Biggest Challenge in B2B Sales Today Is a Lack of Customer Confidence, Gartner Says

Overwhelmed B2B buyers face a crisis of confidence as they increasingly struggle to make large-scale purchase decisions, according to Gartner, Inc.

Research findings revealed to more than 800 chief sales officers (CSOs) and other sales leaders at the Gartner CSO & Sales Leader Conference keynote in Las Vegas Sept. 17 indicate that the root cause of customers’ struggle has little to do with how they perceive suppliers’ offerings. It has everything to do with how they perceive themselves.

“The single biggest sales challenge today is, in fact, customers’ confidence, but it’s confidence with a twist,” said Brent Adamson, distinguished vice president in Gartner’s Sales practice. “It’s not customers’ confidence in suppliers, but customers’ confidence in themselves and their ability to make good buying decisions that is in critically short supply.”


In today’s environment of increasingly abundant high-quality, yet often conflicting information, additional customer research and learning does not lead to greater clarity, but rather deeper uncertainty. More often than not, today’s customers are left with no clear means for evaluating trade-offs or moving forward with sufficient certainty to justify an expensive, potentially disruptive purchase.

In fact, Gartner research shows that 89% of customers report encountering high-quality information during the purchase process. However, when customers struggle to make sense of all this high-quality information, they are significantly more likely to settle for a course of action that is smaller or less disruptive than originally planned.

“Ironically the majority of suppliers and sellers unwittingly exacerbate this very problem by focusing both content and sales conversations on ‘thought leadership’ and high levels of ‘expertise,’ all in an effort to stand out in customers’ eyes,” Adamson said.

To truly differentiate themselves in this environment, Gartner research has found that the best suppliers build customer confidence in themselves and their ability to make good decisions. To that end, leading suppliers equip sellers to engage customers with a specific kind of information — “Buyer Enablement” — while simultaneously helping the customer make sense of all the information they encounter — “Sense Making.”

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