“People buy for emotional reasons and justify with logic after.”
As salespeople, we know this. It’s one of the first things you learn in the profession.
Don’t sell features, sell benefits. Don’t sell the product, sell the dream.
...But how do you do that in B2B sales?
B2B sales refers to business to business sales. It's the practice of selling your company's products and services to other businesses, rather than to individual consumers (i.e., B2C sales). The products and services that B2B sales reps sell could include anything from accounting software for a SaaS company to a warehouse storage solution for a manufacturing facility.
Now, it’s really easy to sell a soccer mom with three screaming kids on the quiet drive she’ll enjoy when she buys that new minivan with TVs mounted into the backseat headrests. We know what emotional buttons to push there.
But what do you do when there are multiple layers of approvals, long and complex sales cycles, and the go-to benefits of “save time” and “save money” are so overused that they’re taken for granted in your industry?
That’s when you have to go deeper—beyond what people want to get from a purchase and into why they want to buy in the first place.
Why do people buy?
If you google “why do people buy” you’ll get all sorts of articles about emotional selling, persuasion, and triggering anticipation and suspense to capture interest.
Those emotions stem from just a few core desires. These desires are culturally created, but the programming behind them is deeply embedded in our subconscious minds.
When we see ourselves moving closer to or further away from these desires, that’s when our emotions are triggered.
If we see ourselves making mistakes which move us away from those desires, we can be persuaded to buy in order to fix those “mistakes” and preserve our self concept.
Tapping into those desires is key to triggering emotions in your customers.
In a B2B sales context, knowing which desires to tap into becomes less clear.
When you’re spending corporate funds, and have several layers of approvals to go through, which desire is going to help you persuade all of the key decision makers?
In direct response copywriting, there are seven core ideas we write to, in order to get people to buy. These ideas are based on universal social drivers embedded in behavioral psychology and North American consumer culture.
Those seven ideas are:
- Be admired/appreciated/loved/liked/accepted/worthy
- Save money / earn more money
- Save time / create more time
- Feel in control and certain
- Realize your own potential
- Realize how your own actions are moving you away from the very results you want
- Be successful
Two of these desires are obvious fits for B2B sales at first glance: saving time and saving money.
What company doesn’t want to make more money or reduce costs? What corporation wouldn’t like to increase productivity (essentially, saving time)?Except the problem is that neither saving time nor saving money, in a B2B context, is actually about either of those things.
Both of those benefits speak to another desire, the one that drives all sales in B2B:
And here’s why:
An unsuccessful company is one that goes out of business.
An unsuccessful individual is one who gets fired, or let go when the next round of layoffs comes, or passed over for promotion.
All of which have implications for fundamental needs like the ability to pay your mortgage or take care of your kids.
Being successful is the only thing that actually matters in B2B.
Saving money, saving time—any of the things we “sell” to customers in B2B actually translate into organizational success, and success for our customers in their business roles.
Success is achieved by doing things like saving time, making more money, being more productive, etc. Not the other way around.
Which is why, in B2B, you’re always selling success.
And you do that by understanding one thing:
What does success look like in the specific role you’re selling to?
Success differs from role to role, and there will be different concerns and obstacles preventing your buyers from reaching success.
The trick to effectively selling in B2B is understanding what success looks like for your ideal client, then showing them how your product can help achieve that. Maybe it’s through generating more sales or cutting production time or improving productivity.
Here are some quick tips to help you figure out what success looks like for your clients:
- Use customer interviews and market research to help determine where your clients are struggling and how your solution is helping them achieve those goals.
- Look up LinkedIn job descriptions matching your ideal client persona. Job descriptions for your ideal buyers lay out the required skills, knowledge, and role objectives that can help you determine what it means to be successful in that role.
- Skim the headlines of industry publications read by your ideal client. Look for popular articles and repeated topics to get a sense of what’s currently on their mind and the issues they grapple with.
- Ask them directly during sales calls. Ask your prospects questions about the current company vision and the role their department plays in it. Link your benefits to helping your customer achieve their goals as part of the overall company vision.
When you understand what success looks like for your customer, you can easily speak to those goals and show each prospect how your solution delivers the exact results they’re looking for. That might be by saving money, saving time, or some other benefit of your solution. But the real outcome they’re looking for is success. Show them how you can help them achieve it.