For B2B tech sales and marketing teams, it pays to know what potential customers are thinking and feeling throughout the SaaS buying process.

The better you understand a buyer’s mindset, the more effectively you can create and deliver value to your sales prospects and customers–and keep your pipeline full of opportunities.

There are plenty of surveys and statistics out there on the best times to send cold emails and how to get more replies. We wanted to go a step beyond those studies to uncover the thoughts, feelings, and experiences behind buyer reactions to cold outreach.

What are B2B buyers really feeling when they receive a cold pitch? What factors influence how they react, whether they reply, and motivate their decisions to buy?

To find out, we decided to ask B2B software buyers directly.

The Psychology of B2B Software Buyers: An Original Survey by Datanyze

We surveyed 1000 professionals who have been actively involved in B2B software purchase decisions about their motivations and feelings as a buyer.

Our goal was to learn about B2B buyer habits—specifically when it comes to receiving and responding to cold outreach—and what thoughts and feelings buyers experience when deciding whether to give someone their time and money.

The results reveal some of the secrets behind how buyer psychology impacts purchasing decisions in the B2B software world. Let’s look at some of the most significant findings—and what they might mean for B2B sales reps.

Takeaway #1: Over One-Third of Buyers (34%) Learn About Software by Interacting with Marketing Campaigns

We asked B2B software buyers where they discover prospective software and SaaS products. The most common way buyers learn about the software they go on to purchase is by interacting with a marketing campaign.

34.2% of B2B buyers report learning about prospective SaaS tools through marketing campaigns before speaking to a sales representative.

best channels for reaching software buyers

Takeaway #2: The Majority of Buyers Learn About Software via Other Channels

Just over one-third of buyers learn about software through marketing campaigns—but what about the other 65.8%?

Even though the most common way buyers learn about software is by interacting with marketing campaigns, this only accounts for 34.2%. The remaining 65% of buyers discover prospective software through other channels, including search results, cold pitches, and referrals.

This suggests that connecting with B2B buyers requires a multipronged approach that combines both inbound and outbound sales tactics.

best channels for reaching software buyers

Among experienced software buyers (those who have been involved in at least 3 separate purchase decisions), the results are similar—but with a higher skew towards marketing campaigns as a first touch (42.25%). For this segment, referrals also play a slightly larger role than cold pitches when buying a new SaaS.

best channels for reaching experienced b2b buyers

What lesson can you take away from these results?

Yes, marketing campaigns can and do deliver high-value SaaS and software leads. But no matter how you slice it, those leads represent only a fraction of potential buyers. To truly maximize sales and conversions, marketing and sales must work together to attract both inbound and outbound leads through cold outreach, sales proposals, networking, and campaigns.

In other words: don’t sit around and wait for marketing to deliver all of your leads right to you—go out and actively get them!

Takeaway #3: The Largest Factor Behind Cold Email Responses + Buyer Motivation is a Sense of Urgency

What motivates B2B decision-makers to respond to a cold pitch? When it comes to getting a positive response to cold outreach, timing is overwhelmingly the biggest factor.

We’re not talking about what the best time is to send your emails or even the cadence of your outreach sequence. Rather, the most important factor in a prospect’s likelihood of replying to your cold pitch is catching them during a time of need.

52.8% of software buyers say solving a top-of-mind problem for their job or team is their main motivation for responding to a cold pitch.

Here’s a look at how buyers responded to our questions (with some multiple selections):

most common reasons buyers respond to cold outreach

Timing is even more important for software buyers who have been involved in at least three or more B2B purchases. 59% of experienced buyers cited “solves a top-of-mind problem” as their main reason for responding to cold outreach.

most common reasons experienced buyers respond to cold outreach

Beyond responding to a cold pitch, timing also plays a role in a buyer’s final decision. The most common driving factor in almost half of B2B purchases (43.9%) is having an immediate need for the software. This could be an immediate need for their role or an immediate need among their team.

Among experienced B2B buyers, the percentage who cite immediate need as a deciding factor jumps to 48.8%. This reinforces the importance of timing and relevance, regardless of who the buyer is. Ultimately, the more urgent a buyer’s need for your software, the more motivated they are to buy.

motivation behind b2b software buying decisions

Although these results might not come as a surprise, they do present some interesting implications for sales reps. Even if you do everything right with your sales pitch, follow a proven sales script, and are a great match for the prospect—your odds of success are still largely based on the prospect’s sense of urgency.

Nailing the timing is often out of your control, but what you can do is send out a higher volume of cold pitches to increase your odds of connecting with someone at just the right moment. Salespeople who fire off lots of cold emails are more likely to find a buyer who is currently in the market—a characteristic that’s almost impossible to target.

