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Making Sense Of Sensemaking

by David Brock on June 11th, 2019

This is the final post in this series——-YAY! Thank you for hanging in there!

If you have missed the previous posts, The links to all the others in this series, please go to: Sensemaking, The Big Issue Facing Both Our Customers And Us.

As you might have guessed, I’m trying to make sense of sensemaking myself. I’ve been studying it for some, time, creating some experiments with clients. But I still have a lot to learn. Writing down some of the ideas is helpful to my learning process and my ability to articulate the them. I am still clumsy in the articulation, but will continue to refine and improve it.

But I wanted to try to give you some thoughts about how to move forward in your own sensemaking journey.

Some ideas, thoughts, challenges:

  1. Learn how to characterize where your customers find themselves. Which quadrant do they see themselves in? We’ve learned some parameters of how to do this–looking at order versus disorder, what is known versus what is unknown. Based on where they see themselves determines how we most effectively engage them.
  2. Recognize your customers may not know where they are or be able to articulate it. We create value by helping them assess their situation against the order/disorder, known/unknown dimensions through asking them questions about what they face.
  3. They may be in multiple spaces at one time. A certain part of the organization may be in a certain quadrant, other parts may be in different quadrants. Remember, complexity “rolls downhill,” so the “customers” you work with will be impacted by the rest of the organization. The lower they are in the organization, the more they will be impacted by those higher and in other parts of the organization.
  4. If you have to guess, a safe guess is that they are in the Complex domain. But again, how they respond to your questions in (2) will help refine that guess.
  5. Once we’ve figured out where the customer perceives themselves, you know have a “formula” for how to engage them in helping them address their challenges and move forward (respond). We know the frameworks for working with our customers:
    1. Simple: Sense, categorize, respond.
    2. Complicated: Sense, analyze, respond.
    3. Complex: Probe, sense, respond.
    4. Chaotic: Act, sense, respond.
  6. Our customers are “prisoners of their own experiences.” This impacts how they assess their situations, and where they are positioned. Because we work with 100s to 1000s of customers in similar spaces, we have a much broader experience base and a very different context to help our customers understand what they face and how to respond. Sharing this experience and helping the customer in their own sensemaking initiatives is, possibly, the greatest value we can create.
  7. We create our greatest value in helping our customers make sense of what they face, then helping them determine how they best respond. Our solutions are only vehicles for helping them achieve this, not the reason they are buying. We lose site of this.
  8. Your customers are likely to be grouped in the same domain. There’s a temptation to think, “Do I have to figure this out for every customer in every sales situation?” Here’s where being very clear on your ICP is critical. Customers in your ICP, are likely to be clustered in a similar domain–at least for the problems and issues that you address, and the target personas within your customer.
    1. As a result, you can develop tools, processes, skills, content, systems, organizational structure/roles expert at addressing the problems and challenges within a specific quadrant.
    2. Where your customers are will vary depending on the market/solution maturity. Early in a market/solution cycle, we are likely to be in the Complex domain. As the solutions/markets mature, we move into the Complicated, ultimately Simple domains. Are targeting strategies and engagement strategies will vary depending on the maturity of the market/solution.
  9. Our customers have hierarchies of challenges. As we look at the customer problems/challenges we have some interesting strategic choices about who and how we engage. We have the opportunity to reposition ourselves, changing who we engage and how we differentiate what we do.
    1. Consider who owns the root problem you address with your customer? Problems/challenges generally occur in hierarchies. While we may focus on the “problem owner,” that problem may just be a small component of a much bigger set of problems. We might gain deeper insight and create greater value by working with those who own the “root” problem.
    2. We can dramatically reshape the market perception of a problem. Remember how SFDC reshaped the market for CRM, by redefining how customers perceived the problem.
  10. Recognize that becoming a Sensemaker demands new skills and capabilities at all levels of the organization. Sensemaking is neither a marketing nor a sales enablement program. It is a strategic choice that shapes everything you do in the organization, the people you hire, and how you engage your customers.

Whew!!!! This has been a long journey! Thanks for hanging in there with me!

This was important for me to write. As we look at the turbulence both our organizations and our customers face, most of our traditional approaches, methods, strategies will no longer be sufficient. We have to change profoundly. We have to look for new processes, tools, approaches.

I’m early in my thinking on Sensemaking. Writing this was my attempt to start to think about the issues myself. I will keep coming back to this topic over the coming months.

Because I’ve covered so much in this series, I will be putting it together in an eBook. I will be adding a lot of references of materials I find helpful and tools you can use. If you are interested in getting it, send me an email at dabrock@excellenc.com. Give me several weeks, I have to consolidate and edit these posts.

Thanks again!

Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample
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