The Power of Sensemaking in Sales: A New Approach to Closing High-Quality Deals
July 9, 2023
The volume of high-quality information available to buyers has grown exponentially. One outcome of this evolution is that customers now have unprecedented access to high-quality data regarding the products and services they seek.
This wealth of information, however, has presented a unique paradox.
While customers are now more informed than ever, they often grapple with an overload of information, making it increasingly challenging to make decisions.
Amidst this flux, a new concept is steadily gaining prominence in the world of sales - sensemaking. With its focus on helping customers navigate the complex landscape of information, sensemaking represents a novel approach to selling that holds the potential to revolutionize how businesses close high-quality deals.
Salespeople also face an overwhelming sea of data, and it can be hard to identify the most relevant information at the right time during the deal cycle.
The Problem with Too Much Information
The accessibility of high-quality information is no longer a luxury but a standard expectation. Customers today have the world at their fingertips, and with just a few keystrokes, they can unlock vast troves of information about a product or service they are interested in. This information revolution has indeed reshaped the sales landscape, putting customers in the driver's seat.
On the surface, it appears that this evolution would make the decision-making process more straightforward for customers. After all, one would think that being better informed equates to making more informed decisions. However, the reality is quite paradoxical. While a wealth of information is available, the challenge now lies in sifting through this abundance to distill what's genuinely useful.
Instead of empowering customers, an overabundance of information can lead to confusion, ambiguity, and even decision paralysis. With such a vast array of data at their disposal, customers often struggle to identify what information is relevant, credible, and ultimately, valuable. This over-saturation of information can obscure their judgement, making it harder for them to make a confident and informed decision. In essence, too much information can be as detrimental as too little.
For suppliers, this information overload presents a formidable and complex challenge. Their task is no longer merely about providing information but about providing the right kind of information in an easily digestible manner. They find themselves walking a tightrope, where they must strike a delicate balance. They need to ensure customers have enough information to understand their product or service fully, but they must do so without overwhelming them and triggering decision fatigue.
Suppliers, therefore, are confronted with a paradox of their own: How to provide sufficient, high-quality information without exacerbating the problem of information overload? This conundrum is where the power of sensemaking comes to the fore, emerging as an effective tool to guide customers through the dense forest of data and towards high-quality, satisfying decisions.
The Three Approaches to Information Sharing in Sales
The Giving approach is akin to casting a wide net. In this model, sellers essentially flood customers with a vast array of information, comparable to presenting them with a sea of data. The hope is that within this plethora of information, customers will be able to discover and latch onto the relevant bits. However, the risk here is information overload, which can potentially overwhelm the customer and cloud their decision-making process.
The Giving approach, while generous in its intent, might end up exacerbating the problem it intends to solve by contributing to the customer's sense of confusion and indecisiveness.
The Telling strategy, on the other hand, takes a more tailored approach. Here, the seller takes on the role of a guide, curating information and directing customers along a predetermined path towards a decision. This approach is akin to a tour guide leading a group through a dense forest, highlighting specific trees (or pieces of information) while helping them avoid unnecessary detours. The advantage of the Telling approach is that it offers a more streamlined information flow, reducing the risk of information overload. However, it can sometimes be overly prescriptive, limiting the customer's autonomy in the decision-making process.
The third strategy, Sensemaking, introduces a paradigm shift in information sharing. It builds on the strengths of both the Giving and Telling approaches while minimizing their pitfalls.
Sensemaking moves beyond merely presenting or directing information. It centers on engaging the customer in a collaborative journey of understanding their needs, clarifying the complexities of the information at hand, and helping them make sense of it all in a way that directly relates to their unique situation. The Sensemaking approach treats the customer not as a passive recipient of information but as an active participant in the sales process, empowering them to make well-informed, confident decisions.
The Sensemaking Approach
The Sensemaking approach in sales fundamentally reshapes the conventional interaction between sellers and customers. Instead of merely disseminating or steering information, Sensemaking places emphasis on building a shared understanding through collaboration and engagement. It is not about dictating or directing the conversation but about fostering a space for dialogue and mutual exploration.
At the heart of Sensemaking is the recognition that every customer has unique needs and situations. The role of the seller, in this case, is not to prescribe a one-size-fits-all solution but to guide the customer on a journey of discovery towards a solution that best fits their specific needs. This journey involves several key steps.
1) Connect customers with the most relevant resources
Sellers are required to understand their customers deeply, to identify what resources will be most beneficial, and to tailor these resources to the customer's unique situation. It's not about inundating the customer with all available resources but providing them with the most appropriate ones.
2) Distill complex information into easily digestible and actionable insights
Customers are often daunted by the complexity of information related to products or services. Sensemaking aims to break down this complexity, to translate industry jargon into plain language, and to present information in a way that customers can readily understand and apply to their circumstances.
