Gartner Keynote: The Key to B2B Sales Is Customer Self-Confidence

Sales leaders must focus on building customer confidence in order to win in today’s complex B2B buying environment.

In a world of information overload, overwhelmed B2B buyers face a crisis of confidence, as they increasingly struggle to make large-scale purchase decisions. However, just building customer confidence in your product or service is not going to differentiate you from your competition. 

At the opening keynote for the Gartner CSO & Sales Leader Conference 2019 in Las Vegas, Brent Adamson, Distinguished Vice President, Gartner, said the root cause of customers’ struggle has little to do with how they perceive suppliers’ offerings and everything to do with how they perceive themselves.

Sales organizations shouldn’t be solving for a sales problem, they should be solving for a human problem

“It’s not about customers’ confidence in suppliers, but rather building customers’ confidence in themselves and their ability to make good buying decisions,” said Adamson. “Sales organizations shouldn’t be solving for a sales problem, they should be solving for a human problem.” 

Gartner Distinguished VP Brent Adamson tells audience at Gartner CSO & Sales Leader Conference that customer confidence in themselves matters more than confidence in the supplier.
Gartner Distinguished VP Brent Adamson tells audience at Gartner CSO & Sales Leader Conference that customer confidence in themselves matters more than confidence in the supplier.

Gartner research has found that the best suppliers solve this human problem by building customer confidence in themselves and their ability to make good decisions.

To that end, leading suppliers instill confidence in customers by equipping sellers to engage customers with a specific kind of information called buyer enablement. They then build customer confidence by helping the customer make sense of all the information they encounter what Gartner calls Sense Making.

Instilling confidence with buyer enablement

Customers spend around two-thirds of any B2B buying journey gathering, processing and de-conflicting information, according to Gartner research. They value suppliers that provide them with the right information, through the right channels, designed to make the purchase process easier.

This gives customers a playbook to anticipate and overcome buying obstacles they might otherwise fail to address. This specific kind of support, buyer enablement, significantly decreases the kind of purchase regret known to reduce customer loyalty and advocacy, while also dramatically increasing a supplier’s likelihood of winning a larger deal, at a better price.

“Much like sales enablement, suppliers must focus on what we call buyer enablement,” said Adamson. “By combining empathy with deep industry and customer knowledge, suppliers can develop and deploy information that is specifically designed to help buyers buy — just as they do to enable sellers to sell more easily.” 

Learn more: Buyer enablement 

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Building confidence with Sense Making 

In today’s environment of increasingly abundant high-quality, yet often conflicting information, additional customer research and learning don’t necessarily lead to greater clarity. In fact, it often creates greater uncertainty. Gartner research shows that 89% of customers report encountering high-quality information during the purchase process. However, when they struggle to make sense of all this high-quality information, they are significantly more likely to settle for a course of action that is smaller or less disruptive than originally planned.

Rather, customers who are confident in the information they encounter, as well as those who feel little skepticism toward any claims the sales reps has made, make bigger and bolder purchase decisions. Gartner research reveals one selling approach — Sense Making — dramatically increases confidence and reduces skepticism.  Sense Making helps customers evaluate information so they are able to prioritize various sources, quantify trade-offs and reconcile conflicting information.

This approach simplifies customers’ learning by helping them evaluate and prioritize relevant information, all while helping customers arrive at their own understanding. In fact, sales reps perceived by customers as adopting a Sense Making approach to information succeeded in closing a high-quality, low-regret deal an astonishing 80% of the time.

“At the end of the day, the sales organizations that aren’t working to build customer confidence will continue to struggle in today’s complex buying environment,” said Adamson.

This article is based on insights that are part of an in-depth collection of research, tools, templates and advice available to Gartner clients.

Gartner for Sales Leader clients can learn more in the reports Elevating the Value of Sales Interactions: Winning Deals by Enabling Buyers and Redefining the High-Performing Seller for the Information Era.

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