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What Today’s Buyer Knows
Blog / For Sales Pros / Jul 1, 2014 / Posted by Alyson Stone / 7995

What Today’s Buyer Knows

That Will Make You Rethink Your Business

What do you really know about your prospects and customers? If you’ve done your homework—and many certainly have—you have a good idea of what motivates their buying decisions about your product or service. You have a general idea of what business issues it solves. You know what features or benefits your product has that competitors’ don’t.

But according to a fascinating new study co-conducted by CEB and Google entitled From Promotion to Emotion: Connecting B2B Customers to Brands, that data in itself isn’t enough. In fact, comparisons were made across 7 distinctly different product and service lines, and it was found that in each line all offerings were nearly equal in the minds of buyers. Only 14 percent of those surveyed perceived enough difference between brands to cause them to pay for particular brand.


Your average buyer is obviously looking to make the best decision for his or her company, based on price, functionality and benefits. But all too often it comes down to a price war in the end, which means that your product has been virtually lumped in with everyone else’s: a process known as “commoditization.”

But behind the scenes there are a lot of other things going on—things that unknown to you can keep your product in this “same as everyone else’s” category and will lose you your sale. When these elements are known to you, however, your product or service can be raised well above the level of the collective commoditization and classification with others. If these factors are utilized cleverly, your product or service will be the first they think of and become the “go to” in your particular industry.

Personal Value

The hidden factor here is personal value—that is, the value of your product or service to the buyer on a personal level.

When a buyer is interested in a particular product or service, there are considerations that come into play that, on a business level, you will most likely never hear about.

  • “What will others think about me if I recommend this product?”
  • “How will my recommendation and push for this purchase affect me in the eyes of my superiors and staff?”
  • “Could my going to bat for this product have a negative impact on my career path?”

I like to think of this as emotional buying. Emotions are an essential ingredient in every purchase decision, yet often discounted heavily in the B2B space… You know, where every buyer is completely rational.

In the arena of solving problems, you already know many of the business issues your product or service solves. But what about for the buyer personally? Is there a company-wide issue that impacts that buyer on his or her job—that your product is going to address?

This is the fundamental takeaway from this research:

On average, B2B customers are significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than consumers.

A fantastic example is given in the report, of a plant manager who has nightmares about downtime and the wide range of causes such downtime can have. The product message exactly targets these worries and frustrations—and deftly shows how the seller’s product solves them.

Impact on Insight Selling

The whole subject of insight selling is in many respects dedicated to isolating these kinds of values within a company. Through insight selling a sales rep garners information about company-specific issues that his or her product or service could directly address.

Taking this one step further, however, how is that buyer going to be impacted either positively or negatively by going through with the purchase? Or pulling back for a bit of a wider view, how are the users of that product or service going to be personally impacted? What kinds of barriers are they encountering day in and day out that your product or service could solve?

The research here is unequivocal: The stakes for B2B buyers are higher than for B2C, especially where potentially millions of dollars, opportunity and research costs are on the line.  The implications for poor B2B purchase choice-making are layered with far more emotional baggage (reprecussions) than most B2C decisions.

The phrase, “considered purchase” comes to mind– and while most people think of the consideration in terms of pre-purchase, it’s illuminating to think of the term considered in the post. Where earning trust is ultimately more important than any product feature. Other recent research backs up the fact that 83% of B2B considered purchases came from preferred suppliers.

A Marketing Proposition

While sales is wise to keep emotion in mind through the B2B buyer’s journey, perhaps the biggest impact on an organization can come from marketing. Gathering this kind of insight is actually more of a marketing proposition than a sales one. A sales rep on the ground is usually not going to have the kind of time and resources it would take to research and collect such information. Marketing, however, has many tools at its disposal—one-on-one interviews, focus groups surveys—that could yield this kind of data and give your company a decisive edge in its marketplace.

As shown in the report, such insightful research can have a profound effect on your positioning and branding, and radically change the way you do business.

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A wordsmith all her life, Alyson is typing as fast as she can.

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