Sense-Makers Are Sales Closers
Not long ago, sales organizations could push prospects to buy from them simply by providing high-quality information and thought leadership, but with the volume of information available today from such a wide variety of sources, that is no longer enough, according to research from Gartner. To succeed today, sales reps must help customers make sense of the massive amount of quality information they encounter as part of a purchase and proactively guide them through the buying journey.
Among business-to-business customers, 89 percent found the information they encountered during their purchase processes to be of high quality. However, all that information is also problematic, with most customers feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it all. When that happens, they are 153 percent more likely to settle for a course of action smaller and less disruptive than originally planned, according to the research.
“In today’s world, which is overloaded with information, customers are struggling mightily to make informed decisions about who and what to believe,” says Brent Adamson, distinguished vice president in Gartner’s sales practice. “Customers are reaching an information saturation point, where each new idea reduces the value derived from information and turns sound decision making into best guesses or gut feeling choices.”
Additionally, when customers feel a high degree of confidence in the information they encounter and low skepticism of the seller, it positively influences their likelihood of making a high-quality, low-regret deal, the research finds.
And when it comes to providing consumers with information, salespeople generally follow one of the following three approaches:
- giving, based on the belief that more information, especially at the customer’s request, will move a deal forward;
- telling, which is the preferred approach of salespeople who rely on personal experience, knowledge, and authority to address customers’ needs; and
- sense-making, which helps customers evaluate the information so they can prioritize certain sources, quantify trade-offs, and reconcile conflicting data.
Of these three, Gartner recommends the sense-making approach. Its research finds that 80 percent of the sellers who used the sense-making approach closed high-quality, low-regret deals, compared to 50 percent of sellers who used the telling approach and just 30 percent who used the giving approach.
“In an era of too much good information, the sense-making approach engenders greater customer confidence, reduces customer skepticism, and, most importantly, yields far greater likelihood of the customer purchasing an upgraded, premium offering from a supplier,” Adamson explains.
Sense-making involves the following three behaviors:
- connect, in which sellers diagnose customers’ information needs and provide curated sources and tools to help them feel they have all of the relevant information they need to make a decision;
- clarify, in which sellers reduce the complexity of the information available; and
- collaborate, in which sellers help customers evaluate the quality of information and arrive at their own understanding of difficult issues.
“At the end of the day, no matter what sales model a supplier employs, sense-making must be at the foundation of your customer engagement strategy,” Adamson concludes. “Building confidence, reducing skepticism, and resolving customer information challenges are what sets the best apart from the rest and results in more consistent high-quality, low-regret deals.”