What does psychology have to do with B2B sales? Quite a lot. And perhaps much more than you think. Especially in B2B, we tend to forget that a lot still depends on interpersonal relationships, sympathy, fears and simply gut feeling. Even when it comes to rather dry products or services, purchasing decisions are by no means made solely with the brain and logic. Feelings play just as important a role in sales!
1. Who Sells, has to Understand—What Sales has to do with Psychology
Question: Would you rather buy something from someone you like or from someone you don’t like but who gives you the best arguments for a product? Difficult. Most would certainly say that both have to be right: Character or likability and the benefits of a product or service.
Of course, it also always depends on the investment! If it's a small private matter, such as cosmetics, you might be able to overlook the grumpy consultant—after all, you have little to lose. However, when it comes to long-term or more expensive products, things look quite different.
Therefore, sympathy and charisma are also enormously important in B2B sales. Surely you know conversations from your everyday sales life in which you were just not “flowing” with your conversation partner, don't you? If you as a salesperson do not get confident with a potential customer, it may well be that he or she will not close the deal with you. Although in B2B it is more about products, their features and benefits than in B2C, people still buy from people. And your potential customer wants to be understood and sometimes entertained. If you simply finish every conversation with numbers, no one will end up saying, "Wow, what a great conversation! I'm buying right now!". You also have to remember that in B2B, more than anywhere else, excellent service matters—after all, you're there to advise your customers even after they've purchased your solution. If customers already feel badly advised at the beginning, the whole thing starts on the wrong foot.
For this reason, this article is your guide to show you what makes you even more likeable and trustworthy for other people. But that's not all: we'll show you which personality types you'll come into contact with in B2B sales and how you can convince everyone of your product or service. A few little "psycho tricks" that you can use to convince doubting prospects are also included, of course.
2. The 4 Pillars of Successful Sales Psychology
a) Be Reliable: Respond quickly to inquiries, emails and the like so prospects know you are serious
This point is self-explanatory. If you are reliable, customers and prospects will trust you. You show them that their concerns or problems are important to you and that you take them seriously. Regardless of the way prospects finds their way to you, whether via marketing measures, a direct message, by mail or phone call: It is important that you react quickly.
As soon as a prospect reaches you, try to contact her or him as quickly as possible and find out as much as possible about your counterpart beforehand. Individuality is key! Simply calling back without some backup knowledge makes you look unprofessional. If you are called out of the blue, empathy and the right questions at the right time play a decisive role.
Afterwards, it is important that you create and send offers promptly and provide support if necessary. Good organizational skills are also very important for reliability! Many exciting tools—especially from the area of sales engagement—help you to stay up-to-date with every customer or prospect. Software such as Outreach, Close or Xant help you to always stay close to your prospects and customers.
b.) Build up Sympathy: Pay Attention to Your Body Language! Smile When Appropriate and Mirror Your Counterpart
Did you know that your body language, your choice of words and the way you speak have a decisive influence—not only on your external effects in general—but in particular on your sales success? If you smile only sporadically, speak only what is necessary and look your potential customer little in the eye, he or she will not necessarily feel comfortable and important with you.
Non-verbal communication reveals more about us than we think. What you learn about your counterpart with the help of gestures and facial expressions also counts the other way around, of course. With the right words, a strong voice and an open body posture, you can significantly influence the decision-making process of a prospective customer.
Remember: Positive body language also has a positive effect on your mindset! If you stand up straight—perhaps even in a so-called power pose—this will do wonders for your self-confidence and your mood.
Now, we no longer meet only in person, but also digital sales, videocalls and webinars are a thing. How do you convince your conversation partners in a direct exchange as well as on the phone or in a video call?
You can also pay attention to non-verbal signs in digital contact. Telltale body signals such as...
- restless movements of arms & legs (drumming on the table)
- slumped posture (slumped shoulders)
- wandering looks
- frequent changes of sitting position
...can indicate disinterest or boredom. You should also make sure to sit/stand upright, refrain from folded arms or restless gestures. After all, you want to give your prospect your full attention. He or she should feel understood, not fobbed off!
c) Make People Feel Good: Positive Language Patterns & Word Choice
Language shapes our thinking. And that's exactly what you should keep in mind in B2B sales. So, if you speak badly about competitors right at the beginning of a developing customer relationship or in a cold or discovery call, using only difficult and negatively connoted words or phrases, paints a negative picture in the mind of your conversation partner—which is not the goal, of course!
