Notes on B2B Persuasion: Mastering the Appeal to Logic
Updated: Sep 12, 2020
In B2B IT, Logic is King and governs a kingdom of facts, figures, reasoning and common sense.
Its sorcerers are subject matter experts and technical mavens that worship at the altar of data and analysis. To bolster its authority, Logic employs evidence such as statistics, research, and expert testimony.
However, Logic is fallible and prone to attack if your argument is perceived to be weak and full of hot air, “signifying nothing.”
To help you craft a strong argument based on fact, I discuss how to best use three logical appeals typically applied in B2B persuasion. They are, Generalisations, Compare and Contrast, and Cause and Effect.
Using generalisations is one way to employ a logical argument to predict, classify or describe certain conditions…if this is true for others, it might be true for you.
For example, “invest in our analytics platform and join over 300 retailers that have increased sales by 15% to 30% just by accurately predicting consumer preferences.”
Analysis from multiple respected sources also helps when using generalisations. For example, if you wanted to promote digital business initiatives to a banking customer, you might look for opinions from the likes of Gartner, IDC, and Forrester who might support the view that most banking CIOs have digital transformation as a strategic imperative.
Generalisations employ reasoning by example and can use words or phrases like:
We have concluded
In most cases
It is estimated
For example…”Normally our utilities’ customers experience a 15-month return on their IT investments with us.”
Here is another: “In most cases, implementation of our xx solution takes six months.”
Or, “In reviewing your local delivery centres we have concluded that an off-shore delivery model is the best way to save money and decrease costs. Our customers that have followed this model have more than halved their costs.”
Be cautious using generalisations though, as they can fall over if you don’t have enough previous examples or use cases that can show a pattern of a consistent result or benefit felt over time for a similar group of people. You can end up arriving at the wrong conclusion about how you can help a customer solve their unique problem.
Using generalisations can also be tricky when you’re asked to respond to a tender where you haven’t spent time getting to know the customer personally and thus have little insight into their deeper issues.
This lack of intimacy with the prospective customer means you can end up making sweeping generalisations, wrong assumptions or stereotyping them. Your logical appeal will be over-simplified because it’s based on limited information.
COMPARE AND CONTRAST
Compare and contrast are ideally suited for selling in B2B IT. Compare shows similarities while contrast shows differences.
IT vendors frequently use compare when associating a current customer’s problem they have solved with their ability to solve a prospective customer’s problem.
When using comparison in your logical argument, it’s important to use these keywords and phrases:
As well as
In the same way
In B2B IT, compare is particularly powerful if you can show evidence of how you’ve fixed a similar problem for a current customer to prove you can do the same for a prospective customer. Being specific about the problem (rather than generic) is also important such as comparing a similar sized company and vertical industry and a similar problem like cost over-runs. Hence the value your prospects place on customer success stories and testimonials. Without enough proof, the compare argument is not as potent or believable.
Contrast is even more powerful than compare as it lets you reframe facts to alter your buyer’s perception so they become more open to your persuasive message. The facts don’t change but how you present them does. For example, contrasting the pain of your customer’s existing problem with the benefits of your solution. Without that contrast, a mere list of benefit statements will fail to engage with and convince your audience.
Trigger words in contrast, can include:
On the contrary
On the other hand
As opposed to
Using contrast is especially important when you want to overcome buyers’ objections. An objection might be price, and your ability to contrast the price of your solution with the cost of the customer doing nothing is important.
For example, a prospective customer is baulking at a total investment of $15M for your chatbot solution. If you know the customer is currently spending $20M annually on customer service queries handled by humans when they could reduce customer service spend to $5M annually using your solution, the $15M price tag is an easier sell. Of course, my example is made up, and it’s not always that easy to use contrast in pricing if you don’t have insight into your customer’s business and operating costs.
Contrast is the kingpin of storytelling in B2B IT, and you should use it at every opportunity, such as contrasting the customer’s current complex technology landscape with a simplified future technology landscape. The same goes when contrasting bureaucratic, slow-moving business processes with agile, fast-moving business structures. Usually these types of contrasts can be powerfully demonstrated through opposing visual illustrations, graphs, and diagrams.
CAUSE AND EFFECT
Cause and effect in B2B IT are usually employed to persuade the buyer that if they take certain action or proceed through a series of events (cause) it will result in certain positive effects. It is a great way to present your logical argument, for example, “migrating your data centres into the cloud (cause) will reduce costs” (effect).
However, it’s important to prove the causal link otherwise your logical appeal will sound weak and fluffy. For example, the effect, ‘reduce costs’ becomes stronger when we link it to “reducing your capital costs as you’re spending much less on equipment, infrastructure, and software. You will also cut costs on electricity bills and personnel that currently manage your on-premise data centre.” If you back up your cause and effect argument with evidence such as a customer success story or analyst figures on industry cost-savings moving into the cloud, your logical appeal is further strengthened.
Transitional words and phrases for cause and effect include:
For causes: because, due to
For effects: consequently, as a result, thus, resulted in, produces, activates, promotes, generates, brings about, results in.
When it comes to addressing the customer’s problem so we can provide a uniquely compelling solution, cause and effect can be used to provide our perspective on what event caused the problem as a way to challenge the customer to dig deeper or to show our understanding of their broader challenges. They may tell us static product sales (cause) are eroding market share and profits (effect). We may unearth other causes (lack of innovation, siloed product development teams).
It’s incredibly important that we are intimately acquainted with the B2B buyer’s business and operations, otherwise we may oversimplify the cause and effect argument. If we don’t truly understand the cause and effect of their situation, we will end up having the wrong conversation with the customer, and may offer a solution that isn’t the right fit for them.
To test the effectiveness of your cause and effect arguments, ask the following questions: What are the causes? What are the effects? Are there single or multiple causes? Single and multiple effects? Is a chain reaction involved?
Winning the minds of customers is getting harder, and only the well-prepared B2B persuader can slay the dragons called Fear and Doubt that buyers’ wrestle with when assessing large IT investments.
Using the appeal to logic is a great persuasive technique to overcome buyer friction, but as you can see, your logical argument must be supported by data, previous experience, figures, and recommendations by respected authorities.
Also, the more you’re familiar with your prospective customer’s problems and aspirations, the more you’ll employ specific and relatable logical appeals to persuade them of the superiority of your solution over your competitors.