Providing prospects with high-quality information and “thought leadership” is no longer a differentiator for sales organizations — to succeed today, according to Gartner, Inc. Sales leaders 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.
A Gartner survey of more than 1,000 B2B customers shows 89% of respondents found the information they encountered during their purchase process to be of high quality. However, this abundance of quality information is hindering customer decisions, as they report not only being overwhelmed by the amount of trustworthy information, but often contradictory information among suppliers as well.
“In today’s world, which is overloaded with information, customers are struggling mightily to make informed decisions about who and what to believe,” said Brent Adamson, distinguished vice president in the Gartner 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.”
In fact, when customers experience too much high-quality information, information that is contradictory and creates difficulty in making informed purchase decisions, they are 153% more likely to settle for a course of action smaller and less disruptive than originally planned.
Gartner research found two customer sentiments that positively influence the likelihood of a high-quality, low-regret deal: high confidence in the information they encountered and low skepticism of the seller. To that end, customers perceive sellers adopting one of three unique approaches to engaging them with information — only one of which actually increases confidence and reduces skepticism:
Giving: The giving approach follows the maxim that more is better. Giving follows from the belief that more information, especially at the customer’s request, will move a deal forward.
Telling: Telling is the preferred approach of individual experts on the sales force who rely on personal experience, knowledge and authority to address customers’ needs. From a manager’s perspective, a telling approach is the most autonomous.
Sense Making: “Sense making” helps customers evaluate information so they are able to prioritize various sources of information, quantify trade-offs and reconcile conflicting information. Sense making simplifies customers’ learning by helping them evaluate and prioritize relevant information, all while helping customers arrive at their own understanding.
Gartner research shows that 80% of the sellers who used the sense-making approach closed high-quality, low-regret deals.
“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,” added Mr. Adamson.
According to Gartner research, sense making secures a commercial advantage through a series of unique, information-related behaviors:
Connect. Diagnose customers’ information needs and provide curated sources and tools to help customers feel they know all the relevant information.
Clarify. Reduce the complexity of the information environment by filtering and processing information for customers.
Collaborate. 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,” said Mr. Adamson. “Building confidence, reducing skepticism and resolving customer information challenges is what sets the best apart from the rest and results in more consistent high-quality, low-regret deals.”
Additional details are available to Gartner for Sales Leaders clients in the report “Redefining the High-Performing Seller for the Information Era.”
About Gartner for Sales Leaders
Gartner for Sales Leaders provides heads of sales and their teams with the insights, advice and tools they need to address mission-critical priorities amid mounting pressures to drive growth through new and existing customers. With extensive qualitative and quantitative research, Gartner for Sales Leaders helps sales teams combat commoditization and price-based purchasing, develop critical manager and seller skills, elevate the value of sales interactions, unlock existing growth potential and optimize sales force enablement.
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