With positive speech patterns you can try to “loosen up” your counterpart and link yourself and your service to a good feeling. At the beginning, for example, avoid the extensive use of words and phrases like...
- sign contract
- sales numbers
- to be honest…
- I'm not an expert, but....
... when you talk about your product or your business relationship.
You recognize the pattern? These are all words or phrases that convey either pressure or ignorance to your counterpart. You want to position yourself as a problem solver and expert! Of course, we are all only human and if a negative phrase slips out, then that's just the way it is. It is important that you are aware of it so you can work on it!
Instead of these negative examples, you can fall back on more positive words that will return the feel-good factor to your customer or prospect in B2B:
- new chance
- achieve goals
- hidden potential
As you can see, you can achieve a lot with the right words. But also your voice has an effect on the person you are talking to! Studies suggest that the sound of the voice on the phone accounts for almost 75% of the overall perception and is therefore one of the decisive factors for your success!
Voice training in sales is nothing new. You will certainly find some coaching offers in your area if you want to delve deeper into the topic. However, here are a few basic tips:
- Speak slowly and clearly: If your prospect doesn't understand you, she or he probably won’t want to talk to you. Speaking slowly also relaxes you more than frantic chatter.
- Don't disguise your voice and try not to speak "too high": The right pitch (of your voice this time 😉 ) creates a good mood in the conversation.
- Breathing and exercise: Try to do some breathing and speaking exercises before an appointment to warm up your vocal cords or to calm down before a call.
d) Strengthen Your Appearance: Buyers Decide not Only for Your Product, but Also for You
People do not buy a product. People buy a feeling. You don't believe that? Just have a look at Instagram, that should convince you of the opposite. Influencer marketing is the best proof that faces and personality are worth more than impressive features and benefits.
With personality and charisma, we underline our character and show the outside world who we are or how we want to be perceived. You can also take advantage of this—in a positive sense—for B2B sales.
Let's take LinkedIn as an example: On the business platform, depending on the target audience you want to talk to and the product you sell, you can use personal branding to build up an expert status. If the community perceives you as an expert in your field, conversations and exchanges will ensue and interested parties will approach you automatically.
The decisive factor here is your expertise and your character—not necessarily your product or your service. Especially in B2B, customers are looking for a solution to their problem. In the end, you buy the feeling "If I am smart, I will find the best solution to my problem and help my business". If you manage to bring this feeling closer to your prospects, it creates trust, strengthens your expertise, and establishes sympathy.
3. The DISC Assessment and Why it Helps You to Sell
If you have been working in sales or marketing for a long time, you have certainly come across the DISC color model or another assessment method for personality assessment using certain colors schemes. DISC stands for:
- D = Dominant (red)
- I = Inducement (yellow)
- S = Submission (green)
- C = Compliance (blue)
If you are new to sales, knowledge about certain personality types is key: it will help you assess your contacts, prospects and target audience better and ultimately help you close deals.
We are all different and there are several "colors" in each person. From a psychological perspective, it gets exciting when you understand what color type a person might be—then you will also understand on what basis that person makes a decision and how you need to interact with him or her to tie the knot.
So, let's take a closer look at the DISC color model:
Are you already thinking about which colors you belong to? Or maybe you already know it. And you certainly think of colleagues, friends or customers who match a certain DISC color, don't you?
In the next step, let's take a closer look at how knowing a person’s personality type can help you achieve more sales success!
a) All About Red People
Red people or "the dominant type" like to take responsibility, prefer to stick to their own rules and act impulsively. They love quick decisions and a lot of action; they tend to get louder in meetings, often interrupt others or at least do not hold back their opinion for long. Red people often strive for power and influence—that is, they don't shy away from obstacles or competition, but feel spurred to keep plugging away until they get what they want.
You'll often find people with a "a lot of red" in leadership or decision-making positions. In direct conversation, they are most likely to stand out with a clear choice of words, strong voice, and short temper.
b) All About Blue People
With blue personalities—also know as the "compliant” types—you can expect organized, well-structured, and detail-oriented people. A "blue" person likes to plan, pays attention to quality and accuracy. She or he analyzes, works conscientiously, and sometimes prefers to work alone without a team so that he or she can concentrate on the task at hand without interruption.
