Have you ever noticed that when it comes to consumer behavior, most of the conversation revolves around B2C behaviors rather than B2B behaviors?

Why is that? After all, aren’t business people consumers, too? As Lon Safko, author of The Social Media Bible says, “The second B in B2B is actually a C.”

B2B Marketing

Lon’s comment highlights an important point – that is, just because you’re selling to a B2B audience doesn’t mean they aren’t consumers. In fact, they are consumers, and, as such, they behave in some predictable ways.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some B2B consumer behavior secrets you can use to improve your next B2B marketing campaign.

Secret #1: B2B Consumers Buy for Emotional Reasons, Then Rationalize Their Purchase with Logic

Most of us believe that a B2B sale comes down to pure logic, but the truth is that emotion has a lot to do with the decision.

None of us want to admit this, but it’s true – when we’re buying a B2B product, some of our decisions come down to emotional things like the website design, the packaging or even how much we like the salesperson we’re working with.

Imagine you’re researching copiers from two different brands. If the brands are both very similar, much of your decision will come down to emotional things – even to the point of making your decision based on whether you find the salesperson attractive.

Of course, when our boss comes in and asks why we chose Copier Brand #1 over Copier Brand #2, we never say, “Because I liked the salesperson.” Instead, we point out all the logical reasons we picked one brand over the other.

emotions and analytics

You can use this secret to help influence your sales process. Sometimes, the emotion will revolves around the color of your logo, or the design of your website, or, as mentioned, the appeal of your sales force. In the end, it all adds up to a sale, which is why emotion is such a powerful tool for B2B as well as B2C brands.

Secret #2: There are Six Key Players in the B2B Selling Process

One advantage B2C marketers have over B2B marketers is that in the B2C sale, you’re typically only dealing with one customer. (For example, if you’re selling aspirin, you only have to sell your product to people who have headaches.) But in the B2B sale, there are six different categories of people who can influence the sale.

Who are they? Here goes:

  1. Initiators: These are the people who make the request for something that has to be purchased. In other words, they initiate the purchase cycle.
  2. Users: These are the people who will be using the product or service. Sometimes they’re the initiator, but at larger companies, the initiator and the user are usually two different people.
  3. Influencers: These are people who influence the buying decision. They’re often different from the Initiators and the Users.
  4. Deciders: The people who decide on product requirements or on the suppliers who might fulfill the order.
  5. Buyers: People who have the formal authority to select the supplier.
  6. Gatekeepers: People who have the power to prevent sellers or information from reaching members of the buying center.

Any one of these people could be a “champion” – that person who believes in your product or service and is vocal and persuasive about it.

When developing your B2B lead generation campaign, keep all of these categories in mind. You won’t see every one of them in every B2B sales process, but if you keep them on your radar screen, you’ll be prepared for them when they do come down the pike.

Secret #3: There are Four Driving Motivators for Most B2B Customers

As mentioned above, you can have up to six different categories of key influencers in the B2B sales process, but all six are driven by one of four different motivators.

What are the four motivators? Let’s take a look:

  • Price: Some B2B customers are motivated purely by price. These are tough customers to deal with because no matter how much value you bring to the table, they’ll always be looking for someone who will do it cheaper. Tread carefully with price-driven customers; they can become that nightmare client who requires a lot of handholding but is never satisfied. They soak up your resources and irritate your staff.
  • Solutions-Oriented: These customers are still motivated by price, but will respond to arguments about lower total cost or more dependable supply or service.
  • Gold-Standard: These customers want the best performance in terms of product quality, assistance, reliable delivery, and so on. And they’re usually willing to pay for it.
  • Strategic-Value: These customers want a fairly permanent solid-supplier relationship with your company. They’re even better than Gold-Standard customers because they’re incredibly loyal, which makes doing business with them a blessing. Plus they cost you less in overhead, so they’re more profitable, and they tend to become advocates, which you can leverage for your marketing efforts.

Action Steps for You.

There’s no point in studying these concepts unless you put them to use for your product or service. With that in mind, here are some action steps you can take to leverage these findings.

1. Embrace the Power of Emotion: As a B2B company, you might place less emphasis on the emotional appeal of your product or service than the typical B2C company. That’s a mistake. Instead, understand that emotion is a powerful motivator for many people making a B2B buying decision.

2. Be Aware of FUD: FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, which many of your buyers may experience before purchasing your product or service. Try to get a handle on whether or not your prospect is experiencing FUD. If they are, provide plenty of ammo (and reassurance) on why they don’t need to experience FUD with your product or service.


3. Understand the 6 Key Players in the B2B Sales Process: The B2B sale is more complex than the B2C sale because there are more players in the process. You may not see all of them in every sales process, but you should be aware that they’re out there so you can adapt your selling based on who you’re talking to. Find your champion, and support that person as they work laterally to help make the sale.

4. Identify Your Prospect’s Driving Motivator: Are they motivated by price? Or by a long-term, strategic relationship? Or somewhere in between? When you identify their key motivator, you’re better able to match what your selling to what it is they’re actually buying.

We like to say “people buy from people.” It’s just as true that people sell – not to companies, but to people. That’s why you can use B2C consumer behavior secrets to improve the impact of your next lead generation campaign. Good luck. And let me know in the comments section if you have questions.

Buyer persona toolkit