Cognitive neuroscience, the study of the brain’s wirings and how these affect behavior, can help you make sense of the things your prospects do. What’s even more interesting is that many of this field’s recent findings shed some much-needed light on how and why your prospects reach a buying decision.
In this post, we’ll go over five key questions that B2B leads typically ask themselves in the decision stage of the buying cycle, and find out what neuroscience has to say about how you should be answering each of them.
To be clear, we’re focusing on the final step before leads turn into customers, so we won’t be talking about prospects’ questions in the awareness and consideration stages. That is, your prospect has already identified a need, has narrowed down her choices, and is now considering your company as a potential vendor. As such, it’s extremely important to get your message right in the decision-making phase since this is where all your marketing efforts become sales results.
#1: Will I really benefit from this, too?
There’s ample evidence to suggest that emotions drive decisions more than reason does. Clinical studies have found that patients with impaired emotions tend to experience decision-making difficulties despite still having their reasoning abilities intact. This means that, at the point of making a decision, feelings take higher priority over hard facts and figures.
Accordingly, your messaging at this stage in the buyer’s journey has to appeal to your prospects’ emotions as well. You need to go beyond telling leads what to think; you help them find out for themselves that your solution feels right and that there’s something in it for them personally, too.
#2: Can I trust this solution?
Your prospects look to others they can relate to in order to help them determine what actions they should take. That’s why word-of-mouth recommendations from peers influence as much as 90% of B2B buying decisions.
Here, social proof comes in very handy. Social proof is the idea that people will do what others are doing if they believe those actions are the right things to do. Some examples of social proof in action are client recommendations, influencer testimonials, and user reviews. Here’s how to build tremendous credibility and make clients refer you.
It’s not enough to convince leads that your solution works; you have to tell a story that it has worked for someone else in a similar situation. Social proof is most effective when seamlessly weaved into a compelling story, which brings us to our next point.
#3: Can I work with this vendor?
Convincing prospects your solution works is one thing; earning enough of their trust to turn into your business partner is another story. In fact, it’s going to take a pretty captivating story to convert your lead into your customer.
Telling your company’s or brand’s story helps build and cultivate your relationship with a prospect. Stories are an indirect way for your prospects to go through what your other customers have experienced. This is why brain scans show that a well-crafted narrative is more persuasive than a slide deck packed with stats and charts.
#4: Do I have enough information?
Making decisions based on limited or partial information is the rule, not the exception, in most business situations. But there are ways to turn this potential obstacle into opportunities for helping leads reach a buying decision.
According to the information gap theory, curiosity arises when there’s a gap between what we know and what we want to know. That is, curiosity increases with uncertainty. At the buying stage, you have to frame your prospect’s belief that she probably doesn’t have sufficient information as motivation to find out more and engage with you further.
#5: Will I be able to justify this?
In our first point above, we focused on the need to highlight what your prospects can potentially get out of making a buying decision. But when it comes to motivation, the need to avoid pain or loss is a more powerful force at driving our actions than the desire to gain. That is, people care more about losing a dollar than gaining a dollar.
To help your prospects justify choosing your solution, you also have to emphasize what they stand to lose by sticking with the status quo or selecting another option.
The key idea to remember here is that, at the final step before leads convert into customers, you need to appeal both to the rational and emotional sides of your prospect’s brain. Of course, we’ve only outlined some pretty broad brush strokes here, and you still have to rely on how well you really know your prospects to come up with answers they’re really looking for. Just because an area in the brain lights up in FMRI scans doesn’t mean that’s exactly how your leads are going to behave.