Notes on B2B Persuasion: The Importance of Emotions

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

As a marketer or seller in B2B IT, it's important to understand what emotions influence your prospective customer’s rational buying decisions. Even when it comes to price, emotions play a role.

Results and business value are the keywords and phrases we use when selling in B2B IT. We expound on business value with phrases like ‘improve efficiencies,’ ‘cut operating costs,’ ‘empower employees’ and ‘delight customers.’ Yet emotions live beneath the surface of these catchphrases.

Differences in B2B and B2C Selling Influence Emotional Plays 

Using the appeal to emotion in B2B should be subtlety played which is the opposite of the emotional blackmail we get served watching consumer ads on TV or YouTube. That’s because there are some major differences between B2B and B2C buying cycles.

Compared to a fast and straightforward B2C buying process, B2B’s purchasing cycle is anywhere between 3 to 12 months. The price point is also much higher in B2B and requires the customer to commit to the vendor long term. While this is getting shorter, 12 months to three years is still a long-term commitment for say, IT services. In B2C the decision makers are one or two people while B2B usually involves consensus from a large group of stakeholders. Unlike the immediate gratification of most consumer purchases, B2B purchases don’t see a return on investment until 6 to 12 months later, and this isn’t always guaranteed. 

There are Three Major Emotions in B2B

Due to the above, there are three fundamental emotions B2B buyers experience at every stage of the buying cycle, and they are:

Fear – There are two components to how your buyer approaches fear: fear of missing out and fear of change. Due to the ever-increasing pace of business today and constant disruption, your buyers fear they will not be able to compete and thrive. On the other hand, they are fearful of change because this comes with risk. There is a chance their investment in you will fail or not deliver fast enough business results.

Safety – because there is an inherent risk when you implement new technology and new processes, buyers are looking for vendors that make them feel safe and secure. This is all about them wanting to believe you have the right experts with the right qualifications and experience. Or that you have access to global resources and partners, or that your organisation is financially secure. 

Confidence – Your B2B buyer needs to believe they can rely on you to deliver the goods, no matter the pressures or complexity of their IT project. Confidence is different to safety. From the buyer’s perspective, “just because you’re big doesn’t mean I can rely on you. If you’re a big, powerful, IT vendor, you have many important customers and they may take priority over me. I need to feel confident that you’ll stand by me and work with me as a true partner so I can fulfil my big mission.”

Gauging the confidence of your prospective or current customers can be difficult but out of the three emotions you need to appeal to, confidence is probably the most important. 

There is No Truth. There is Only Perception

Lack of confidence in you or your organisation can result in either losing a winnable deal or not progressing beyond the nurture stage of your sales cycle. 

Think about it, lack of confidence has played a big part in many financial panics and meltdowns simply based on rumour. Why should it be any different in B2B IT? So it’s important to use confidence to your advantage rather than ignore it to your detriment. 

The Challenge Appealing To Multiple Influencers

The appeal to fear, safety and confidence is incredibly challenging because you’re marketing to many influencers, assessors and decision-makers within your buyer organisation. Individuals may experience to a larger or lesser degree fear, hope, vulnerability, security or doubt and confidence. Nevertheless, you must strive to adjust your messaging and communications to match individual recipient’s emotional journeys.

Other Emotions To Take Into Account

There are of course other emotions your B2B buyer is experiencing at any stage of the buying cycle. They range from enthusiasm, pride, surprise and delight on the positive side, and feeling confused, embarrassed, annoyed, indifferent or depressed on the negative side.  

Which emotion will you provoke or stoke in your B2B buyer? It pays to think about it, as you don’t want to alienate buyers or have them lose confidence in you.


From capturing a prospect’s attention, building rapport with a prospective customer to getting the decision-maker to sign the contract, use emotion to win more business in today’s ‘take no prisoner,’ ruthlessly competitive B2B sales environment.

Finally, in addition to appealing to emotions and supporting your persuasive argument with logic and evidence, it’s important to appeal to your B2B buyer’s ethics and values. 

Attribution: The sub-heading, There is No Truth. There is Only Perception is a 

Gustave Flaubert quote

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