How and Why to Get Personal In B2B Solutions

Blog120_B2B_Personal_rev_1.docx-1B2B buyers focus on business results.

They identify a problem in their organization, spend time fully understanding the issues, look at all the possible solutions, and then zero in on their decision, crunching the numbers to pick the best offer.

It’s simply a matter of finding the best solution at the best price and making a sound business decision. Focused on the results, there is no emotion.

For those of you in B2B sales today, you know this is not true.

Do personal thoughts, feeling, or desires ever influence a sale?

You bet they do.

Salespeople tend to focus on the business results their products or services bring the business without identifying the personal reasons people buy. But we know from our experience and the work we have done with MHI Global, emotions and the decision maker’s personal wins count.

Research from The Corporate Executive Board Company (CEB) proves this point. It conducted an extensive study of 3,000 B2B buyers. The responses showed that personal considerations, including emotions, trump business considerations in decision making.

In fact, the issue of risk aversion contributes mightily to why business purchases stall. CEB notes that 48 percent of B2B customers say they have wanted to buy a new product but have not spoken up about it because they were scared of the associated risks.

Personal Value 2X

The research further found that personal value is nearly twice as important in business decisions as business value. In other words, while you may think that you’re making an organizational sale, the truth is, you’re selling to people with all their human idiosyncrasies.

First and foremost, people are concerned about “me” or the trusty acronym WIIFM (what’s in it for me).

Why does it matter?

Because it means you need to adjust how you appeal to your prospects and apply your selling process.

Surprisingly, buyers have the highest level of enthusiasm to purchase a product when they begin the buying process. Once they’ve understood their issues, looked at alternatives, and decided that they’re interested in buying a product or service to solve a problem, they will go through a useful series of steps in their buying journey.

Buyers set their purchase criteria, search for suppliers and evaluate them. As they move through these steps, their likelihood of completing a purchase wanes. According to Sales Benchmark Index, 58 percent of sales pipelines end up in “no-decision.”

In some industries, such as banking and insurance, sales leaders say that 80 to 90 percent of “final” presentations end up with the prospect sticking with the status quo, cites Corporate Vision.

It’s not until buyers move into the vendor negotiation phase that purchase intent increases again. However, in CEB’s opinion, even at this point, the likelihood of purchase is not as high as it was at the beginning of the buying journey. Why is this?

To find out, CEB juxtaposed suppliers’ messaging tactics on the buyer’s journey. It discovered that while it may not be the cause, the nature of business messaging is certainly adding to the problem.

Initially, companies want to capture attention. To do so, they use emotional communications. Once they move into the nurturing phase, however, they switch to business value messaging and do not connect each buying influence’s personal win to the results they are producing.

Towards the end of the process, when a salesperson becomes involved, there’s an upswing in the likelihood of purchase. This change could be spurred by the introduction of the human touch. There are emotions involved in talking with a company representative on a personal, emotional level, and building a relationship, especially if the salesperson is well trained to link personal wins to the business results they are producing.


As shown in the chart above, prospects who engaged in more personal messaging throughout the buying cycle via social media and video had a much higher level of purchase probability throughout their buying journey. Once again, this points to the value of the human touch.

As we discussed in our blog, Three Ways to Track Buyer Thinking and Close More Sales, every prospect goes through a predictable buying process. If you can stay connected, educate them and understand their personal needs you will increase your success.

Don’t Only Focus on Results

To increase the probability of sales success, don’t just focus on the business results. Learn the impact on each person in the prospect organization by your solution. Understand how they win if your solution is selected. If you are selling business processes, who’s the day to day end-user? How is she impacted? How will she personally benefit?

When you understand and tie together both the decision maker’s desired business results and his personal win, you actualize prospect-centric focus and create the foundation for a long-term relationship.

Let me give you an example. A client recently told me that he was having difficulty with one of his prospects. He said he had an “ideal solution” for this organization but for some reason he felt a senior vice president (SVP) was blocking the decision to move forward.

Others in the decision-making process claimed the solution was a “perfect fit,” saving the company several thousand dollars from its current situation and freeing up resources in their department. Unfortunately, this executive has a high degree of influence in the company and has not been responsive to the salesperson’s follow-up.

Find the Personal Win

I asked the salesperson to give me a little background on this individual.

He began discussing the SVP’s business background, as though he was reading his resume. I stopped him and said, “Tell me a little about him personally.”  This individual had been with the company for more than twenty years and was part of its fast growth. The salesperson told me that the SVP is planning to retire in the next three months, and the salesperson thought this individual would want to complete this project and save the company money.

As we continued to talk, it became apparent that this SVP didn’t want to get involved in any new decisions before he retired. He was winding things down and moving responsibility to others in the company. He just wanted to be left alone and didn’t want to get involved.

Did he have a personal win? No.

I suggested the salesperson get some coaching from the others supportive of his solution to see if a decision could be made without the SVP. If not, then he may have to wait until the new person steps in. The new person could be eager to make a difference in his or her new role (their win) to get off to a great start.

With the new person, it could be the same results but a different win. The lesson is clear. Although a given business result can be viewed by many as the solution they are looking for; it will always have a different personal impact on each of the buying influences involved in making decisions about the business results.

Here’s the bottom line: People buy on emotion and justify with logic. You’re great at bringing the logic of the sale/solution to your B2B buyer. But ask yourself how good you are at tapping into the emotional triggers that drive his decision.

In business, there are six emotional keys that unlock that all-important decision-making process. And, excuse me for being overly simplistic but it works to think of these triggers at the basic level of human nature:

  1. Greed “If we make a decision now, we’ll get a big reward.”

  2. Fear   “If we don’t make a decision now, we’re basically toast.”

  3. Altruism “If we make a decision now, we’re good people.”

  4. Envy “If we don’t make a decision now, the other guys will win.”

  5. Pride “If we make a decision now, they’ll know we’re smart.”

  6. Shame “If we don’t make a decision now, they’ll know we’re dumb.”

It is only under the pressure of these emotions that any decision will be made. The underlying drivers behind these emotions are, of course, pleasure and pain, primitive drivers of human behavior.

Balance these appropriately in all your communication or touchpoints with the prospect and you will help drive the decision in your favor.  Happy Personal Selling.

See you on upside,


For more information on how to simplify the complex sale, go to Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

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