How to Tap the Power of Emotion in B2B Sales

B2B sales seems like it’s all about logic and data. But it’s fundamentally about people buying from people—and emotions influence every decision.

On the surface, B2B buying seems like it’s all about logic and data. After all, it’s often the realm of committee-created requirement lists, exhaustive research, lengthy RFPs and even lengthier proposals.

But even with its heavily analytical bent, B2B sales is fundamentally about people buying from people. And human emotions always weigh into the equation.

That’s why knowing that emotions make a difference—and which ones to lean into in the sales process—can help you land more deals.

Intangibles matter to buyers in B2B sales

With the memory of pandemic-fueled economic shocks still fresh in everyone’s minds, B2B buyers are treading cautiously. They’re charged with extracting the maximum value out of every purchase. For many, sales cycles are lengthening with more stakeholders involved in the process.

Even with this mounting scrutiny and complexity, intangible qualities underpin most B2B buying decisions. One recent study found that 86% of B2B buyers say that they’ll buy from a company that understands their needs, and 84% want sales reps to act as trusted advisors. What’s more, 71% of business buyers choose companies with a reputation for setting a high bar for customer service quality.

In short, buyers want to feel heard and supported—and treated with humanity—during the sales process and even more so once they become customers.

Unfortunately, many companies are falling short. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of B2B buyers say most sales interactions feel transactional. And 66% believe that most companies treat them like a number.

This isn’t good news—but there’s a real opportunity for companies who get it right.

Tapping into 3 core emotional needs during the B2B buying process

Most B2B companies take customer service very seriously and work hard to foster positive relationships after a deal closes. It makes sense since 88% of people say good service motivates them to buy again.

The real question is—how can you demonstrate your commitment to people’s emotional needs before they sign on as customers?

Research published in the Harvard Business Review provides some valuable insight into three emotional needs that surface during the B2B sales cycle:

#1: Autonomy

When asked if they’d prefer a single fix that’s sure to solve their problem or to choose between solutions, most people picked the latter. That seems counterintuitive if you assume B2B buyers are all numbers and data-driven, but it reveals something essential about buyers’ motivation.

Even though the guaranteed option would save time (and probably dollars), people value making a decision. They want a choice and control over the buying process, rather than feeling pushed in a specific direction.

How can you tap into this need for autonomy? Don’t try to fix customers’ problems right out of the gate. Instead, listen to their concerns, then collaborate to explore reasonable solution alternatives. Filling in that trusted advisor role is ideal, but don’t push for a single solution. And leave the decision-making up to them.

#2: Mastery

There’s another reason why customers don’t always want a quick fix: Humans have an innate need to grow.

When asked if they’d prefer service providers to solve problems or teach them how to do it themselves, most picked the second route. That’s even more true for younger adults—with 75% of Gen Z appreciating service providers who coach them to find solutions independently.

Keep this in mind as you sell to prospects and current customers. Look for ways to acknowledge their human desire to learn and spark the excitement that comes from mastering new things.

Maybe your solution will lead them into uncharted territory. Or maybe it will save time and free them up to take on new challenges. Either way is a win for them and you.

#3: Relatedness

With all the time we spend at work, it’s natural to want to form bonds. And that’s why B2B professionals have positive impressions when their service providers take the time to get to know them.

Among B2B companies perceived as delivering good experiences, 70% of people say the service provider knows them personally. Just 33% felt the same about companies that are seen as offering poor service.

Any time invested in relationship-building makes a difference. But don’t force the issue. When it comes to deepening connections, a light touch works best. Reaching out to check in, asking people if they need help, or even touching base on a subject previously mentioned, such as a trip or life event, are great ways to demonstrate authentic interest in cultivating a relationship.

Put the power of emotion to work in your B2B sales process

In B2B sales, it’s easy to focus on product features or pricing strategies. While you can expect your prospects to take due diligence seriously, you’ll find the selection process isn’t all facts and data. Because once someone signs on the dotted line, they’re not just buying a product or service—they’re buying a relationship.

Considering human psychology—and the needs we all have for autonomy, mastery and relatedness—can help you succeed in B2B sales.

Need support building or nurturing relationships to drive more B2B sales? Get in touch with us at to learn more about how we can help.

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