioritize sources of information, quantify trade-offs, and reconcile conflicting information when making complex purchase decisions. With this approach, sales reps can, for example, acknowledge the information overload and offer the customer both reassurance and guidance.

For these efforts to be truly valuable, sales leaders must prepare their teams to go deeper with greater levels of empathy and understanding. Gartner refers to this as situational awareness—built on the premise that every buying situation is unique, though some patterns might repeat across organizations.

But that is still largely absent from many sales interactions. Most sales organizations treat customers largely the same by applying a standardized engagement process that discounts each customer’s unique situation.

“Tailoring, not just messaging, the entire selling approach according to a customer’s context should focus on helping the buying stakeholders with the implications of a change or purchase decision,” says Alice Walmesley, director of advisory in the Gartner Sales practice. “This situational tuning of sense-making tactics is necessary for an agile selling approach that drives buyer confidence and consensus. When done right, it can improve buyer decision-making quality by 11 percent.”

Gartner recommends these steps for sales leaders looking to deploy sales strategies that increase buyer confidence and bring empathy to their organizations’ selling efforts:

  • Create customer situation-driven engagements by identifying common buying situations, then train selling teams to adapt their approach to customer needs in the moment with situational tuning.
  • Augment current work on segmentation and the ideal customer profile by accounting for empathy’s role in driving individual stakeholder engagement and prioritizing those where the situation is most advantageous.
  • Engage buyers through intelligently coordinated purchase experiences by delivering proactive and prescriptive situation-specific support for all engagement channels and touchpoints.
  • Design points of seller mediation into typical digital buying journeys by identifying key decision stages where human interaction can sustain momentum, boost confidence, and drive consensus.

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