22 August, 2022

Why Sellers Should Forget Content and Start Making Sense

Enterprise Sales, Executive Insights, Sales Teams

Steve Letourneau

In many enterprise sales organizations today, go-to-market teams are taught that content is king when it comes to closing deals, and that the more a customer knows while making a decision, the better.

 

Maybe that used to be true—but it’s not anymore.

 

According to a recent survey report from Gartner, buyers are tired of having content foisted on them. Turns out the sheer quantityof information, all of it stuffed with the same buzzwords, overshadows thequality of the content sellers provide—leaving buyers struggling to determine what’s really accurate and relevant. The problem has gotten so bad, in fact, that many buyers end up doing most of their purchase-related learning without any help from sellers at all. Consequently, they have difficulty feeling comfortable with a purchase decision.

According to a recent Gartner survey:

  • 55% of customers find they have an overwhelming amount of trustworthy information during the purchase process
  • 44% of customers think that the purchase-related information they are presented with from suppliers is high in quality but often contradictory
  • 62% of customer learning during the purchase journey is done outside of any conversations with sellers

The Sense-Making Seller. Brent Adamson and Alice Walmesley, Gartner for Sales, Gartner Research, 2021.

 

Gartner suggests these findings present a real opportunity for sellers if they can stop being the “givers” and “tellers” of data, and start being what they call the “sense makers,” or the trusted guides that simply help explain content in a way that is meaningful to the buyer. In other words, sellers should be focused on steering customers to the right resources, simplifying overly complex content so that it’s pertinent to the buyer’s specific needs, and collaborating—rather than dictating—to lead a customer through a purchase. Using this “sense-making” approach, Gartner’s data shows, sellers close exponentially more deals that are both high-value and low-regret.

In order to make this shift, however, sales teams have a lot of work to do. That’s because a sense-making strategy is not driven by information alone—it’s driven by insights. In order to effectively walk a prospect through complex content, decipher what’s relevant, and eliminate skepticism, sellers must first be equipped with a deep understanding of a buyer’s business, industry, competition, management intent, purchase history, and much more. Ultimately, sense-making demands that sellers fluently speak the buyer’s language, explain use cases from the buyer’s point of view, and outline metrics specifically pertaining to the buyer’s company. Not just after the buyer is engaged, but before they’re even in the pipeline.

Plainly put, sense-making is inherently tied to opportunity creation. Sellers must first identify an opportunity as valid and valuable before they can hope to make sense of it to anyone, including themselves.

And this, as most sales execs know, is where teams often get derailed. I’d even say it’s the biggest struggle sellers face today.

Why? There are plenty of reasons—and many of them are simply about logistics. Becoming an opportunity creator and a sense maker requires time. It requires effort. It requires access to data. Reps don’t just have to know their own company’s products and services, but they have to become experts on numerous other companies’ offerings, needs, and value drivers. They need the ability to quickly translate their insights about each and every one of these companies into the kind of meaningful and personalized content resources that don’t overwhelm prospects. And, finally, they have to do all of this in a way that is scalable and repeatable across the seller’s entire book of accounts.

Traditional sales enablement tools pick up the slack in some of these areas, but most still lack the machine-learning power and the AI capabilities to elevate sales rep productivity in a broad and repeatable capacity. You need to enable a high-performing sales team, and not just three or four high-performing achievers. Sales leaders need an insights-driven technology system that empowers future sense-making sellers by first helping them create—in real time—a useful and programmatic account strategy. Not only is this the strategic story they’ll use to make a pitch, but it also helps leaders better understand what kind of support is necessary for reps to architect a successful deal. As such, an insights-driven system facilitates the sales leader’s job by ensuring the entire team is adequately ramped and equipped to drive both pipeline and account growth long-term.

As analysts at Forrester write, “The B2B sales profession is at an inflection point. Sales leaders have the opportunity—really, the obligation—to transform their organizations or risk being at a competitive disadvantage.” Gartner echoes that sentiment with a prediction that “75% of B2B sales organizations will augment traditional sales playbooks with artificial intelligence (AI) guided selling solutions” by 2025.

So while Gartner’s report shows sales teams a very powerful strategy with which to close more high-value deals, sales teams won’t be prepared to execute this strategy quickly and at scale until they get the right technology systems in place. How will your organization respond to the evolving direction of sales enablement technology? Do you have what you need to build and support a team of sense makers?