For example, if you know that CTOs tend to buy the type of software you’re selling, you should focus on finding and contacting more prospects with that title, rather than spending time crafting the perfect sales pitch.

Put simply, salespeople must be willing to invest time and energy into prospecting and reaching out to as many relevant people as possible to tip the odds in their favor.

Takeaway #4: Over half of Buyers (55.7%)  Are More Receptive to Cold Pitches from Someone in Their Network

B2B software buyers are more likely to be receptive to cold pitches if they know the sender personally or are connected on LinkedIn.

More than half of buyers are more inclined to reply to a cold pitch from a person they’ve met in real life. Specifically, 55.7% of B2B buyers say they’re more likely to respond to a pitch if they know the salesperson in real life.

But what about the impact of online connections? When asked whether they’re more likely to reply to pitches from someone in their LinkedIn network, 36.8% of buyers said that they are. Even second and third connections on LinkedIn have an increased likelihood of replying.

Takeaway #5: Connecting on LinkedIn Before Sending a Cold Pitch Could Boost Your Reply Rate by 12%

  • 36.8% of respondents said they’re more likely to reply to a sales pitch from someone they’re connected with on LinkedIn.
  • 24.3% of respondents are more likely to respond if the person is 2 or 3 degrees removed from their LinkedIn network 

Note the 12.5% drop in replies from first connections and second or third connections. This suggests that connecting with someone on LinkedIn before sending a sales pitch could increase your chance of receiving a reply in over 12% of cases.

On the other end of the spectrum, 9.6% of buyers say they are less likely to respond to a cold pitch if they know the sender (either online or off).

Suffice it to say, simply being in someone’s network doesn’t guarantee a response to your outreach. If the recipient doesn’t have enough reason to reply (for example, if the pitch is irrelevant or poorly timed), then simply having a connection might not increase your chance of hearing back.

In the context of B2B sales, professional relevance trumps personal connection when it comes to buyer reactions to cold pitches.

are buyers more likely to reply to pitches from someone they know

Finding people on LinkedIn is easy enough—and connecting with prospects through the professional social media site could increase your cold outreach success rate. To use this to your advantage, consider using a multi-channel approach to get on a buyer’s radar before sending a cold pitch.

For example, you might send them a LinkedIn connection request along with a friendly message before sending an email. Then you can use Datanyze to find their most up-to-date email address and follow up with a more detailed sales pitch. This effectively “warms up” your connection, builds familiarity, and can lead to greater ROI than a completely cold pitch.

Takeaway #6: More Than Half of Cold Pitches (56%) Elicit Positive Emotions from Recipients

Perhaps our most unexpected takeaway from this survey is that 56% of respondents report reacting positively to a cold pitch.

Over half of B2B buyers claimed their first emotion upon hearing a pitch was positive—either in the form of relief or happiness. By contrast, only 33.6% of respondents claimed their first feeling was negative, claiming either annoyance, frustration, or anger was their first feeling.

For anyone involved in B2B sales, this split might sound too good to be true. But keep in mind that these are responses from buyers who have actively been involved in making a software purchase—not just anyone who’s ever received a cold pitch.

As for the remaining 10.4% of participants unaccounted for? They selected “Other” and wrote in answers ranging from “indifferent” to “curiosity” to “uncertainty.”

how software buyers report feeling when they receive a cold pitch

What does this mean for sales reps looking to improve their conversion rate? It could suggest that contacting the right people makes a big difference in how your prospects react.

For instance, contacting those who are involved in a potential buying decision is more likely to be welcomed vs. sending cold pitches to those who have no role in the process (i.e., gatekeepers, non-owners, or freelancers). Since our survey participants have all been actively involved in a purchase decision, they may have been more inclined to respond positively to a cold email or cold phone call.

About This Survey

Some additional background on how we conducted our survey and who participated:

We analyzed the results of a survey in which we surveyed 1000 professionals who have been involved in a software/SaaS purchase at their current or former company/companies. Participants must have been involved in a buying decision for a B2B software tool.

To see how first-time buyers might react differently from veterans, we parsed responses from experienced software buyers vs. those who’ve only been involved in one or two purchases. 42.6% of survey respondents were experienced buyers who have been involved in the sales cycle for a software purchase at least three times.

Among experienced buyers who participated in our survey:

  • 29.8% were the final decision maker
  • 29.3% were heavily involved in the decision (i.e., demoing the product) but not the final decision maker
  • 22.8% were somewhat involved
  • 18% received the pitch and handed it to superiors