Using Emotion to Connect With B2B Buyers

May 16, 2017 Jim Poage

B2B emotional buying: red paper heart being tucked between data printouts

You’ve probably heard the old saying: “People buy on emotion and then justify the buy rationally.” It’s usually associated with B2C companies and the tactics they might use to energize or captivate their consumers. But B2B companies need to appeal to their customers’ emotions, too. The research my daughter, Jennifer Poage, and I did for our book, Flair: Design your Daily Work, Products, and Services to Energize your Customers, Colleagues, and Audiences, yielded masterful examples of using emotion to connect with B2B buyers.

Many people imagine that B2B clients make cool, calculated, rational decisions for supplies and services based on logical attributes like price, reliability, quality, and stability. Yes, these are important factors for business customers. But other, more emotional criteria are also critical. They include feeling like you are working towards a mutually beneficial solution, that you understand their business vision, and that their business is important to you. So if you are selling to businesses, it still benefits you to connect emotionally with your customers—energized customers buy more.

It’s useful to think of what you are doing for business customers beyond supplying them with a product or service. Think about how they will feel after dealing with you, after receiving your product, or after experiencing your service. Consider the following positive reactions you might want your customers to have:

  • Relief from stress. They are relieved you are taking care of something they don’t want to do.
  • Relief from worry. They do not have to worry because you’ve always delivered as you said.
  • Confidence. They get comfort that their own product will be successful by incorporating what you provide.
  • Energy. They are calmed by the pleasant, stress-free experience they had dealing with you during their busy day and are eager to work with you again.
  • Reassurance. They feel what you give them makes them look good to their boss.

Here are some ways you can incorporate flair into your B2B dealings:

  • Bring something to share during meetings. A sales rep in New York City always brings bagels and cream cheese from his favorite bagel shop to his customer visits.
  • Be sociable. Most of us prefer to interact with people who are friendly and likeable. A corporate buyer enjoys visits by a particular sales rep for their animated discussions about their favorite sports teams. Look for shared interests so customers will look forward to your visits.
  • Personalize your emails. Lucy Kellaway in her February 6, 2017, column in the Financial Times says she received this email request, “This year we are partnering with XXX to launch the second annual YYY conference. I know you are busy but we would love you to host a session on women in business on the Saturday.” She declined this generic request. But she accepted another email saying, “If only you would . . . join our panel on ZZZ. We have a lot of clever but worthy people talking, and we need your genius to liven it up. Please say yes.” The second email was not just more personalized, but more persuasive.
  • Remind customers about important events and deadlines. An accountant sends scheduled emails to clients reminding them about due dates to provide accounting and tax information. He realizes that he is eliminating his clients’ worries about accounting and tax regulations and is doing the number crunching they do not want to do.
  • Make your customers look good to their bosses. A consultant formulating performance measures for a NASA research program suggested listing all questions the client was asked by his boss, upper NASA management, and stakeholders. They then formulated measures that answered these questions. The client was pleased with the reactions to the measures he presented in a series of meetings. And that client received a promotion not long after. When other consultants asked about doing business with him, the client answered he was going to continue with the original consultant because he learned.
  • Make your offerings easy to use. A consulting firm that specializes in human performance in complex systems was asked by their client to assemble a list of audio and visual alerts from a monitoring system. The firm designed a simple, two-page table in a story format that explained the purpose of each alert and the recommended response to each alert. Not only was it easy for the client to find the information they had requested, but the table went beyond the original request by explaining the clear, logical, and complete story about each alert. This firm has tripled in size over the last few years.

Bottom line, most B2B buy decisions are still made by humans, and humans are still both emotional as well as rational creatures. So find ways to connect with their emotions and your business will benefit.

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About the Author

Jim Poage

Jim Poage with his daughter, Jennifer Poage, is co-author of "Flair: Design Your Daily Work, Products, and Services to Energize Your Customers, Colleagues, and Audiences" ( He is an independent consultant who integrates technology and humans to work together safely and efficiently for NASA, FAA, and industry. He also speaks and coaches on engaging customers and audiences emotionally to energize them.

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