18 Sep

Is business to business sales based on fear?


For many years now I’ve tried to understand the logic or process to how businesses buy stuff, particularly capital equipment.  I’ve read and heard many people talk about a wide range of reasons B2B customers purchase from them.  If you were to get 5 sales people in a room and ask them they would all have different reasons.  Here are some of the more common reasons I’ve heard.

Relationship Sales: They buy from me.

Now I have to laugh at this one.  Come on lets think about it here.  You’re so special to this ‘customer’ that they will buy from you because of you?  Or even be persuaded by you?  Ok I’ll give in to the persuasion but I can’t help but laugh at the part that the sales person is the key.  If this were the case then every ‘good’ sales person would win every order and price would never be an issue.  Now that never happens.
Agreed you do have to have a relationship with your prospect in order to sell them your products or services.  But it is far from the most important trick in a salesman’s bag.  What about from the supplier’s point of view.  We are a large industrial capital equipment manufacturer and our customers purchase from us because of the relationship our customers have with our sales team.  WHAT!  How can any business survive on such an outrageous belief.

Customers buy because we are the best in the industry.

Ok we all want to and feel we are the best.  Get over it, you’re not.  Every major industry has at least 3 top companies, each of which offers something very close to the same product.  The differences are generally so minimal that the customer sees you as all the same.  This is why every company making a capital purchase mandates having 3 quotes.  Being the best is extremely difficult to quantify.  Take the automotive industry.  Here you would think it would be easy to determine who the best was.  Find a car that goes the furthest on the least amount of fuel and delivers reliable comfortable driving.  Yea like I thought, you don’t even know where to start.  So being the best isn’t the critical key to success in selling capital equipment or for that matter anything else.

We offer the most features.

Somewhat like being the best features and benefits are often a cloud that customers walk through.  Capital equipment sales are synonymous with complex sophisticated technology.  Many manufacturers dream up cool catchy terminology to help differentiate themselves from the competitors.  This then becomes a tool to setup an advantage for buyers to purchase form you.  I remember when Chrysler was in the middle of the mini van war.  They advertised that they had the most cup holders then any other manufacturer.  Now hold on, do we really need or could even use 27 cup holders?  No we wouldn’t and that became such a useless reason to buy.  So features and benefits are not the primary thing buyers use to decide what to buy.

We’re the lowest price.

Starbucks coffee comes to mind when I hear that.  They are far from the lowest priced coffee in the marketplace.  I don’t have much to say on price other then it is usually a scapegoat for either the customer or the sales person. Sales people will use it when they have lost an order and can’t find a way to rationalize the loss.  Customers will use it when they what to get rid of you. They see no value in what you are selling and as such force you to see that.  So price is as well not the biggest driver to purchase.

So what is the main reason people buy capital equipment?

Fear is the underlining reason all purchases are made in a business to business sale.  Ok stop screaming at me, it is.  I challenge you to list any other reason that isn’t connected to a fear.  So lets go through the top reason why people buy.


The fear is that the buyer doesn’t want to make the mistake of purchasing the wrong thing.  This fear will drive a person to seek out someone who he can trust.  This trust is what is thought of as a relationship.

Being the best

Again the buyer sees his neck on the line when they are making a purchase.  The culture within this company may be such that they need the best in order to be successful.  It’s this fear that drives them to seek out ‘the best’ based on their perspective.


Some people are very fearful that they won’t get ALL the bells and whistles in a product.  This is why Chrysler made a product with 27 cup holders.


This is fairly obvious.  The buyer is fearful that they will be ripped off and pay more then they need to for your type of product.

3 Important Tips In Capital Equipment Sales

  1. Find the customers ‘hot button’
  2. Associate a fear with the ‘hot button’ and describe how you solve this fear.
  3. Don’t over do the ‘fear’ association. Plant the seed and let it grow.


About the Author

David is a digital marketing expert with over 15 years experience in B2B and B2C marketing. David has developed a proven approach to building strong digital foundations for multi-national companies. He is well versed in website development, social media strategies, content marketing, and search engine optimization.

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