The Emotional Side of B2B Buying

By Jeb Brooks, The Brooks Group, SalesEvolution.com

We’ve always believed that “Buying is an emotional event.”

Science, it turns out, backs up that statement. In his book, “You Are Not So Smart,” blogger David McRaney shares a couple of anecdotes that are useful to salespeople…

“Elliot” was a successful man by most measures. He was an excellent student who met with a great deal of success in his career as an accountant. Then he developed a brain tumor. Even though it was removed, the procedure left his Orbitofrontal Cortex (OFC) damaged.

After the surgery, “Elliot” spiraled out of control. He divorced his wife, quit his job, and had trouble holding a new one. He succumbed to a scam artist who took most of his money, he drifted away from his friends and family, and remarried a prostitute. All of this happened because he would become completely debilitated when making even the simplest decisions like what to eat or wear. He suffered from extreme “paralysis of analysis.”

The Orbitofrontal Cortex

The reason? The OFC is critical to decision-making. When it becomes damaged, you might swear excessively, compulsively gamble, abuse drugs, or become unable to empathize.

In Elliot’s case, he froze-up. His emotions (the OFC) couldn’t communicate with the more logical parts of his brain.

“Elliot’s” experience is evidence of just how critical emotions are to making decisions.

An experiment in 1990 made it even more clear.

Professor Tim Wilson (of the University of Virginia) presented two groups of students with a free gift. Students in group 1 were allowed to select a poster from among several and keep it. Members of group 2 were also given the opportunity to select a poster, but they had to justify their choice by writing about why they liked it. Most of the members of Group 1 selected an attractive poster. Group 2, on the other hand, tended to choose a poster with meaning (like one of those with an inspirational quote overlaying a picture of an eagle). So, that’s kind of interesting. If buyers are forced to justify a selection, they’ll make choices that seem more socially acceptable.

But, it became much more interesting (at least to those of us in sales) about six months later when the students were asked how they felt about their choices. Group 1 overwhelmingly loved their choice. Group 2 overwhelmingly hated it.

The sales lesson? When your prospects and customers are asked to think about a decision (like when procurement gets involved or they have to present a case to management), you pay less attention to emotions and more attention to logic. And when people are denied access to the emotional part of decision-making, they not only freeze up, but they might also suffer from buyer’s remorse. This is so fundamental that it’s hard-wired into our brains.

But, buying – choosing – is an emotional action. When organizations attempt to place boundaries on the emotions (Formal RFPs, Procurement Departments, etc.), the emotion is drained. Your job is to find the emotion and sell to it.

When has emotion in a sales interaction impacted you?