The Power of Emotions in B2B DMU

By Nick Hague

In over 20 years of working for the world’s leading b2b organizations, we have found that, to this day, there exists a prevailing misconception that b2b buying decisions are driven chiefly by rational thought. But is this really the case?

Are humans even capable of switching off their feelings when making decisions, just because they are in the workplace?

To bring more clarity to the influence of emotions in b2b decision-making, we surveyed 2,000 business decision-makers from organizations in Europe, the USA and China.

The research revealed that the brand affinity is most important at the very beginning and at the very end of the buyer journey. It is critical for suppliers to have a strong brand in which customers feel emotionally invested. In fact, so much so that 95% of decision-makers stated that even before contacting a supplier, feeling a sense of connection to a supplier’s brand is as important as feeling confident about what they do.

At the end of the journey, we found that on average, only 2 suppliers will be asked to provide a formal proposal/ quote. By this point in the path-to-purchase, the propositions/ offers have passed the litmus test. There may be little on the surface to differentiate the two suppliers. That’s where emotion comes in.

The final decision on the supplier chosen is driven primarily by the supplier’s ability to evoke a positive emotional response in the customer throughout the buyer journey. In fact, our research found that emotional factors account for 56% of the final decision.

There are 4 key emotions that dominate within the final choice of provider;

Trust in the supplier’s credibility

  1. Confidence in the supplier’s ability to deliver
  2. Optimism about what they could do for the buyer’s organization
  3. Pride in the prospect of partnering with the supplier
  4. These 4 factors alone account for nearly 50% of the final supplier choice.

In conclusion, what we have found is that it’s important not to see emotional and rational decision-making as being mutually exclusive and diametrically opposed. Our research suggests that provoking an emotional response from potential buyers is the driving factor behind the supplier decision. However, conjuring positive emotions among b2b decision-makers still requires a compelling offer based on experience, specification and service.

The 4P’s of marketing must therefore be fully satisfied to enable a supplier to build an emotional connection. In other words, the foundation of an emotional response is the right product/ service at the right price, with the right route-to-market and the right brand.


In truth, generating an emotional connection with customers requires a mixture of relationship-building, a clear demonstration of the supplier’s capabilities, a relevant and desirable offer, a service-led focus, and consistent delivery on promises made.

For more detailed information about the research and what we found including how to evoke the 4 key emotions within your marketplace visit

Nick Hague is Co-Founder and Head of Growth at B2B International. He is also the co-author of B2B Customer Experience – the essential playbook for delivering winning customer experience (CX).