A Crisis of Customer Confidence

By Tom Pisello | November 9, 2019

How to Solve with the Right Sales Enablement and Content Marketing

It was 1979, and the transition to the new decade wasn’t looking good. “Stagflation” reigned, with the economy experiencing a critical combination of high inflation and low economic growth.

Jimmy Carter was President, and he blamed the challenges on a “Crisis of Confidence”. The assassinations of major leaders in the 1960s, the Vietnam War, and the Watergate scandal sapped optimism, weighing on business investment and constraining consumer spending.

According to Gartner, as we transition to the new decade of the 20’s we face a similar challenge. This time it’s B2B buyers who are facing a “Crisis of Customer Confidence”.

Overwhelmed B2B buyers are increasingly struggling to make large-scale purchase decisions, according to Gartner, Inc, this according to research they revealed at the 2019 CSO and Sales Leadership Conference.

Gartner research showed that a whopping 89% of customers indicated they are receiving high-quality information during the purchase process. That’s great news and shows supplier content marketing is on-point.

However, even though the content is of high quality, customers are struggling to make sense of it all. With so many solution options and “information overload”, Gartner indicates that buyers are significantly more likely to end a buying journey in no decision, or settle for a purchase that is smaller or less disruptive than originally planned.

Devastating news if you are a solutions provider. Buyers are either:

According to Brent Adamson, distinguished VP in Gartner’s Sales Practice, the single biggest sales challenge today is a lack of customer confidence, but it’s a confidence deficit with a twist. “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”, said Brent.


We can find the root cause for the “Crisis in Customer Confidence” in the neuroscience of decision-making, called Overchoice. Give a buyer too many seemingly equivalent choices with too much information, and the decision becomes overwhelming. The buyer is mentally drained trying to distill the potential outcomes and weigh all the risks of making the wrong choice.

Neuroscientists indicate a bubble curve to define buyer satisfaction. As we plot the curve, with too little or no choices, buyers have very low satisfaction. Initially more choices lead to more satisfaction, up to a certain point.

Buyer Enablement: Moving Beyond Throwing Content and Pitching Products

If you look at many organizations, you would think that the content marketers are being paid by the pound for the content they are producing.

Email marketing is all about throwing this abundance of content to each prospect. And sellers are famous for loading up buyers with a ton of collateral, all to prove how smart they are. Gartner research highlights that “more is not more”.

According to Gartner, “To truly differentiate themselves in this environment, we have found that the best suppliers build customer confidence in themselves and their ability to make good decisions.”

Gartner provides two routes to success for the best suppliers:

Today’s most successful sellers don’t necessarily have to be subject matter experts. Customers do value a seller who can provide insights and advice, however, those that are able to distill the right information, through the right channels, all to help facilitate their buying process, are highly rated.

And why is this valued so highly today? Gartner research indicates that a typical buyer squanders 2/3rds of their decision-making time gathering, processing and deconflicting information. With so much information available, it’s no wonder the buyer values curation assistance, to sort and sift through the overload. To find the right signal in all the noise.

A good seller nowadays is like a great concierge, one who can respond to requests with curated recommendations and assistance, but also one who listens empathetically and proactively makes recommendations.

As a solution provider, you might not know the unique buying steps and individuals for each company, but you’ve helped dozens and likely hundreds of similar buyers successfully navigate the buying journey.

Who will be involved? What content is required by each buyer role to get the deal to the next step in the process? What obstacles should be expected, and what information and content do you proactively need to overcome this next hurdle in the journey? The best sellers know the answers to these questions, providing just the right customer content, with a customer playbook mapped to understand the buyers, the next steps in the journey, and each obstacle.

Gartner terms this Buyer Enablement — the right content, step by step, specifically designed to help buyers buy.

Sense Making: Building Customer Confidence

A skeptical buyer will delay a decision, or make a smaller bet, all to avoid risk. Make a wrong decision, and it could be the decision makers job on the line. It’s no wonder Gartner research indicates that over 94%, of buyers have participated in a “no-decision” process, and 84% report that when a purchase is made, it’s taking much longer than expected.

Gartner states that: “Customers who are confident in the information they encounter, as well as those who feel little skepticism toward any claims the sales reps have made, make bigger and bolder purchase decisions”.

The key is a seller who can help eliminate Overchoice, helping buyers wade through the content overload, to help the buyer make sense of all the information to “evaluate and prioritize relevant information, quantify trade-offs and reconcile conflicting information.

By helping to curate the options, remove irrelevant information and deconflicting, the best sellers make the buyer feel confident that they are making the right choice. According to Gartner, adopting a Sense Making approach to information succeeded in closing a high-quality, low-regret deal an astonishing 80% of the time.”

The Bottom-Line

Too many choices and a risk averse environment means that too many buying decisions are significantly delayed, close for lower amounts than they should, or end in “no-decision”.

The most successful sellers help to enable buying, a concierge to:

Sales enablement and content marketers can help to enable the most successful sellers and moreover empower customer confidence with:

And if you are successful at overcoming the Overchoice and overload challenges, Gartner says customers who are confident are 2.6 times more likely to buy more.

What are you doing to help overcome your customer’s Crisis of Confidence?

1. Gartner Says the Biggest Challenge in B2B Sales Today Is a Lack of Customer Confidence – https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190919005013/en/Gartner-Biggest-Challenge-B2B-Sales-Today-Lack
2. Overchoice Defined – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overchoice
3. Crisis of Confidence – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presidency_of_Jimmy_Carter#Malaise_speech

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