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Decoding Human Behavior: Leveraging Deep Human Behavior for B2B Discovery

Humanizing B2B Sales: Mastering the Art of Discovery

Part 2


Meet Cody Strate: A Revenue-Driven Tech Marketer and Thought Leader




Decoding Human Behavior: Leveraging Deep Human Behavior for B2B Discovery
Decoding Human Behavior: Leveraging Deep Human Behavior for B2B Discovery

Amateur salespeople scratch only the surface in the early discovery phase of sales with prospects. Advanced reps leverage tactics to go deeper. But, the professional caliber sales reps approach to discovery transcends mere tactics. Top-tier sales reps understand core human behaviors, using this insight to organically gain trust and uncover deeper insights on the business challenges of their prospects. In the second installment of our series, 'Humanizing B2B Sales: Mastering the Art of Discovery,' we spotlight these essential traits that distinguish the good from the great in sales.


Hello, and welcome to the second installment of our four-part series, "Humanizing B2B Sales: Mastering the Art of Discovery." Our aim is to guide B2B sales reps to more organically delve into the discovery phase of the sales process. In the first part of our series, we tackled the all-too-common and frustrating "No-Decision Dilemma," where sales reps face a standstill despite clearly demonstrating their solution's capability to address their prospect's business challenges. We emphasized that sales reps contend not only with competitive solutions but also with the prospect's myriad of potential initiatives, as prospects have limited resources—both human and capital—to advance their business at any given moment. We highlighted the crucial need for sales reps to go beyond surface-level aspects in their discovery process, to make their project stand out, become a priority for their customers, and compellingly move them past the status quo.

Now, it might be tempting to dive straight into strategies and tactics that salespeople can apply to enhance their discovery process. And we promise to get to the "how-to" part. However, before we delve into specific strategies, it's essential to shed light on the core human aspects that sales reps need to grasp to dive deeper with their prospects in a naturally organic and ethical manner. The beauty of our upcoming discussion lies in addressing universal human truths that we all share—insights that, while familiar, are crucial in understanding the deeper layers of sales interactions and human decision-making. This exploration is rooted in our evolution as inherently social and emotional beings, aiming to understand why certain strategies resonate deeply and influence decision-making in the B2B context. Let's begin...

The Foundation of Human Behavior in Sales

As the relationship moniker “it’s complicated” succinctly sums up, we humans are deeply complex creatures. We’ve been trying to figure out why we do what we do ever since we could write, and clearly we’re still a work in progress. However, out of all of the work done on behavioral, consumer, and evolutionary psychology that many great minds have crafted, we’re going to pull out three specific aspects of human behavior that are significant in shaping the foundation by which we can execute deeper discovery in our B2B sales efforts.

1. The Power of Status Quo

an illustrated image of someone handing a box that says "change" on it while the other person is refusing it. This image highlights the power of status quo.

Sales reps, along with just about everyone else, often vastly underestimate the immense power of the status quo. How many times have you, as a sales rep, discovered a prospect perfectly matched for your product or service, delivered a compelling demonstration, and felt the mutual excitement about the fit—only to find they ultimately choose to remain exactly where they are? I’ve experienced this frustration firsthand. It seems obvious that your product or service would significantly improve their situation. So, why on earth would they opt for no change?

The answer lies in the fact that the allure of the status quo is fueled by 300,000 years of human evolution; it's embedded in our DNA and is, quite literally, a force of nature.

What exactly does this mean? The status quo represents two fundamental concepts: survival and our capacity as pattern-forming machines. Firstly, the survival instinct leads us naturally towards what feels safe, and safety is inherently found in the familiar—the known. The status quo, representing what we know, offers the comfort of safety, while anything beyond it falls into the realm of the unknown, brimming with inherent risks. This preference suggests we perceive a better chance of survival by sticking with the familiar rather than venturing into the unknown, where potential threats lurk.