Compliant personalities inform themselves in detail, weigh things up and think carefully before making decisions. This means that in a sales conversation, blue people might ask detailed questions, want more information, take notes, and need time to think.
c) All About Yellow People
Yellow personalities are the class clowns in personality theory. They are enthusiastic, like to be the center of attention, and prefer to gather many people around them. Yellow people are communicators who don't pay much attention to details and concrete plans. They prefer to act on their gut, exude positive vibes, and entertain those around them.
Yellow people are usually very friendly, sociable and always up for a chat. You'll also meet yellow people in B2B sales—probably quite a few, in fact! As little entertainers, many sales people would be considered “yellow types”, they look forward to many conversations and can’t wait to interact. The only question is: How do you deal with yellow decision-makers or conversation partners?
d) All About Green People
Last but not least, there are "green" people. They are complementary to the reds—by the way: yellow and blue also behave in a complementary way—and thus absolutely in need of harmony. Regulated processes and a friendly atmosphere are what they’re looking for. Arguments or disagreements, on the other hand, are an absolute no-go!
For this reason, "green" people don't like to say “no” and are always there for their teammates or friends to help them with tasks. Green characters are welcome team players, but they also like to throw themselves self-sacrificingly into a project. In B2B sales, you should perhaps rather not take green types by surprise, but always proceed in a friendly and gentle manner.
TEST: Which Color Are You?
If you have not yet studied the DISC model in detail and do not know your color—although you can certainly guess it a little bit from the above section—here is a test for you.
Tooltip: The Chrome extension Crystal classifies information about people based on their online activities according to the four colors of the DISC model. This is extremely useful, especially in B2B sales, but also in human resources or other departments. You can see directly which personality type a person belongs to and can adjust your sales or recruiting strategy accordingly!
4. (Psychological )Tips for Successful Selling
The human mind is not only exciting in private life, but also leaves a lot of room for "experiments" in business life and especially in B2B sales. Numerous studies have already been published on how certain websites, slogans, images or even voices or sentences affect us.
And: There are already numerous tricks on how you can score points as a salesperson in B2B with sales psychology. The US-American social psychologist Robert Cialdini published his bestseller "Influence. The Psychology of Persuasion" over 30 years ago. In the book, Robert explains all the essential components you need to convince your counterpart of something.
His principles are also very useful in B2B sales. We have already covered one of them with the past sections—namely the principle of sympathy. Cialdini knew that people are more likely to be convinced by a counterpart they found nice. Similarities are especially helpful here—so if you discover you have something in common with a prospect or customer in B2B sales, build on it!
We will now look at the other principles in a slightly modified form.
1.) Use the Power of FOMO
The concept of FOMO aka. The “Fear of Missing Out”, is based on the principle of scarcity. When something is not as abundant or threatens to be in short supply again soon, we want it. That's why limited editions of a product or slogans à la "last chance" work so well—because they trigger our most basic human instinct.
As a B2B salesperson, this is a great place to start. Signal that your product will soon no longer be available at the same conditions or that another product will only be available for free for a few weeks—and some doubters will be convinced.
Quick tip: Set a time limit on your products!
2.) Place Social Proof with a Strategy
People sometimes prefer to buy when others have also bought a product or service and rate it positively or recommend it to others. You certainly know this not only from the B2C sector—for example, when influencers promote a product or user review a restaurant—but the same works in B2B.
The principle of social proof—as Cialdini calls it—is about the fact that people usually orient themselves on the behavior of their fellow human beings. If there already is a tip in the tip jar, people are more inclined to add something themselves.
Your marketing team has probably already placed social proof on your website and on your social media channels. Positive customer testimonials or success stories are exactly what you can use for your B2B sales!
Quick tip: Send your hesitant prospect the success story of an existing customer with similar use cases!
3. Offer Discounts When Appropriate
When someone helps you out, you automatically want to return the favor. We have learned that a favor is followed by something you give in return. This is also the basis of the principle of reciprocity: Funny enough this principle also works with unsolicited favors from people we find rather unappealing.
How do you profit from this, especially in B2B sales? It's simple: Offer your prospects a discount, a free trial or an extension of their test account. Of course, you only give them this special offer—and do them a favor- with it. Your prospects will want to return the favor, of course. And this is where the selling actually starts!
Quick tip: Offer discounts, trial periods or samples!
