B2B sales organisations must take a more situationally aware approach, tuning engagement skills and tactics with empathy for, and personalisation to, a prospective buyer’s current state, according to Gartner. Standardised customer engagement in today’s buying environment will only get sellers so far, even with the best methodology.
“Today’s buyers have strong preferences and seemingly endless choice in their purchase decisions,” says Tom Cosgrove, senior director analyst in the Gartner Sales practice. “Simply being sensitive to this reality is woefully inadequate for sellers and marketers to cut-through the noise and differentiate themselves in buyers’ eyes. The clearest path to success lies at the intersection of sense making tactics and buyer-situational awareness.”

Sense making tactics help customers prioritise various sources of information, quantify trade-offs and reconcile conflicting information when making a complex purchase decision. It is based on a market-in view from the customer’s perspective, where sales reps acknowledge the information overload and offer the customer both reassurance and guidance.

In order for these efforts to be truly valuable, chief sales officers (CSOs) must prepare their teams to go deeper with greater levels of empathy and understanding. Gartner refers to this as situational awareness – built on the premise that every buying situation is unique, but with patterns that repeat across organisations.

Most sales organisations treat customers largely the same by applying a standardised engagement process that discounts each customer’s unique situation. However, these traditional approaches are less effective because customer situations are increasingly different.
“Tailoring, not just messaging, the entire selling approach according to a customer’s context should focus on helping the buying stakeholders with the implications of a change or purchase decision,” says Alice Walmesley, director, advisory in the Gartner Sales practice. “This situational tuning of sense making tactics is necessary for an agile selling approach that drives buyer confidence and consensus. When done right, it can improve buyer decision making quality by 11%.”

CSOs looking to deploy sales strategies that increase buyer confidence and bring empathy to their organisations’ selling efforts should:
• Create customer situation-driven engagements by identifying common buying situations, then train selling teams to adapt their approach to a customer’s needs in the moment with situational tuning.
• Augment the current work on segmentation and the ideal customer profile by accounting for empathy’s role in driving individual stakeholder engagement with a purchase and prioritising those where the situation is most advantageous.
• Engage buyers through an intelligently coordinated purchase experience by delivering proactive and prescriptive situation-specific support for all engagement channels and touchpoints.
• Design points of seller mediation into a typical digital buying journey by identifying key decision stage gates where human interaction can sustain momentum, boost confidence and drive consensus with colleagues.