THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SELLING TO BUSINESSES
Updated: Jun 16, 2019
Dr. Gary Witt
The Marketing Psychology approach to buyer seduction works for Business-to-Business (B to B) as well as Business-to-Consumer (B to C). This is how you do it:
RULE #1: People -- including company purchasers -- do not buy products or services. They buy anticipated satisfactions for themselves and their company.
A buyer has a set of buying motivations, broken down into four basic categories – Needs and Wants (logical motives) and Fears and Desires (emotional motives.) He/she looks for features (e.g. many airbags) in a product (a new car) which will produce benefits (e.g. protecting passengers) that will result in the satisfaction of these motivations (e.g., I’m a good parent protecting my family.)
For example, a woman doesn’t buy a Volvo SUV, she buys the anticipated satisfaction that she will feel secure because she’s driving her kids in a safe vehicle, proud of herself for making this selection, and happy because she got a comfortable SUV at a good price.) THAT is what she is really buying.
Note that she isn't buying the benefits (like tire stopping distance), but what the benefits will satisfy – keeping her kids safe during an emergency stop. There is ALWAYS an emotional component to the sale, often tipping the balance between the First and Second Choice.)
The psychological marketing analysis for B‑to‑B is done the same way as B-to-C, looking through the buyer's eyes. You just have to look at more factors; and the interaction of those factors becomes more important, B‑to‑B marketing is like playing two‑level chess. When a company buys a product, it is not really the company buying it. It is a person or persons who decide. And ultimately one person usually has the final OK. Corporate buyers always wear two hats. One hat is their Corporate Hat, the other is the Personal Hat.
BUYERS WEAR TWO HATS
Wearing the Corporate hat, the person has a set of buying motivations which again can be broken down into four categories ‑‑ Needs, Wants, Fears and Desires. Here, the person is motivated by the answers to questions like "Why does the company NEED this type of product? What does it WANT to get out of the deal? What sort of things should we FEAR about making a mistake and what could happen if we do? In the best of all possible worlds, what might we wish (DESIRE) would happen (e.g., great product, great service, bargain price, etc. etc.)?”
Then the person takes off the corporate‑representative hat and puts on the Personal Hat. Here he/she has a similar set of buying motivations, buy they all revolve around personal gain (after all, none of us are robots, we all try to do what is good for ourselves.)
1. 'What do I NEED out of this deal? (e.g. It has to be a deal which I can sell to others and to defend against criticism.)
2. 'What do I WANT out of this deal? (e.g. it has to be one which is not going to take a lot of my time, since I don't have time to spare, so a no‑brainer deal is better. Also, I’d prefer to do business with a sales person I like and trust, maybe one who has sent me a nice Christmas gift or taken me to a ballgame. It’s just human nature to return favors.)
3. 'What do I FEAR? (e.g., a deal that turns sour and hurts my career or my chance of a raise.)
4. What do I DESIRE? (e.g. a deal which makes me look so good that my boss/board will be impressed and I’ll be closer to a promotion or a pay raise.)
DEALING WITH MULTIPLE CORPORATE DECISION MAKERS
To make the puzzle more difficult, you really need to do this analysis for all of the major decision makers in the buying chain! Why? Because while many of their buying motivations will be the same, some won’t. If you can determine the new factors, you can plan for them in your marketing materials by making a promise, adding a testimonial, or providing data which will address that one person’s concern.
For example, the CFO may be most worried about performance guarantees of a piece of equipment, so you can provide research data on durability, while the CEO may just care that if the costly purchase fails, he will be embarrassed when he tries to defend the purchase to the Board. So you can provide testimonials from top firms who have also bought the equipment, giving him a shield for defense. But you can’t know to do any of this without doing your Buyer Motivation Analysis for each person!
Marketing Psychology can give you an edge in the business world, too, but you must do your Buyer Motivation Analysis on two levels – what’s in it for the company, and what’s in it for the particular decision makers who will do the evaluation.