3) Sensemaking is about shared learning and co-creation
Sellers and customers engage in a dynamic dialogue, where questions, ideas, and insights are freely exchanged. The seller does not position themselves as the sole source of wisdom but rather encourages customers to actively participate in the conversation, share their perspectives, and ask questions. This dialogue allows both parties to learn from each other and to co-create solutions that are tailored to the customer's unique needs.
The power of the Sensemaking approach lies in its transformation of the sales interaction from a one-way monologue to a two-way dialogue. It stands in stark contrast to the Giving and Telling strategies, which treat customers as passive recipients of information. By fostering an environment of shared understanding and collaboration, Sensemaking empowers customers, builds trust, and ultimately leads to more satisfactory sales outcomes.
The Benefits of Sensemaking
Sensemaking holds the power to fundamentally shift the dynamics of a sales transaction, making it a more enriching and satisfying experience for both the seller and the customer. The value proposition of sensemaking lies in its ability to facilitate high-quality, low-regret deals that bring lasting satisfaction to customers and strengthen their relationship with sellers.
By aiding a deeper understanding of the customer's needs and the potential solutions, sensemaking increases customer confidence in their decision-making process. The active engagement and dialogue that sensemaking promotes mean that customers are less likely to feel rushed or pushed into a decision. They are more likely to feel that their needs and concerns have been heard and addressed, which can significantly reduce skepticism and build trust.
Moreover, by empowering customers to navigate the vast sea of information and make sense of it in the context of their unique situation, sensemaking helps them arrive at decisions they feel good about not just in the moment but also in the long run. This sense of satisfaction and reduced regret can lead to more durable customer relationships and positive word-of-mouth referrals, amplifying the benefits of the deal beyond the immediate transaction.
Studies have shown that sellers who employed the sensemaking approach had a success rate of 80% in closing high-quality, low-regret deals.
The statistics demonstrate that the Sensemaking approach doesn't merely lead to more sales; it leads to better sales. It's a strategy that supports the close of deals that are not only profitable in the immediate term but also lay the foundation for lasting customer relationships and future business opportunities.
Implementing Sensemaking in Your Sales Strategy
Implementing sensemaking as part of your sales strategy isn't about throwing out everything you've been doing and starting from scratch. Instead, it involves augmenting your current practices with this more nuanced, customer-centric approach. The beauty of sensemaking lies in its scalability. It can be learned, implemented, and improved upon across your organization, irrespective of size or industry.
To begin with, you need to create a culture that values understanding over mere information dissemination. This shift in perspective requires training your sales team to see themselves not just as sellers but as facilitators in the customers' decision-making process. The sales process is transformed from a monologue to a dialogue, an ongoing conversation that focuses on the customers' needs, their contexts, and how your product or service can add value to them.
Prepare for customer interactions with a sensemaking approach. This includes becoming deeply familiar with your product or service and being prepared to connect customers to the resources that are most relevant to them. A sensemaking approach also necessitates being able to distill complex information into clear, easy-to-understand insights. This requires developing strong communication skills and a deep understanding of the product or service being sold.
It's also crucial to foster a sense of curiosity within your sales team. Encourage them to ask questions, not only of the customers but also of themselves and their understanding of the product or service. This questioning mindset is a fundamental part of the shared learning experience that defines the sensemaking approach.
The ability to make sense of information isn't just beneficial - it's a necessity in today's saturated marketplace. In this complex landscape where information is both a boon and a bane, sensemaking becomes a lifeline. It bridges the chasm between an overwhelming amount of information and the customers, converting a potentially discordant jumble of data into a harmonious and enlightening conversation.
As we charter the murky waters of the future of sales, it is crucial for sales leaders to embrace this evolved selling strategy. Sensemaking is not just about guiding customers through a maze of information. It's about reshaping the sales experience, prioritizing understanding over persuasion, and fostering collaboration over a one-sided push. By enabling customers to navigate, prioritize, and comprehend the wide array of available information, sensemaking holds the promise to elevate sales performance and transform the entire sales journey.
A customer empowered by sensemaking isn't merely a purchaser of goods or services. They become an active participant in the process, a co-creator of solutions, and a partner in the truest sense. The relationship transcends the traditional buyer-seller dynamic and morphs into a collaborative partnership. The use of sensemaking in sales doesn't just convert leads into customers; it builds long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.
So, to the sales leaders who strive for excellence, the path forward is clear. Embrace the power of sensemaking, weave it into your sales strategies, and prepare to witness a remarkable transformation in customer engagement, sales performance, and overall business success. After all, an informed and engaged customer isn't merely a transaction; they are the cornerstone of a thriving business.