Buying Decisions: Evidence or Emotion?

Quick, which buyers are more emotionally driven — B2B or B2C? The research is surprising.

In a recent study, “only 10 to 40 percent of respondents reported being emotionally connected to consumer brands such as L’Oreal, Target, McDonald’s and other consumer brands, while 40 to 70 percent felt connected to service providers like Cisco, Accenture, Oracle, and Deloitte.” Overall, 5–15% of decisions are rationally driven and the remainder are emotional.*

Making matters even more challenging, not only is their buying journey fraught with emotion, their journey is complex and fragmented. Like dating under pressure, knowing who to see and why can be confounding. Unpacking the research and sales process that leads to the ultimate sale is revealing.

Show Me the Evidence

B2B buyers are almost 60% down the research path before wanting to contact you. They need evidence to put you on their short list. How much research do they do to gather this evidence? How is the sales process impacted?

A variety of research methods** are used

  • 53% use social media
  • 81% say LinkedIn is their top research method
  • Buyers do an average of 12 searches before engaging with a specific brand’s site
  • 60% say video is somewhat or very important to their search

They’re Just Not That Into You

Not only are buyers driven by emotion in finding the right one, they also might fall for your competitor along the way.

In fact, buyers have often already made an emotional decision about a product, and then proceed to search for the evidence to support their thinking.

So how should sales handle this scenario?

When selling to prospects, conventional wisdom is to present solid evidence from happy customers in the form of testimonials, case studies, or ROI studies. What this process leaves out is how to correctly assess and deal with the emotional quagmire a prospect is experiencing. You finally make a connection with your prospect but learn they are going to a competitor. How do you get them to say “Yes” when they are leaning, “No”?

Below are two opposing ways for how to guide a customer away from your competitor using evidence when they’ve already made up their mind:

The wrong way:

  • Customer: “We’ve decided to go with XYZ.”
  • You: “Oh, I can share an analyst report presenting evidence that our product is higher quality.” (Evidence.)
  • Customer: “Analysts only say what they’re paid to say.” (Disqualifies evidence.)
  • You: “But their products really don’t last as long.”
  • Customer: “They have plenty of customers.” (Validating their own supporting evidence.)
  • You: “I believe you’ve made the wrong decision.”
  • Customer: “Maybe so, but it’s MY decision.”

The right way:

  • Customer: “We’ve decided to go with XYZ.”
  • You: “I’m sorry to hear that. For my own understanding, could you explain why you’re making that decision?”
  • Customer: “Their lower price fits into our budget.”
  • You: “XYZ has a very good product and their price is indeed lower that ours. If I were in your shoes, I’d be looking very closely at their offering.” (Agree with them.)
  • Customer (a bit confused): “So you think it’s a good decision, then?”
  • You: “Yes, and I was also wondering your decision considered the issue of total cost of ownership.” (Reframe it.)
  • Customer: “No, because I’m more concerned with this quarter’s budget.”
  • You: “I understand. The reason I ask is that I can show you independent evidence of how, in the long term, you’ll save money with our product.” (Offer a solution.)
  • Customer: “But what about this quarter?”
  • You: “If we could spread the payment out over several quarters, would you be willing to reconsider?” (Face saving.)
  • Customer: “Maybe. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

Here are the steps used in this kind of “right” conversation that can help salvage future deals:

1. Go ahead and agree with them.

They are already resisting you so you may as well try to get on their side. Express your support for what you can agree with without completely changing your views.

2. Reframe their pain point.

If you can restate their problem differently, you may be able to change the dynamic of their opinion.

3. Suggest a new solution.

If the reframe goes well, you can introduce a newly-defined problem. This could lead to presenting evidence of that problem, possibly giving way to a different decision.

4. Help them “save face.”

A buyer will feel uncomfortable or dumb if they change their mind, so offer them a dignified out as described above in the “right way” conversation.


*A study by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) and Google


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