Secondly, consider our tendency to form patterns. One of the remarkable abilities we've developed through evolution is our skill in applying cognitive effort to learn something new, then forming patterns that allow us to execute tasks with just a fraction of that cognitive load thereafter. Our brains naturally seek to break down experiences into predictable, repeatable patterns—essentially, the status quo. Venturing beyond it means moving away from the patterns our brains are already comfortable with.

The power of status quo is our default rhythm, ingrained in our DNA. Sales reps would be wise to acknowledge, respect, and appreciate the origin of this power that your prospects come to the table with.

2. The Need for Connection

Historically, the gravest punishment for the most egregious offenders was often death, a final severance from the community and life itself. However, closely following in severity was banishment. Being expelled from the society or tribe was akin to a social death sentence. Cut off from the collective, banished individuals lost access to shared resources, protection, and the collaborative effort that is fundamental to human survival. This punishment underscores a profound truth about our nature: we have not evolved to thrive as lone wolves but as integral members of a closely-knit pack. Our success and advancement to the apex of the food chain can be attributed not only to the sophisticated development of our prefrontal cortex but also to our unparalleled ability to communicate, connect, and collaborate.

In the business realm, this evolutionary predisposition towards connection manifests powerfully. Building rapport and trust through empathy and shared interests is not merely a strategy but a reflection of our deepest social instincts. Sales reps, by finding common ground with prospects and genuinely empathizing with their challenges, tap into this primal need for connection, fostering a sense of belonging and mutual understanding. This method transcends the transactional, opening doors to more meaningful conversations that get to the heart of prospects' needs and aspirations.

Embracing our inherent need for connection, sales reps transform their role from mere solution providers to connectors—crafting bridges of empathy and shared experiences that lead to a richer, more impactful discovery process. This approach is about leveraging our unique human capacity for socialization, recognizing that at the core of every business decision is a human being driven by centuries-old social needs. By tapping into this fundamental need, sales strategies can move from merely effective to genuinely transformative, mirroring our evolutionary journey from isolation to intricate social cooperation.

3. The Irrationality of Decision-Making

In over two decades of marketing and selling healthcare technology solutions across different scales and regions, I've observed a common thread: people perceive themselves as methodical and logical in their decision-making. Yet, time and again, decisions—be they personal or business-related—reveal a stronger influence of emotion over clear, quantitative data. As I often highlight in sales training sessions, "logic sets the table, but emotion drives action." This isn't just a byproduct of personal experience; it's a principle grounded in science.

An image of Daniel Kahneman, PhD receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2013
Daniel Kahneman, PhD receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2013

Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman's groundbreaking research into decision-making underscores this point, revealing our predilection for emotion over logic. Kahneman aptly notes, "Intuition is nothing more and nothing less than recognition." This insight sheds light on how, even in the ostensibly rational domain of business, emotional connections can significantly sway decisions, more so than objective data.

"The emotional tail wags the rational dog." - Jonathan Haidt

This clear and concise observation by prominent psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt encapsulates the essence of our decision-making process. It highlights the powerful role of emotion in guiding our seemingly logical decisions. Sales reps, armed with this understanding, can devise strategies that resonate with the emotional drivers behind a prospect's decisions. By weaving logical arguments with appeals to emotion—tapping into fears, aspirations, and values—sales strategies gain a persuasive edge, becoming not just compelling but also transformative.

Understanding these principles is crucial for a sales approach deeply rooted in the complexities of human behavior. Leveraging insights from behavioral, consumer, and evolutionary psychology enriches the sales discovery process. This enables sales professionals to effectively navigate the intricate B2B landscape, fostering robust connections with prospects and steering them towards mutually beneficial decisions.

