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Why B2B Sellers Need a Sense Making Sales Strategy

November 05, 2019

Contributor: Jordan Bryan

Theres no shortage of quality information for customers to use when making a B2B buying decision. The imperative for sales is to help customers make sense of it.

It’s no secret that B2B buyers often feel awash in information, holding them up in a maze of options, choices and noise. As organizations focus on content creation and delivery, the marketplace is flooded with high-quality information.

In fact, 9 out of 10 buyers report they encountered high-quality information when making a purchase. New Gartner research shows the best way for sales to clear the buyer’s path to a high-quality purchase is to make sense of — and validate — all that information.

“The sheer volume of high-quality information presents a problem for customers: first, there is too much of it and second, customers find that information from different suppliers is often trustworthy but contradictory, says Neha Ahuja, Senior Principal, Research & Advisory, Gartner. 

“We wanted to understand what a seller could do to break the information logjam and increase the likelihood of winning a deal in which the customer did not settle for a less ambitious solution, or base offering and purchased a premium offering without regret.”

“ Sense Making sales reps are best positioned to bolster customers’ confidence in the information and allay their skepticism about the seller ”

Based on a survey of more than 1,000 B2B customers, a clear lesson emerges: When customers overcome their inherent skepticism of sellers and feel more confident in the information they encounter, they are more likely to make the deal all sellers aspire toward — a high-quality, low-regret deal. 

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Sense Making for sales success

A detailed Gartner survey of B2B customers revealed three distinctive information-sharing approaches:

  • Giving: Reps who take a “giving” approach follow the maxim. More is better. They tend to be responsive and comprehensive in the information they provide. 
  • Telling: Sales reps who rely on “telling” are very forward with providing information and their opinions, stories and anecdotes. 
  • Sense Making: Reps who take what Gartner calls a “Sense Making” approach carefully share information to guide customers toward a clearer, more rationalized view. They help the customer make sense of and take action on the basis of the information they’ve encountered. 

Gartner reveals sales reps take three approaches to engaging customers with information. “Sense Making sales reps are best positioned to bolster customers’ confidence in the information and allay their skepticism about the seller,” says Brent Adamson, Distinguished Vice President, Gartner. 

When studying 10 high-quality, low-regret completed deals, sales reps who took a Sense Making approach closed more high-quality, low-regret deals than those who took the other approaches.

The winning behaviors of Sense Making

Gartner research found that Sense Making secures a commercial advantage through a series of unique, information-related behaviors:

  • Connect to relevant resources. Diagnose customers’ information needs and provide curated sources and tools to help customers feel they know all the relevant information.
  • Clarify information complexity. Reduce the complexity of the information environment by filtering and processing information for customers. 
  • Collaborate on customer learning. Help customers evaluate the quality of information and arrive at their own understanding of difficult issues.

Drive sense making across the organization

The good news: Regardless of sales method or model, Sense Making is an effective sales approach. Sense Making can be learned and scaled. Organizations can encourage sellers to be far more aware of and prepared to help customers make sense of the purchase, depending on the “job" the customer is trying to complete during the purchase process. Further, sales can embed buyer enablement to incorporate Sense Making into the tools that customers directly use to support their decision making. 

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