Emotional ROI: The risks of B2B buying

Buyer enablement - A modern approach to B2B selling

B2B sales:

-      Who is in charge of selling?

-      Who is in charge of buying?

Most would say the B2B sales team is in charge of selling and the prospect stakeholders, and other influencers (the buying group) are in charge of buying.

Of course, we can choose to look at this in reverse. The B2B sales team is in charge of buying and the buyer is in charge of selling. Perhaps this makes more sense as it's closer to how B2B sales have evolved due to lengthening, and often more complex sales cycles. B2B selling requires corralling buying group members to gain consensus and meeting each representative's needs often with personalized content. On average 5.4 people join the buying group. Selling into another organization is a dance, and your internal champion is your partner.

Buyer enablement is exerting leadership in the B2B buying process, and equipping a champion, "ally" to do the selling for you inside their organization.

First, a view through a selling lens;

You are not in charge of selling, the buyer is

Buyer enablement means you are shifting your mindset from selling to the buyer to enabling them to sell. Yes, you still need to sell (persuade, educate, consult, etc.) to and with an initial buyer, but once a "champion" has bought in, and is inspired to carry the torch internally you need to empower and equip them to sell for you.

Obviously, you help but an internal champion is naturally positioned to help map, open doors, and navigate a path to stakeholders. Both of you are selling to the buying group, but for a time, your role is as an enabler, to help an ally set the stage and prime the right audience.

As an enabler, how do you enable them? There are a host of ways to help an internal ally navigate a path to a closing sale, and gain the buying group's confidence including enablement that help drive consensus among stakeholders and shorten the sales cycle.

The buyer is not in charge of buying, you are

How many times has your buyer experienced the specific buying analysis, and process to purchase the product or solution you are selling? You have likely been through it many more times than the buyer, and have a great deal more experience in the buying process. You are probably better positioned to lead the buyer through the buying process.

Too many sales reps ask the buyer, What do you think are the next steps? While not an irrelevant question in certain circumstances and personalities most buyers want you to show leadership. Even if they don’t know, they need it. Often a champion, won't necessarily know the questions to ask, the relevant pros and cons to consider for the various stakeholder who will be needed to opine and agree for the deal to be done and solution implemented in their company. Thats why you are in charge of the buying process, not the buyer. Take the lead. Show them the way. They will appreciate it and more deals will get done, faster.

As Matthew Dixon eludes to in his book "The Challenger Sale" Teach, tailor, and take control. How are you wired as a salesperson? What are your innate behaviors and approach to sales. Whats your companies blueprint for sales productivity?

How to enable and equip the buyer to be able to sell for you

To understand what they need, you need to understand what is driving buyers, what they are thinking, and what the obstacles are to getting the deal done. Much of the time, as sellers, we don’t fully appreciate the motivations driving buyers, nor do we (collectively) have a full appreciation of the hurdles to be encountered, and overcome for agreement to buy and implement inside their company. The more clarity you have in both of those areas, the more quickly and often you will succeed. Leading us to the concept of emotional ROI.

Emotional ROI: The risks of B2B buying

Regardless of what you sell, arguably what you really are selling, at least in parallel with your value proposition, is the pain of change. The pain of change can be framed as emotional friction, which buyers are vested in and naturally weigh as part of their decision criteria, so demands consideration.

Naturally, buyers have to believe the product or service solution offered will overcome challenges, fit within budget constraints, and help them deliver against specific business goals more effectively in some way. Presenting compelling, quantified, rational ROI is crucial, but often it can be indirectly lower on a buyer's list of reasons to buy. What they also care deeply about is what's called the emotional return on investment.

What is emotional ROI?

Emotional ROI means that any emotional benefits your buyers are going to get out of a purchase will outweigh the emotional risks present when making the purchase in the first place. What emotional risks are at play in B2B buying? Here are just a few:

Peer reputation

When a prospect endorses and promotes a particular solution to their peers, they are putting their reputation on the line. If the purchase and implementation go well and business results follow, their reputation grows immensely. Conversely, if the buying or implementation process is rocky, they run the risk of losing the confidence of their peers. This carries over into relationships with leadership, as well. If peer reputation takes a hit when a purchase goes awry, it’s possible that your buyer’s reputation with their manager will take an even bigger hit. They may be hoping for a promotion that they put at risk because they are considering your solution. In short, they may be risking a hit to their definition of success.

Stability and predictability

Awareness is required to achieve improvement. Be aware many prospect personas and stakeholders may put their sense of peace and stability at risk every time they consider implementing a new solution or product. Pain maybe easier to live with than the unknown. Even if a buyer’s future looks less than ideal with their status quo and existing solution (or none at all), at least they’re used to the outcome(s). While maybe offering something better, there’s unpredictability and instability that will accompany a new solution.

Workload and current projects

Additional projects on their plate, may mean buyers are putting other projects they already have in progress at risk. If the purchasing process and implementation take too much time, they may not be able to execute effectively on other parts of their job, adding stress and other negative consequences.

Work-life balance

Our personal lives have a dramatic impact on our happiness. Prospects may believe the additional hours needed to implement your solution will mean less hours with their kids at home or with some other relationship. This can be a balance that some buyers aren’t willing to trade in exchange for attempting to crystalize the intended benefits of your solution.

For a prospect to believe in the emotional ROI of a solution, they need to believe theres a balancing force like growth in reputation, that it will have a positive professional impact, that it won’t jeopardize current projects or put them at risk, and at the very least, not impact their relationships.

For buyers to advocate for a purchase, personal value must outweigh business risk. Business value alone is not enough to motivate individuals to advocate for a purchase. No matter how you highlight emotional needs, intense emotion - for the buyer personally - is exactly what you need to create intense commitment.

How to take charge of the buying process?

Typically, to take charge of the buying process, you need to make recommendations, then ask for commitments. True buyer enablement requires both exerting strong leadership in the buying process, which includes coaching and asking for commitments from the buyer to go through steps you already know need to happen, as well as providing them with pre-planned materials you know will help get the deal done.

Enablement tools

There are effective buyer enablement tools  able to deliver your materials interactively, through various mediums catering to stakeholder persona, role and pain points that help to shorten the sales cycle by drawing buyer group consensus.

The hands that wield them

Of course, solutions vary in both their purpose and efficacy, as does the talent on our sales teams and their potential.

Identifying the potential of salespeople (accurately) is now possible enabling better investments in sales talent. Systematically improving sales team performance through better hiring, coaching training and development decisions to predictably raise the relative value of a sales team and ROI - return on individuals.


Lavan delivers productivity solutions through a SaaS platform unlocking sales potential in ways not possible before, changing the way C-suite, Sales and Human Resource Leaders can strategically think about building and sustaining a competitive advantage. A convergence of technologies, applied in unique ways provides data-driven insight for better personnel investment decisions to elevate the relative value within revenue teams. Better personnel investments drive greater performance.

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