Blog post

Deploying Revenue Data Makes Sense of Sense Making

By Tom Cosgrove | September 01, 2021 | 2 Comments

SalesAccount Management and GrowthNew Customer AcquisitionSales Effectiveness and EnablementSales Strategy and Operations

The Gartner for Sales research team put out a study in 2019 titled “Redefining the High-Performing Seller for the Information Era.” Since that’s a bit of a mouthful, we now tend simply to refer to this B2B sales guidance as “Sense Making.”

The theory is fantastic, but the execution is easier said than done. Until now! We found the answer the tough questions you’ve been asking around enabling Sense Makers with context.

Check this out….


What is Sense Making, You Ask?

Well, this research converged buying challenges of the time with (in)effective seller approaches and found that high-performing sellers tend to take a certain path when providing information to prospects and customers. A path that diverges from core performers pretty significantly. They don’t pull up the dumptruck and pour out everything that’s ever been related to the question or subject at hand as “Giving” sellers do. They don’t pontificate on years of experience and relevant expertise and put concerns to rest with a ‘just trust me, I’ve been at this a while’ as the “Telling” sellers do.

Instead, they help customers “Make Sense” of the information landscape, sort out the tons of self-guided and competitor-provided research and product knowledge prospects and customers have already collected.

They only provide new information when they can confirm that the customer is not already overwhelmed by the potentially conflicting, cascading, and undifferentiated information amassed.


Combined with killer “commercial insight” delivered at key moments of clarity, taking the customer’s context into account… this strategy has legs, baby!


So, Why are We Talking Seller Behaviors Here?

It turns out, when it comes to pre-interaction preparation and actual customer engagement, there are behaviors that sellers can engage in that will turn up the customer decision confidence dial, and turn down the skepticism of sellers as a source of information dial, and create beautiful harmony with the prospect or customer in pursuit of a mutually-beneficial purchase.

One of those pre-interaction preparation behaviors that most prominently stood out to me when sales leaders and their teams would begin to execute on this approach was the need for sellers (and managers) to:


“frequently consult third-party information sources and social media to prepare for customer interactions.”


Logical, yes.

Scalable, maybe.

Currently happening across the selling team – not likely.


Whether it comes down to time, skill, will, an intense aversion to technology…

Only 23% of seller respondents to our Seller Skill Diagnostic survey as of August ’21 were regularly engaging in this behavior.



Solution Execution

It was clear in presenting this research that clients in sales leadership and enablement needed help determining the “how” around enabling this particular behavior… but the answer at that point wasn’t completely clear even to us. But, we’ve been heavily invested in digging into the tech side of sales for the past year or so. From that focus, it seems to some degree the answer was waiting out there all along… underappreciated, undervalued, and misunderstood by sales teams for all of the capabilities and relevant customer context it could bring to the table regardless of time, skill, will, or phobia.


Revenue Data Solutions:

Tools and vendors that supply third-party sales and marketing data around customers and prospects to enhance first-party owned data at the company and individual contact level – are capable of telling us about our clients’…

research habits

purchase intent

technology investments and budget

social media activity

topics and vendors of interest

and even rank, score, and prioritize against built Ideal Customer Profiles and Segmentation schemes.


Most sales leaders and enablement teams are probably familiar with some of the vendors in this space, but likely only from the standpoint of their capabilities tied to the cleansing and de-duplication of their own first-party data, or the ability to append that data with up-to-date phone numbers and email addresses for prospecting.

There’s SO much more rich value here that can actually provide the level of customer context necessary to appropriately plan for customer interactions through a sense-making lens.  The “mind-meld” is possible, and the opportunity here is enormous!

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If this type of tech investment to support Sense Making, or really any kind of sales acceleration, automation, and engagement improvement effort is of interest… Jeff Cohen and I will be publishing a Gartner Market Guide detailing the vendor capabilities and data types along with a list and description of representative vendors in this space later this month. Stay tuned!


To read more about Revenue Data Solutions, see Jeff Cohen’s blog: Revenue Data Leads the Way to Sales and Marketing Alignment

Gartner for Sales Leaders clients can read more about this topic in the recently published Quick Answer: Equipping Revenue Teams with Consistent Customer Context.

Comments are closed


  • Pre-meeting discovery about a target B2B buyer, to inform sellers, is a space where AI should be able to automate the process of substantive information gathering.

    That said, I’ve yet to see a vendor deliver on the promise of online discovery automation in a meaningful way.

    Therefore, Tom, I’m looking forward to your thoughtful insights.

    • Tom Cosgrove says:

      100%, David! Prime use case for AI. Many of the vendors in this space are doing great things with ML & AI to do just that front a bunch of different angles. Exciting stuff to come!