Why People Don’t Buy – 20 Biases that Affect Buying Decisions + Infographic

Plato said, “Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.” Let’s take a closer look at the biases that affect buying decisions and talk about overcoming buyer objections that find their roots in these common behavioral biases.

Infographic – Why People Don’t Buy: 20 Cognitive Biases that Affect Buying Decisions

We’ve talked in the past about what B2B buyers want as well as what motivates them to buy. This Business Insider infographic lists 20 cognitive biases that affect buying decisions in the other direction. Taking a closer look at the biases may help you identify and overcome buyer objections.

  1. Anchoring bias – the tendency of people to be over-reliant on information gained early in the buying cycle (or even before) at the expense of facts or information provided later on. Anchoring is a technique commonly employed in negotiating prices or salaries; e.g., the first number stated establishes the range of possibilities in each person’s mind.
  2. Availability heuristic – the tendency of people to overestimate the information that is available to them. This bias might make someone believe something to be true that they heard anecdotally or experienced personally even though it’s not enough information to form a conclusion, or even in spite of factual information to the contrary.
  3. Bandwagon effect – the tendency of people to believe something because they perceive it to be a popular or commonly held belief, based on the number of other people who agree.
  4. Blind-spot bias – the tendency of people to believe they themselves are unbiased, or less unbiased than others.
  5. Choice-supportive bias – the tendency of people to feel positive about a choice they have made based on something they believe.
  6. Clustering illusion – the tendency of people to perceive patterns in random events; such as when people believe that the roulette wheel will fall on red after it’s fallen on black a number of times.
  7. Confirmation bias – the tendency of people to exclude information that does not confirm their own values or preconceptions and lend more weight to information that reaffirms their preconceived ideas.
  8. Conservatism bias – the tendency of people to believe something based on prior evidence over new evidence or information that has emerged; for example, even though “Big Foot” was proven to be a hoax with the confession of its creator, many people still tend to believe that it exists.
  9. Information bias – the tendency of people to seek information (or seek more information) even if it is not going to affect action or accuracy.
  10. Ostrich effect – the tendency of people to ignore information they don’t want to believe; e.g., to (figuratively) bury one’s head in the sand instead of running away or fighting when a threat emerges.
  11. Outcome bias – the tendency to judge a decision based on its outcome rather than the inputs that contributed to the decision.
  12. Overconfidence – the tendency to be overly-confident in our own abilities, especially when that manifests in a willingness to take considerable risks.
  13. Placebo effect – which could also be called self-fulfilling prophecies – when merely believing something will produce a certain outcome causes it to do so.
  14. Pro-innovation bias – the tendency of innovation-proponents to overvalue an innovation’s usefulness and undervalue its limitations.
  15. Recency – in contrast to anchoring bias or conservatism, recency is the tendency to give more weight to information discovered or learned more recently than to older information or data.
  16. Salience – the tendency to focus (only or mostly) on the most easily recognizable or most relatable features of a concept when making a decision.
  17. Selective perception – the tendency to allow one’s expectations to influence how they perceive the world.
  18. Stereotyping – the tendency to expect or assign certain characteristics to a group, brand or person without having real information about whether they apply.
  19. Survivorship bias – the tendency to consider only situations where a brand or product has survived and ignore examples where they have failed. For example, if a buyer only hears testimonials from satisfied customers, they might not be aware of negative brand or product reviews.
  20. Zero-risk bias – the tendency of people to choose no-risk or low-risk propositions over solutions that are less certain.

Why People Don’t Buy: 20 Cognitive Biases that Affect Buying Decisions


How to Identify When Biases that Affect Buying Decisions Might Be in Play

Asking questions is a great way to discover the root cause of a buyer’s objections. For instance, if they are considering another brand as well as yours, you might discover a bias inherent in their thinking by asking how they first found out about each brand. A buyer could reveal that they are considering a lesser solution because it was the first one they discovered (anchoring bias) or because someone they believe to be knowledgeable (bandwagon effect) recommended it to them.

Here are some of the questions that can help you identify buyer objections more accurately:

  • Where did you first hear about it (a product, brand, solution, etc.)
  • How many alternatives have you considered?
  • Which specific factors (features, benefits, etc.) are most important to you?
  • What are you afraid of if you (a) do choose this solution; what are you afraid of if you (b) don’t?
  • What have you tried before?
  • How is your business (or industry) changing?
  • What are the outcomes you most want to achieve?
  • What would success look like if we decided to move forward together?
  • How will your decision improve your organization or augment your business’ ability to compete?

Biases that affect buying decisions are often rooted in personal experience and research. Buyers who seem rooted in the past may need to be educated about innovations or be persuaded that the rewards of adopting a new solution outweigh the risks. Conversely, buyers who are considering abandoning your tried and true brand for a newcomer may need to be educated about the risks or be given information that points to the limited amount (or inaccuracy) of data that exists to support their decision.

You might also like: B2B Buyers are People Too which describes how understanding how consumer preferences translate with B2B buyers can help improve your organization’s marketing plan.