Sales Psychology: What You Need to Know About B2B Selling – Part 1

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It’s fair to say that the majority of successful, sales-focused professionals have 2 important things in common:

  1. Their thirst for knowledge
  2. Their desire for self-improvement

If you count yourself among this elite group of individuals, we know this post will provide insights as to what makes people tick and how to leverage what we know about human behavior to boost your sales numbers. The gist of the post is understanding the mind of B2B (business to business) clients and how important that ultimately is to your personal success in the B2B selling niche.

As a professional in the B2B sphere, if you have been in the game for any decent length of time, then you are aware of how important it is to understand the mind-set of your B2B customer. To be successful in the job, you must make learning the psychology of B2B selling one of your main priorities.

It’s also vital to understand the difference between selling in the offline world versus the online world, as well as the fact that a salesperson’s best friend is a CRM—points we’ll discuss in more detail in future blogs.

It is well worth noting that B2B selling is a different animal from B2C (business to consumer) selling. If your sales niche has been B2C, and you are transitioning into B2B selling—even though you may have been a huge success in your former role—you will be doing yourself a big favor if you take on the attitude of a novice. That's how big of a difference there is between the psychology of a B2C customer versus that of a B2B client.

Think of yourself as Michael Jordan, going from basketball to baseball. You’re a skilled athlete switching from the court to the field, understanding that it’s a whole different ball game and having to adapt to a new format and set of rules…

To back up our above statement, this article from Forbes titled “Differences in Selling B2B and B2C” points out key differences between B2B selling and B2C selling. B2B selling includes the following aspects that are in direct opposition to B2C selling:

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To be successful in B2B selling, you must delve into the mind of your potential client and be your biggest skeptic. Think of every potential reason a business would not want to buy from or partner with you. Understanding the psychology of your B2B client is your first step toward closing the sale.

However, your smartest move is to put the idea of closing the sale on the back burner and first become a student of B2B psychology. You need to do this before you can really consider yourself a true B2B professional.

As someone who enjoys learning, you won't consider this a burden. In fact, those of you with an eager mind will most likely find the psychology of B2B selling quite fascinating. Think of this endeavor as an investment that has major returns down the road.

One example of how fascinating the psychology of B2B selling is can be found in this article from Market 8 titled “The 5 Things You Should Know About B2B Consumer Psychology.” In the article, author Marc Schenker discusses the importance of color in the B2B sales process. Mr. Schenker uses the example of Heinz Ketchup…

When Heinz Ketchup changed the color of its well-known ketchup bottle from red to—get this—green, the company actually saw a spike of $23 million in additional sales in the first seven months of this marketing experiment.”

Why?

Whether we realize it or not, colors send a message to our psyche… Green represents wealth and relaxes the customer. And in today’s world of being health conscious about food, could the spike be attributed to the green ketchup giving the impression of being a healthier alternative to red?

The aforementioned article just goes to show that underneath all the business, you are first and foremost dealing with another human—an emotional being. If you understand your potential client on a cerebral level, you are well on your way to closing a sale and most likely gaining a client for life.

To further bolster our premise—that understanding the psychology of B2B selling is critical—we would like to cite a second Forbes article titled “Inside the Mind of the B2B Customer.” The article points out a glaring deficiency in the B2B selling sphere.

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Here is what the article states: “According to Forrester, 59% of B2B buyers prefer to do research online instead of interacting with a sales rep because they feel reps push their own sales agendas instead of actually listening to the buyer and finding a solution that solves their unique problem. There’s nothing more annoying than a salesperson who doesn’t listen, and in the B2B world, it has gotten so bad that buyers are actually avoiding sales reps.

If this quote hits a nerve, it should become your new problem to solve.

It should prompt you as a B2B professional to concentrate more on the individual who is representing the company you want to sell to than you are to the product or service you are trying to sell them.

Just remember, even though you are selling to a business, you are always dealing with another human being, one who just happens to be representing a business. Therefore, understanding the psychology of B2B selling is your starting point for success.

The first rule of thumb in understanding the mind-set of a B2B client is that you need to possess empathy. Treat the business representative with respect. When first approaching them, listen more than you talk.

People naturally have the desire to be heard and understood. Establish a relationship that will hopefully become a long-term one. By creating a true one-on-one relationship with the representative of the business you are trying to sell to, you are hopefully setting yourself up for many further successful sales.

However, none of what we are saying here about the psychology of B2B selling takes away from your product or service. After all, you ARE in the business of making sales, and if you don't have total faith in what you are selling, no matter how well you understand the mind-set of potential B2B clients, you will not be successful.

Your responsibility to your B2B client is to instill their belief and confidence in what they are buying from you. Your client needs to know they are buying the right product or service—one that is best for their needs, a product or service that you know is of the highest quality and will make a positive difference to their company.

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Treat each B2B client and their needs on an individual basis. Never make the mistake of pushing a one-size-fits-all sales agenda. Each client's needs are unique to them. That’s part of the reason B2C sales of popular brand products or services are so successful—customers feel fulfilled and validated emotionally and rationally.

You want your B2B clients to feel that same level of fulfillment. By addressing your B2B client's unique needs and also including some elements of B2C selling—such as emotional engagement—you will create an experience that your B2B clients will love.

After all, B2B buyers are just people like you and me, so connecting with them and building trust can go a long way.

Let your potential B2B client get to know you and become comfortable with you as a person. Even though we began this blog post by pointing out the huge differences between B2B selling and B2C selling, we aren't contradicting ourselves when we say that there is one glaring similarity: You are still ultimately dealing with a human being.

There’s an old adage referred to for decades by successful, seasoned salespeople, which is that you are really selling yourself no matter what product or service you are touting. The person in charge of buying products or services for their company is at their core still just a person with thoughts and feelings.

By understanding the psychology of B2B selling, and approaching potential B2B clients with a friendly, non-threatening demeanor; being honest and genuine, well-groomed and professional; and offering total respect to them as a person, you can pretty much write your own ticket as a successful B2B professional for many years to come.

 


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Filed Under: Business Tips

About Thomas von Ahn

With more than 30 years of experience in B2B sales across various industries, Thomas has unique insight into both the offline and online sales sphere. It was during his time in the trenches that Thomas noticed a recurring theme: Though business owners are knowledgeable about their craft or trade, they often struggle to market and sell to their prospects. This realization is what prompted Thomas and his now business partner, Christine, to bring Viral Solutions to life. Since starting the company, Thomas has been able to assist countless business owners in developing a solid marketing plan based upon sound marketing strategy, then assigning the marketing tactics to a team of talented employees, and, finally, watching those actions unfold—his true passion.

Though Viral Solutions is on Thomas’ mind 24/7, he does occasionally take a break to cheer on the Green Bay Packers and enjoy his adopted home of Wisconsin. Much of his family also works at Viral Solutions, and this closeness with family and employees is the cornerstone of the Viral Solutions culture.