Practical Implications for B2B Sales Discovery

The psychological principles of status quo bias, the need for connection, and the irrational nature of decision-making are not just academic; they have real, practical implications for enhancing the B2B sales discovery process. Understanding these principles allows sales reps to navigate and overcome common barriers more effectively. Here are ways to integrate these insights into your discovery process:

Navigating the Status Quo Bias

  • Highlight Familiarity: Align your solutions with the prospect's existing processes or outcomes to minimize perceived risk. Illustrate how your solution represents an evolution rather than a revolution.
  • Mitigate Perceived Risks: Clearly articulate the safety nets of your solution, such as support, training, and scalability. Demonstrating preparedness to support the transition can ease the fear of the unknown.
  • Use Success Stories: Share case studies or testimonials that showcase smooth transitions and positive outcomes for similar businesses. This can counteract the status quo bias by providing evidence of safety in change.

Leveraging the Need for Connection

  • Personalize Your Approach: Tailor your discovery questions to reflect an understanding of the prospect's unique business environment. This personal touch can foster a stronger rapport.
  • Practice Active Listening: Show genuine interest in the prospect's responses. Reflecting and building on their statements can reinforce the feeling of being understood and valued.
  • Find Common Ground: Share relevant experiences or insights that resonate with the prospect's situation. This builds a foundation for a deeper, more empathetic connection.

Addressing the Irrationality of Decision-Making

  • Emphasize Emotional Benefits: Beyond presenting the logical advantages of your solution, highlight how it can alleviate stress, bring peace of mind, or contribute to the prospect's reputation and success.
  • Frame Solutions in Terms of Loss Avoidance: Given that people are often more motivated by the fear of loss than the potential for gain, frame your solution in terms of what prospects stand to lose by sticking with the status quo.
  • Create a Sense of Urgency: Without resorting to pressure, articulate the timely benefits of your solution. Explain how taking action now can preempt future problems or capitalize on immediate opportunities.

Integrating these psychological insights into the sales discovery process requires a shift towards a more informed, empathetic, and effective approach. By acknowledging the powerful role of human behavior in decision-making, sales reps can craft discovery strategies that resonate on a deeper level, breaking through barriers and aligning closely with the prospect's needs and motivations. This not only enhances the prospect's experience but also significantly increases the likelihood of a successful sale.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the nuances of human behavior is not just an academic exercise; it's a transformative tool for B2B sales discovery. The exploration into the status quo bias, the intrinsic need for connection, and the irrational underpinnings of decision-making reveals the depth of opportunities available to sales professionals who can navigate these psychological landscapes effectively. By integrating these insights into the discovery process, sales reps are not merely conducting business; they're engaging in a nuanced dance with human nature, one that has the power to significantly elevate the quality and success of their interactions.

As we look forward to the next installment in our series, "Humanizing B2B Sales: Mastering the Art of Discovery," we will dive deeper into practical tactics and strategies that leverage these psychological insights. Expect a focused exploration on actionable ways to apply understanding of the status quo bias, the need for connection, and emotional decision-making to craft more compelling, empathetic, and effective sales strategies.

We invite you to reflect on your current approach to discovery in this new light. How might a deeper appreciation for the psychological dimensions of your prospects' decision-making processes influence your strategies? Are there opportunities to enhance your approach that you hadn't considered before?

Share your thoughts, experiences, or questions about integrating psychological insights into your sales process. Your reflections enrich our collective understanding and underscore the importance of continuing to evolve our practices to meet the complex, deeply human challenges of B2B sales.

Stay tuned for our next piece, where the journey into humanizing B2B sales continues, armed with practical insights and strategies designed for the modern sales professional.

All Blogs In this Series

Part 1: The No Decision Dilemma: Transforming B2B Sales Challenges into Opportunities

Part 2: Decoding Human Behavior: Leveraging Deep Insights for B2B Discovery

Part 3: Mastering B2B Discovery: Uncovering What Truly Matters

Part 4: Setting the Tone, Cultivating Trust: Essential Tactics for Genuine B2B Discovery

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Meet Cody Strate: A Revenue-Driven Tech Marketer and Thought Leader




Decoding Human Behavior: Leveraging Deep Human Behavior for B2B Discovery