4.) Be the Expert: Play up Your Expert Status
What makes you more nervous? When you have to talk to lady in the corner office or the man at the front desk? We automatically assign a certain expertise to certain people in our society—such as lawyers, doctors or police officers. The principle of authority means that we usually don't question whether what such people say is true or not.
This also applies to your expert status in B2B sales: If you present yourself with self-confidence and may even have already built up a good reputation (through appearances at webinars or via social media), this will reflect positively on you when it comes to selling. A certain dress code may also emphasize your expertise.
Quick tip: Position yourself as an expert in your field!
5.) NLP for Sales
Maybe you have heard the terms anchoring, priming or mirroring. These words have their origin in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)—a communication technique with the goal to influence yourself and other people. This technique can be of great benefit to you, especially in B2B sales!
Anchoring: This means associating a term or phrase with certain emotions. In B2B sales you can work with the anchor effect especially in price negotiations. Mention a higher price first—or give your prospects a low, medium and high price in a scale. The prospect will feel more comfortable with the medium or comparatively low price (which is, of course, the real price) and will choose that.
Mirroring: This technique is about discreetly and inconspicuously mirroring your counterpart with gestures, facial expressions and words. If your conversation partner smiles, you can do the same. If the prospect likes to use certain words often, you should also include them in your vocabulary. This has the effect that your counterpart feels more comfortable and understood—because, as we have already learned: Having something in common is a good thing!
(Positive) Priming: The term priming comes from social psychology and revolves—at least in sales—around the first impression or the first words that will shape the future relationship between you and a prospect. As an example: If you ask someone, "Am I bothering you right now?" or "I'd like to talk to you about a rather annoying topic.", your counterpart may associate your product and you with something negative and with the words "bothering" and "annoying". With positive priming, you use this effect wisely and link your product in the prospect's mind with something positive. This fits well with the "positive speech patterns" mentioned above. Use them to have more success in your sales conversations!
5. Extra: 5 Books About Sales Psychology You Should Read
We have already mentioned Robert Cialdini's bestseller. But did you know that there is a bunch of exciting books about sales psychology? Here we present the 5 most important ones:
1) Robert Cialdini: Influence. The Psychology of Persuasion.
This bestseller is the source of the aforementioned principles that people use to persuade or even manipulate others. Cialdini's book is widely cited and highly praised, especially for its scientific background. Especially in B2B sales, you will benefit enormously from his tips and thoughts on the subject of the human mind.
2) Brian Tracy: The Psychology of Selling. Increase Your Sales Faster and Easier Than You Ever Thought Possible
Selling is more than just strategy and politics! This books explains how to understand the human psychology and behavior in the context of business. The author, Brian Tracy, uncovers the inner motivations of buyers and sellers, explaining how they interconnect to create opportunities for sales reps.
3) Leonard Moore: The Psychology of Selling and Persuasion: Learn the Real Techniques to Close the Sale Every Time using Proven Principles of Psychology, Manipulation, and Persuasion
In this book, Leonard Moore gives you the most practical tips on the process of selling and how it relies on psychology and the understanding human behavior. If you want to learn all about the psychology-based techniques to close more deals, this book is for you.
4) Daniel H. Pink: To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving
And Everyday we try to move other: Either in our business as a sales manager or at home when we try to convince our kids or partners do something. In his New York Times bestseller Daniel H. Pink takes his readers on a journey to the six successors to the elevator pitch, the three rules for understanding another's perspective, the five frames that can make your message clearer and more persuasive techniques.
5) Darren Hignett: Psychology in Marketing and Sales: Understand how customers think when buying
In this book, you will learn everything about convincing numbers, figures, but also words and colors. Basically, Darren Hignett looks at every detail that triggers an emotion in your prospect’s mind—and makes him ultimately buy your product.
6. Conclusion: Human Behavior Has a Massive Impact on the Buying Process
This article concentrated the basic framework of sales: the human mind. Especially in B2B sales, you can understand, question and even improve some processes more deeply if you know how people think and what moves them.
Besides facts and features, it is incredibly important not to neglect this part of selling which plays a role in every phase of the B2B sales process and even before in marketing. Especially when it comes to training junior sales managers, it is enormously important to introduce them to the psychological aspects of B2B sales.
No matter if you are a sales manager or a sales rookie: It is always helpful to know how to convince other people—from yourself, your idea and your product.