How to Get Into Your Buyer’s Mind to Influence Purchase Decisions


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A lot of people think that the impulse to buy something, to press that checkout button, is instinctive. It’s a quick, almost subconscious response when you see something you want. But there’s a lot more going on in people’s minds than just “see-want-buy.”

There’s psychology behind every buying decision, and it isn’t always easy to identify, even for the buyer making the purchase. To understand what goes into a decision, you need to accept that both emotional and rational processes are at work in the brain. Although a potential buyer might believe they’re thinking rationally about their need for a new, integrated software, their emotions are still at play.

You can’t read buyers’ minds, but you can achieve a lot by becoming aware of these subconscious motivations and how they affect purchase decisions.

Why Do Buyers Avoid Change, and What Can You Do About It?

Most sales and marketing leaders assume that their prospects are choosing between their solution or a competitor’s solution. But studies show that at least 40% of deals in the pipeline are lost to “no decision.” In other words, at least 40% of your prospects will choose to do nothing at all. Instead, they opt to stick with their status quo.

And it’s not just your prospects. Every human being has status quo bias: the natural tendency to avoid risk and stay with a more familiar solution, even if the rewards of the new solution are objectively better.

Why? Because the status quo hasn’t killed them yet. They might not be getting the results they desire, but the cost of change brings risk and uncertainty, and that risk outweighs the benefits of change in their minds.

Inertia is a powerful force that’s working against you in your marketing and sales conversations. To overcome it, you need to apply a more powerful force to persuade your buyers to change. You need to deliver a disruptive, status-quo-busting message that makes your buyer’s current situation seem unsafe and unsustainable.

How Can You Lower Barriers for Buyers and Drive Change?

Delivering a disruptive message to overcome your buyer’s status quo bias doesn’t mean pushing them into a sale. As Jonah Berger suggests in his book, “The Catalyst,” changing someone’s mind often means lowering the barriers to change.

So, how can you appeal to your prospects’ emotional, rational, and innate buying psychology and move them to change? Here are three ideas, all backed by our behavioral research studies:

1. Value lives in contrast.

The benefits of your solution hold no value to your buyers. Their perception of value lies in the contrast between the risk of their current approach and the relief they’ll feel with your solution. To articulate your value effectively, you need to tell stories with contrast.

For example, in the B2B space, people normally purchase something (such as software) and use it for a while. As time goes on, it’s likely that a new, better product or solution has emerged. Now, you can go to a prospect and say, “Systems are changing, and there’s better tech on the market that will erase the headaches you have with your current setup.” At the same time, you can show them the major contrast between the risk and loss of staying with the old product and the benefit of your new solution. Remind them of the pains they have experienced with the old product and show how your solution can solve those past issues. Magnify the gains they will be getting by first sharing the pains they will be solving. Their perception of value lives in the contrast.

2. Insight incites action.

One of our clients experimented with different messages for potential fireplace buyers building new homes. Prospects began with a 50% likelihood of buying a fireplace to include in their build but ended with a 70% likelihood. How? Our client provided insights and data about homebuyers’ feelings toward fireplaces: 7 out of 10 homebuyers call fireplaces must-haves, and fireplaces are ranked as the top indoor feature.

This is where we introduced buyers to their unconsidered needs. An unconsidered need is an unmet or missed opportunity that your client doesn’t yet know about but is holding them back from their most important goals. Presenting the unconsidered need, in this case, showed what the prospects could lose in the future by not building a fireplace (i.e., 70% of the homebuying population when the prospect eventually wanted to sell). This insight didn’t focus on the gains but rather the risks of not building a fireplace. It was both emotional and intuitive, and it made buyers think about the now and the later.

3. Avoid the commodity box.

When you create sales messages based on your buyers’ stated needs, you end up conveying commodity messages that won’t differentiate you. Why? Because all your competitors are relying on the same insights from their buyers, and you’ll be responding with similar capabilities to meet those identified needs. Because prospects hear very similar things from you and your competitors, they see no contrast between their choices.

They also tend to stick with the status quo because there’s no urgency to change. By introducing unconsidered needs and showing contrast in your messages, you escape the commodity box and differentiate the value of your solution from your competitors’ offerings.

Most sales and marketing leaders assume that their prospects are choosing between their solution or a competitor’s solution. But your biggest competitor is the status quo. To overcome status quo bias, you need to deliver a disruptive message that makes your buyer’s current situation seem unsustainable. This will help persuade your prospects to feel safer with your solution and their decision to change and choose you.

Tim Riesterer
Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy Officer at Corporate Visions and Chief Visionary at B2B DecisionLabs, is dedicated to helping companies improve their conversations with prospects and customers to win more business. A visionary researcher, thought leader, keynote speaker, and practitioner with more than 20 years of experience in marketing and sales management, Riesterer is co-author of four books, including Customer Message ManagementConversations that Win the Complex Sale, The Three Value Conversations, and The Expansion Sale."


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