Overwhelmed B2B buyers face a crisis of confidence as they increasingly struggle to make large-scale purchase decisions, according to Gartner, Inc.
Research findings revealed to more than 800 chief sales officers (CSOs) and other sales leaders at the Gartner CSO & Sales Leader Conference keynote in Las Vegas today indicate that the root cause of customers' struggle has little to do with how they perceive suppliers' offerings. It has everything to do with how they perceive themselves.
"The single biggest sales challenge today is, in fact, customers' confidence, but it's confidence with a twist," said Brent Adamson, distinguished vice president in Gartner's Sales practice. "It's not customers' confidence in suppliers, but customers' confidence in themselves and their ability to make good buying decisions that is in critically short supply."
In today's environment of increasingly abundant high-quality, yet often conflicting information, additional customer research and learning does not lead to greater clarity, but rather deeper uncertainty. More often than not, today's customers are left with no clear means for evaluating trade-offs or moving forward with sufficient certainty to justify an expensive, potentially disruptive purchase.
In fact, Gartner research shows that 89% of customers report encountering high-quality information during the purchase process. However, when customers 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.
"Ironically the majority of suppliers and sellers unwittingly exacerbate this very problem by focusing both content and sales conversations on ?thought leadership' and high levels of ?expertise,' all in an effort to stand out in customers' eyes," added Mr. Adamson.
To truly differentiate themselves in this environment, Gartner research has found that the best suppliers build customer confidence in themselves and their ability to make good decisions. To that end, leading suppliers equip sellers to engage customers with a specific kind of information ? "Buyer Enablement" ? while simultaneously helping the customer make sense of all the information they encounter ? "Sense Making."
Instilling Confidence With Buyer Enablement
Customers today 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 ? what we call 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 Mr. 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."
Building Confidence With Sense Making
Customers who are confident in the information they encounter, as well as those who feel little scepticism toward any claims the sales reps have made, make bigger and bolder purchase decisions. Gartner experts said one selling approach that dramatically increases confidence and reduces scepticism is Sense Making. 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.
"The most successful organizations today aren't solving for a sales problem, they're solving for a human problem," concluded Mr. Adamson. "Those that aren't working to build customer confidence will continue to struggle in today's complex buying environment."
Additional details are available to Gartner for Sales Leaders clients in the reports "Elevating the Value of Sales Interactions: Winning Deals by Enabling Buyers" and "Redefining the High-Performing Seller for the Information Era."
About the Gartner CSO & Sales Leaders Conference
Sales leaders face unprecedented changes in customer expectations, technology and the talent needed to drive results. At the Gartner CSO & Sales Leader Conference, taking place September 17-19 in Las Vegas, sales leaders are learning from the latest research and Gartner experts covering sales talent, customer buying behavior, sales enablement and sales operations. Follow news and updates from the event on Twitter at #GartnerSales.
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