This Week’s Big Deal: Selling to People, Not Businesses

October 14, 2019

 This Week’s Big Deal: Selling to People, Not Businesses

If B2B sales actually involved selling to a business, as the name implies, it would probably be a lot easier. Businesses are driven solely by logical, rational, bottom-line motivators. Their only objective is to make money and grow. 

If we were actually selling to a business — a faceless entity embodied by a brand — all we’d need to do is lay out a convincing factual case for how our solution will drive toward said objective, and the deals would take care of themselves.

But of course, we’re not selling to a business, which is why “B2B” can be a problematic misnomer. We are selling to people within a business, and people are much more complex and unpredictable than the companies they represent. We need to think about their workplace dynamics, their personal ambitions, their inherent biases, and so forth. 

For this week’s roundup, we’re focusing on bringing the human touch to B2B sales. 

4 Keys to Humanizing Your B2B Sales Approach

Earlier this month, ZoomInfo published an article suggesting we forget B2C vs. B2B, and embrace B2P (business-to-person) sales and marketing. “By adopting a B2P approach, you recognize that each person involved in the purchase of your products has his or her own unique needs and interests,” they explain. “These unique characteristics then drive your entire business strategy – from branding to content creation to customer service and beyond.”

It’s a good framework for shifting your mindset. Here are a few pointers curated from recent trending content around the web to help you adopt a humanized, B2P sales approach.

Understand and Act Upon Emotional Motivators

According to Zoominfo’s post, two out of three people cite shared values as the main reason they have a relationship with a brand. As such, B2B brands connecting with buyers on an emotional level earned twice the impact over those trying to sell business or functional value. 

Of course it is important to make a strong logical case for the value and fit of your solution for prospective customers. That’s table stakes. But in order to be successful as a seller today, it is imperative to connect at a deeper level.

Last week at Business 2 Community, Dan Moyle explored the many ways in which emotional selling impacts buying behaviors. He notes that, per one Harvard professor, 95% of all purchase decisions are subconscious.

One of the most primal and powerful of emotions is fear. This is delicate territory — scare tactics are no fun, and can easily generate ill will — but there are responsible ways to create a sense of urgency.

“While you shouldn’t create a false sense of fear or intimidate your buyers into making a purchase, you can still tap into that fear,” Moyle says. “Find out what they stand to lose if things continue the way they’re going. Then as the conversation progresses, show how your brand will solve those problems. This calms their fear.”

There’s also the fear of missing out (FOMO), which you can leverage by painting a vivid picture of the desirable future state a prospect (or, better yet, their competitors) can achieve with your product or service.

Make Things Easy and Frictionless

People are busy, and the thought of taking on new cumbersome tasks can lead to dread and anxiety. As such, it is beneficial to portray a smooth, non-intensive buying process and implementation.

An enlightening recent post from Don Davis at Digital Commerce 360 highlights the growing preference among business buyers for self-service websites, but — importantly — points out that human guidance is still valued. 

“While purchasing agents ranked self-service tools as the most important component in a positive B2B customer experience, knowledgeable sales reps were right behind,” Davis writes.

With this in mind, think about ways you can empower buyers to take things into their own hands (when applicable), while utilizing reps in a complementary role to create a “one-two punch,” as one CEO puts it in the article.

Additionally, it’s always advisable to play up the ease of implementation for your solution with prospects. Don’t just tell them, show them — through concrete examples like testimonials and reviews. 

Pinpoint Your Purpose

“Every person is purpose-driven, and so is every buyer,” wrote Mirella Vitale last month at Forbes in explaining the merits of transforming a global B2B brand into a purpose-driven brand. People want to do business with companies that stand for something beyond just making money. 

“Although some companies make products that benefit the greater public, many still don’t see their public benefits as part of their business message. They’re missing a great opportunity,” argues Vitale.

Even if you can’t tie what you sell directly to the greater good of the public, there are still likely to be opportunities to amplify your brand’s purpose and principles. As mentioned earlier, shared values are vitally important for building relationships with customers.

Be Social and Build Trust

The average person spends more than two hours per day using social media, and that figure just keeps rising. These networks are magnetic because they bring a sense of genuine social interaction to the cold anonymity of the web, and sellers have the ability to tap into this inclination. We don’t do it by blasting sales messages at strangers (that’s the definition of “cold anonymity”) but by cultivating a natural and authentic social media presence, and building real relationships that ultimately pave way for sales conversations.

At SmallBizGenius, Milja Milenkovic shares 23 social selling statistics you need to know in 2019, and there is plenty there to reinforce the efficacy of this approach today. One data point (via LinkedIn's State of Sales Report Pocket Guide) that really stands out: “Trust is the most important factor in closing deals for both sellers and decision makers,” with around half of each cohort naming it the key ingredient.    

In the age of digital interactions, your social media persona can make or break a sense of trust from the get-go. Be active, be helpful, be real.

Create a People-centric Sales Culture

There’s no such thing as selling to a business. Even if this seems obvious, we can easily lose sight of it in a B2B sales environment where there’s so much talk about leads, revenue, funnel stages, etc. 

Adhering to the guidance above will help you keep people first and maintain a B2P perspective that drives lasting relationships and sustainable growth.

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