Nearly 70% of B2B customers feel overloaded with organizational complexity, facing roadblocks such as unclear decision-making and conflicting priorities. Although senior and middle managers identify business performance gaps that need to be closed, despite enthusiastic efforts to drive a strategic change in their organization, they find hurdles like:
- Unclarity of the cause of the problem(s)
- Disagreement between colleagues of the scope of the problem(s)
- Resistance to make exploring solutions a company priority
- Vagueness of who exactly is or should be in the buying group
Many do not give up that easily. But, once they have a consensus on the above, their challenges continue. They find themselves in a web of conflicting research information and often do not know what is real or fake. They verify relevant information with colleagues they trust, but also they do not always have the answers. Then they try to get buy-in from x-functional colleagues only to find clashing focus areas; the classical silos of Sales driving revenue, CS driving customer satisfaction, and Finance’s focus on cost. In the end, their initiative for change gets de-prioritized, and the company falls back onto the status quo. Your contacts (customers or prospects) will not tell you – but they are crying out for help.
Seeing these challenges from the buyer’s perspective, what type of salesperson would you like to meet?
The Teller: Are you a salesperson that looks for a customer problem statement and jumps on that with your solution? Do you show empathy with your contact, saying you understand what they are going through and then tell them how your solution would solve their problem? Tellers candidly share their opinion; they are good at that. But depending on how this is done, often it does not land well with the buyer. Tellers fail to connect with the real problem and neglect to provide a listening ear.
The Giver: Customers ask for information, and Givers are happy to provide. Why? Because they believe that the more they give, the more valuable they are perceived. But just providing information without advice achieves the opposite. Then you are just an information source, and you are not helping. From a buyer’s perspective, information without advice is be perceived as throwing more wood into the fire of confusion. Providing information without sharing the relevance and context to issues and challenges, your contact will miss the insight on what all that information means to them. And their uncertainty increases.
The Sense-Maker: Research clearly shows that the Tellers and Givers will not survive in this ever-changing world. They are not sharing information with the buyer’s perspective; they share information with the seller’s perspective. Instead, what will work, is doing exactly what buyers need. They need guidance on what your information means to them. They need help toward a clearer, more rationalized view. They need help with deciding what makes sense. Unlike telling and giving, this approach is less about providing information and more about helping customers evaluate it.
Stakeholders who are overwhelmed with available information often cannot see the forest for the trees. Hence, they feel uncertain how to bring all the content together to a solid business case and reason to change. Often they have tunnel vision views on the root cause of performance gaps. Here is where they need your help. This requires assertiveness, where you are not scared to share your opinion, as long as it is based on the information you provided. If possible, simplify content rather than over-complicate it. Your opinion, your ideas should make sense to your contact. They should feel relieved to have met someone with practical advice.
Sense-Makers also help with the next challenge many stakeholders have: involving more colleagues, getting them on-board on the new insights. Instead of leaving it all up to your customer contact, you help him, or her get the alignment from other functions. New clarity arises on who else needs to be aware of the insightful information you shared. You help with de-silo-ing and the importance of having the focus on a bigger goal.
Sense-Makers have the ability to make information meaningful for their customers. They turn heavy, comprehensive text into understandable language. They share their objective and honest opinion on what they believe is the right thing to do for the customer’s business. This approach leads to greater customer confidence in what they should do next. Sense-making builds trust, and the advice is highly valued. Hence, Trusted Advisors need to be Sense-Makers.
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