Demand Generation

“Forcing a Choice” to Drive Behavioral Change in B2B Buyers

By July 1, 2015 No Comments

When marketers seek to drive behavioral change in our buyers, what exactly does it take?

In part one of this series, I examined the reasons why changing ingrained behavior can be difficult. The fact is, individual habits generally take between 18 days and six months to solidify. Multiply that across everyone within an organization, and you will find change to be a much more complex process. The key is to acknowledge fears, build trust, and encourage self-acceptance among key decision makers.

Standing at a Crossroads

Today’s post is about getting the buyer to understand the real benefits of choosing your product when a competitor is in the mix.

Essentially, your buyer is choosing between two solutions. And there are two steps you need to take to set up a critical conversation with your prospective customer:

  • Step 1: Demonstrate how your product will benefit your customer one, three, or five years down the road and the expected impact it will have in their organization as a result of making this choice TODAY.
  • Step 2: Demonstrate how the competitive product would affect your customer one, three, or five years down the road and the expected impact on the organization.

Then, your job is to create a distinct difference between the two choices and magnify it.

Looking Back (from 5 Years in the Future)

You want your prospective buyers to feel like they’re standing five years in the future, reflecting on this crossroads. Again, you want to show them the consequences of each choice from the perspective of their future selves.

Illustrating Choice at the Crossroads

This behavioral change technique, “forced choice,” is often used to help people stop smoking. The smoker stands at a crossroads and has two choices: to continue smoking or to quit.

In the first choice, the person continues smoking for the next 20, 30, 40 years. They witness the consequences of their choice to smoke: declining health, hindered ability to exercise and engage in everyday activities with family and friends, decreasing ability to breathe easily, aging more quickly, using a breathing tube, and potential hospitalization at a young age.

Or, they have a second choice: to stop smoking TODAY. That future includes living free of an addiction, unobstructed breathing, walking and exercising easily, feeling free, enjoying life, enjoying family and living a long and healthy life until the age of 90.

Then, the person pretends to stand 40 or 50 years down the road, looking back at the original crossroads to either continue smoking or stop. You ask, “which road do you want to choose?” Force a choice.

I realize the extreme, powerful personal choice to smoke or quit is not the same as getting a B2B buyer to select a product or service. But the concept behind “forcing a choice” is still a valuable one.

Under the Magnifying Glass

The most important aspect is to understand the two choices as if they were under a magnifying glass. As the seller, you need to know the details and create a story of consequence for each choice before approaching the buyer. It will require a lot of research into different features and functionality, and a deep understanding of how software can impact an organization. The key is to illustrate the benefits of your product, and detail how the competitor’s product will negatively impact the organization.

As you walk down each road, you will demonstrate consequences. Then have the person stand at the end of each road 5-10 years out, looking to present day 2015 and say, “Pick one.”

A. Pirot

About A. Pirot

Amanda writes for Kapost, illuminating readers on the intersection of marketing practices and human behavior. She has developed marketing strategies for global CPG, B2B, and digital brands combined with unique training in behavioral psychology. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.