When Sense Making Meets Agility: Knowing What To Do and When for Sense Making Success

We at VantagePoint are grateful to have been a Platinum sponsor at the Gartner CSO & Sales Leader Conference 2019 last month, where one of the main themes was Sense Making.  Gartner surveyed 1,174 people and found that buyer enablement matters—having a 4x impact on buyer confidence—and further determined that 80% of sellers regularly closing deals are helping their buyers “make sense” of the information available to them.

We share Gartner’s enthusiasm around Sense Making, and we’d like to offer some further insight to help you put the theory into practice.

Fostering Decision Confidence

Gartner developed Sense Making in response to its decision confidence study and says it helps buyers navigate information overload.  The study showed that 50% of buyers felt that the amount of information they were getting in B2B sales was overwhelming.  They were experiencing decision fatigue because of the sheer volume of information that sellers were giving them during the sales process—and this was true even though nearly 90% rated that content as high quality.

“If your sellers start with your buyers and their buying situations, they can adjust their Sense Making and associated sales approach to best address the specific situation.”

—Michelle Vazzana, Chief Strategy Officer, VantagePoint Performance

At its core, Sense Making is a less-is-more approach, where a rep takes the time to help a buyer cut through the noise.  If they first endeavor to understand a buyer’s unique situation, your salespeople can deliver the right info, story, and/or data for that buyer at that moment in time.  As such, Sense Making helps you collaborate and coalesce in a way that increases the chances of a high-quality, low-regret buyer decision, which should always be your sales goal.

This supports Gartner’s additional assertion regarding Sense Making, and that is:

Sellers need to operationalize it—by making it a habit.  That starts with determining the appropriate seller intervention, and corresponding buyer dysfunction, for each buying situation via the following steps:

  • Problem Identification
  • Solution Exploration
  • Requirements Building
  • Supplier Selection

In fact, Gartner says, “information needs vary across the buyer’s buying journey.  Sellers must adjust their approach to information sharing to the stage of the buying journey.”

Making Sense Making a habit

Our perspective on Sense Making is twofold:

  • Sense Making is not new; it’s an acknowledgment of, and term for, good sales hygiene. Chances are good that your high-performing salespeople are already consistently helping their prospects and customers with Sense Making.
  • Sense Making is a set of behaviors that you need to establish and replicate—and for which you need to create a criteria for usage.

As such, Sense Making fully aligns with our thinking around sales agility, which is the notion that a single methodology simply does not work across all buying scenarios. Information needs vary according to each unique situation, and the way buyers navigate the stages of the buying process vary significantly based on the nature of those buying situations.  In the meantime, each buying situation absolutely has a best-fit selling approach, one most likely to lead to a win.  So, both the type of information you use and the way you communicate it to your buyer will differ.  Moreover, they should reflect your individual situation and the corresponding best-fit selling approach.

To reiterate: the best-fit selling approach is unique to each company and must be based on data—not opinion.  So, you have work to do to help your salespeople be effective sense makers.  To execute with appropriate precision, you need to dig deep to:

  • Identify the specific situations your buyers face.
  • Identify the right sales approach for each situation
  • Establish how to run the play that will win