This post was sparked by a spirited, and at times emotional, debate during the #bizforum chat on Twitter yesterday evening. Thanks to @samfiorella for instigating and @chieflemonhead, @MaureenB2B, @PrashSabharwal and @josepf, among others, for a spirited discussion.
B2B buying is complex because the products are complex. Evaluating B2B solutions is hard, and the final decision is not made with absolute knowledge it is the right decision.
I submit as Exhibit A: the numerous regrettable ERP and CRM investments that have been made by large corporations.
In B2B, buyers are incredibly knowledgeable, but they simply cannot be certain. To confidently proceed, they must believe they are making the best decision. At its heart, it is an emotional decision.
Since today’s corporate environment requires rational justification of our emotionally-driven decisions, I offer the following rational statements to support my belief:
There isn’t a rational formula. There is not a simple rational process that will consistently create the same buying decision. Emotions like trust are absolutely critical, but they are subjective and cannot be captured in a formulaic evaluation.
Beliefs are not absolute. A rational process may shape or support our beliefs, but they are still beliefs. When presented with the same rational arguments, another person may have a different belief, and the ensuing discussion can quickly become emotionally charged. Our beliefs are emotional!
Emotion is the root of business needs. Very few businesses have an absolute need for a 38 page per minute printer. Somewhere, that belief (or desire) was created, and it drove the requirements. But the requirement does not have an absolute root.
Emotions stop deals. If a key stakeholder tells a buyer they don’t have a good feeling about the rational choice, something “just doesn’t feel right, I can’t quite put my finger on it…, but I don’t trust they can deliver as promised,” the deal is off, or at a minimum, the momentum is broken until the emotional concern is addressed.
A challenge faced by sales and marketing is the emotions that matter are not the easy ones to create. Like does not automatically create trust or a desire to work with you. Kelly Lieberman captured this in a #bizforum tweet:
— Kelly Lieberman (@Tribe2point0) July 7, 2011
Like isn’t the critical emotion. In a corporate environment that demands rational explanations, like or dislike is not enough. Here are some of the stronger and more powerful emotions at play in B2B marketing and sales:
- Trust. Do they trust you can deliver?
- Desire. Are they focused on the prestige of a competing solution?
- Fear. Is there a safe recommendation, with a job and reputation on the line?
Will your sales and marketing address these emotional needs, or will you rely on rational positioning?
In closing, my belief is emotional. Although it can be supported by logical arguments, if it was merely rational, a conversation would not have inspired a post. Emotion is what makes our beliefs powerful.
What do you believe, does rational rule in B2B sales and marketing, or do emotions drive the final decision? Share your belief in the comments below or with me on Twitter.