Strategies to Increase B2B Sales | 5 Theories Based on Research

There are two avenues of market research, B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to customer). Although in both instances, the marketing needs to be catered to each audience separately because the relationship to the customer is different.

Research shows B2B purchases are based more on logic, while B2C is based more on emotion. With B2B purchases there are often more decision makers involved and more of a need to prove an ROI (return-on-investment) in comparison to B2C purchases which could be based more on impulse.

With this said, it would not be right to simply ignore how emotions with a brand or sales rep might impact a B2B sale. Chances are if the decision-maker likes the sales rep, it will not hurt the sale. If they hate the sales rep, the pitch is already playing from behind.

For these core reasons, the market research and marketing campaigns need to reflect the different dynamic of each type of consumer relationship (B2B or B2C).

Here are ways your organization can increase its B2B sales based on 5 theories of research and psychology.

Strategies to Increase B2B Sales | 5 Theories Based on Research

Here are 5 theories to think about for your B2B sales strategies.

Theory 1: Mention Your Flaws

Seems like an odd one to start with right? But it is true. I have never discovered a product or service that is free from all flaws 100% of the time. I am confident you have not discovered a single product or service with zero negative feedback either. For this reason, consumers tend to doubt marketing claims. There is marketing campaigns that are not credible, so why wouldn’t a consumer be weary of what seems too good to be true?

By admitting flaws and mistakes, a company can build credibility with the buyer. In a B2B relationship, honesty and integrity are important core values. A business wants to conduct business with another company that operates in this fashion. Highlighting flaws demonstrates honesty and integrity as a business and a brand.

You want to focus on your core differentiators with your prospective buyers but did you know admitting to a flaw will actually spin your product or service in a more positive light because the prospective buyer will view your pitch as more honest?

A useful marketing technique to increase B2B sales by highlighting flaws is sharing case studies. Good case studies help the potential customer to see real-world application. They often talk about problems or issues which arose during the project and how they were tackled. Face it, all types of projects, campaigns, etc. incur a kink a two along the way.

Case studies will represent the population the product or service is meant to serve, demonstrate the success of the product or service, as well as highlight flaws of the product or service based on real-life examples. Case studies are real and honest examples of how buyers think and feel about a product or service, good and bad.

Theory 2: Foot in the Door Technique

The foot in the door technique refers to the concept of, a small yes leads to a big yes. This theory is valuable in B2B sales. A company may create more B2B customers by offering a less expensive product or service, or by offering a trial for a product or service for a short period. A relationship and trust is established during the small request. Therefore, a company is more likely to say yes to a bigger investment if they have already said yes to a smaller one previously. Why do you think so many software systems and platforms offer free 30-day trials? Makes sense now doesn't it?

It is important to remember when conducting B2B marketing campaigns not to be pushy. B2B sales may lead to long-term relationships and retainer revenue. Think about the value of a long-term relationship with a customer and focus on the satisfied customer who will stay loyal for a long time. Everybody wants to sell the farm on every sale but sometimes it takes selling a cow here, a chicken there, then a barn there, then the whole farm.

Another way to get your foot in the door without a trial or a small sale is by conducting some simple market research. Research, subscribe to their email list or marketing campaign to learn more about what your targeted organization is doing. Conduct some website analysis of their service offerings or company history. This is all free secondary research. Getting to know your potential customer can help you build a relationship with a solid foundation. Get your foot in the door and establish a trusting relationship first.

Theory 3: Expected Versus Surprise Rewards

Psychologists Mark Lepper and David Greene conducted a study with children to explore how motivators influenced children while drawing. The children were categorized into three groups: (1) expected reward, (2) no reward and (3) surprise reward.

It was discovered the children who expected a reward demonstrated a decreased interest in drawing during the experiment, while the children who experienced unexpected rewards actually increased drawing of their own accord.

How does this relate to B2B marketing? Providing customers with surprise deals or promotions will likely increase the likelihood of a purchase. If a company advertises the same deals or promotions all the time, it loses its psychological appeal. It is perceived as nothing special. However, when a potential customer is offered a deal or promotion as a surprise benefit of the purchase, it creates a sense of “I’m getting something special,” and increases the customer’s desire to buy. Think about throwing in some value-added materials or running a limited time offer.

Theory 4: Scarcity

Supply and demand play a role in the success of B2B sales. The psychology behind this concept is, the rarer the product or service, the more valuable the target market perceives it to be. When a product or service is not easily accessible, the consumer is more likely to act fast and purchase before they are no longer available.

To apply the scarcity theory effectively with B2B sales a company might state things such as, “We only have the capacity to take on two more clients this month,” or, “We only have a limited number of products left, time is running out!”


Theory 5: The decoy effect

The decoy effect is the theory consumers tend to change their preference between two options when a third, less attractive option is presented. This theory was tested by Professor Dan Ariely with students at MIT.

Ariely used the example:

• Web subscription: $59
• Print Subscription: $125
• Web and Print Subscription: $125

A great deal for the web and print right? When the print subscription was removed, there was a 30% decrease in total revenue. Most chose the web and print subscription because it shows a tremendous amount of value based on the costs alone and more people chose this package. Here are the numbers:

• Web subscription: $59 (16 chose)
• Print Subscription: $125 (0 chose)
• Web and Print Subscription: $125 (84 chose)

• Total revenue: $11,444

• Web subscription: $59 (68 chose)
• Web and Print Subscription: $125 (32 chose)

• Total revenue: $8,012

Although this theory is more common with B2C marketing, it can be used in B2B as well by taking the decoy effect into consideration as prices are structured. It is something to review if you offer packages of products or services. Your organization can tier them in a way you show maximum value in the higher-up packages while using some of the lesser offering as decoys.

In Summary

This article highlighted 5 research-based theories that will help to increase B2B sales. Although market research and marketing campaigns are not “one size fits all,” the psychological foundations of these theories provide valuable insight. Applying fundamental theories will enhance B2B relationships and increase ROI for the seller and purchaser of the product or service. Using these simple tactics can assist your organization to increase its B2B sales and revenue.

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