People Make Buying Decisions, Not Companies

Individual Motives Drive B2B Buying Decisions

People buy, not companies. Yes, I know, the check comes from a company account; but, B2B buying decisions are still made by people who are motivated by a range of personal, professional, and political interests. Sometimes the buying decisions are made by a single person, other times by a group. Sometimes they’re made via a formal process and, other times by a more casual, sort of ad hoc approach. But, ultimately, people and their individual motives drive business buying decisions.

Buying decisions are driven by individuals facing political, professional, and personal pressures.

Buying decisions are driven by individuals facing political, professional, and personal pressures.

There are various reasons and motives behind the decisions that B2B decision makers make. At Clozd, we have conducted hundreds of post-decision interviews with decision makers across industries. While buyers generally try to represent the interests of their company, many are influenced by one or more of these underlying motives.

For those in decision-making roles, it’s helpful to consider these motives as you try to represent your company effectively. For those in sales roles, a good understanding of these motives can help you evolve your sales approach and increase your personal win rate.

Political Motives

Making a buying decision for software, capital equipment, a supply provider, or a service provider usually has broad implications for an entire organization.

I recently interviewed a buyer who already regretted choosing a certain vendor just three months into their contract. She used words like “horrible,” “hate,” “worst decision,” etc. As I dug deeper, she explained that the software she’d purchased had impacted certain sales processes. She said that she felt like everyone was mad her because the change was a disruption to the sales org. She never would have chosen this vendor had she known this would happen. The outcome of her decision was a hit to her reputation.

People put their political capital at risk when they endorse a certain vendor or make buying decisions. The bigger the decision, the more capital is at risk. Some of the thoughts running through buyers’ minds are:

  • How will I look - to my boss, peers, and team - if this goes well? How do I ensure a positive outcome?

  • How will this impact or enhance my position or reputation in the organization?

  • What does this do for my promotion, job security, bonus, etc.?

  • What happens if this goes poorly?

  • Can I avoid a bad outcome? Can I recover if I there’s a negative outcome?

Professional Motives

People will make buying decisions because acquiring or maintaining that expertise sets them apart in the organization. For example, if I become an expert in Tableau,, Marketo, or Qualtrics, how will that enhance my resume? It differs from political capital because you can take it with you to another organization. In today’s world of SaaS, people are being trained in systems and they make careers out of being experts in those systems.

This cuts both ways as a seller. You will win deals and lose deals because of how your solution fits into the buyers’ past experience and future plans.

We consistently interview buyers that are driven to adopt new technology because they want to become experts on that platform. We also regularly interview buyers that chose to stay with their current vendors because they are the experts in that system, even if they feel their vendor is inferior to alternatives.

Some of the considerations buyers make, when it comes to professional motives, include:

  • How does the expertise I get with this software, service, vendor, etc. enhance my long-term career?

  • How does this purchase enhance or shape my network and personal brand?

  • What new opportunities and compensation are available once I add this to my resume?

Personal Motives

A lot of purchases are driven by personal motives. People want to automate tedious elements of their job. They want to work less. They want to work on more challenging and exciting problems. They want to improve their work-life balance.

For these reasons, B2B decision makers often ask themselves questions like:

  • How does this make my job better?

  • How does this make my life easier?

  • How does this impact my work life balance?

Understanding what drives your buyers will  help you build, market, and sell products that align with their personal, professional, and political decision criteria. The best marketers understand these motives and deliver compelling messaging that addresses them. The best sales reps understand their specific buyer’s motivations and finds ways to customize their pitches, meetings, product demonstrations, conversations, and solutions to address what matters to those individuals. The best product developers and managers deeply understand their buyers workflows, needs, and challenges and empathetically develop solutions