Some years ago, I received sage advice from a dear friend and mentor to “make the two-foot drop” from the head to the gut. Let me pass that advice along to you.
When facing a particularly thorny decision or intractable problem, after thinking through the details, the possible options, the consequences, the pros and cons, make the two-foot head to gut drop. In other words, don’t just think about a decision from a purely intellectual perspective, weighing pros and cons on a balance scale in the mind. Using this advice, I realized that when I interrogated my deep emotions about a problem, new insights would arise and often a clear path would emerge.
In truth, any casual study into human decision-making indicates that emotions and “gut instinct” drive our decisions to a large degree, even when we aren’t aware that they do. We decide on emotion, and we justify with facts. The same is true in buying and selling. We buy based on emotion, and we justify the purchase with facts. (A friend once bought a shiny, red, fast sportscar because it had a great warranty. Sure…)
What About Selling to B2b Customers?
Does this emotional, gut-driven decision-making extend to the business world? Does it extend to the B2B sales and procurement arenas? Emphatically, yes.
According to a study published by B2B International, 50% of buying decisions in B2B are driven by emotion. A different study published by Fortune Knowledge Group & Gyro found that 62% of CEOs in B2B decision-making find it necessary to rely on “gut feelings” and a similar percentage acknowledge that human insights and subjective factors increasingly matter and must precede hard analytics when evaluating competing proposals in B2B.
So, buyers, business leaders, CEOs, and others involved in making B2B buying decisions don’t operate on facts and figures alone. When considering the enormous body of scholarship devoted to the role of emotions in human decision-making generally, this is not surprising. What is surprising is that when selling to B2B customers, salespeople tend to “stick to the facts,” using data and information.
Not Making the Two-Foot Drop
In most B2B sales conversations, proposals, and pitches, salespeople speak to the head. They share how much money their solution can save or make their customers, the positive impacts on timesaving and efficiency, and other very valuable, tangible, and rational benefits the customer gets from choosing the right solution to their problems. They may also uncover other operational, financial, or commercial benefits in the areas of risk, safety, brand, impact to customers, employee engagement, etc.
The stark reality of this very common approach to selling value is that it ignores the role of emotional engagement in B2B decision-making. In other words, most B2B salespeople aren’t making the two-foot drop to the gut.
How does the customer feel about the problems that you aim to solve? How does it affect that person? (Not just the business, but the person.) What happens if this problem isn’t solved? What painful consequences will unfold or continue? Why is solving this problem important to the person making the buying decision?
A Typical Approach to Address Rational Impact to The Business
The Recommended Approach to Address Emotional Impact To The Individual of the Rational Impact
Who is your very best employee today? Oh really? What makes Sophia the best? If you had three more Sophias on your team, what would that look like for you?
So, it would save you time in putting out fires and correcting mistakes? How many hours would it put back into your week if you didn’t spend all that time firefighting and fixing unnecessary mistakes? If you had 10 more hours per week, what would you spend that time on? Why is that important to you?
Besides saving you time, what else would change in your world with three more superstars on the team?
On the flip side of that question, what would happen here if Sophia left tomorrow? How would that impact you? What would that create for you personally in terms of incremental responsibility, picking up the slack, fighting fires, having to replace Sophia from recruiting through onboarding and training?
I’m hearing you say that losing a superstar doesn’t just cost you money, but also time, hassles, headaches, stress. Anything else? What impact does losing a superstar have on the rest of the team? Does it create a burden on other team members? (Et cetera.)
What About Buyers Who “Only Care About Price?”
These recommendations pertain to those decision-makers that care about the business results – the decision-makers that would directly benefit from the results. But what about procurement people and professional buyers who “only care about price?”
First, price is never the only consideration. It’s sometimes not even the most important, even to procurement professionals. But let’s deal with the emotional role in decision-making for procurement people. Spoiler alert: buyers are people, too. They suffer from the same range of human emotions as the rest of us. They are not immune to the very human reality that their emotions have a large role to play in their decision-making.
Have you considered how to ask questions, have conversations, share information, propose and present, respond to RFPs, etc. to buyers, using the knowledge that some portion of their decision-making is emotion-driven? What are the negative ramifications to your buyer and how they will look to their boss, etc. if they make a bad decision just to save a buck? How can they be the hero to the organization by making sure that quality is exceptional, delivery is fast, and supply is stable?
No one wants to be chewed out or worse. Procurement folks prefer to ensure the satisfaction of the business leaders and operational teams depending on the products and services they buy.
Be Sure to Make the Two-Foot Drop
The key to closing more sales faster at higher prices in B2B sales doesn’t rest in convincing your buyers with facts and figures alone. To truly create a sense of buying urgency that drives pricing power and cements your value proposition, make the two-foot drop.