B2B buyers are making decisions on behalf of their employer and must constantly balance not only the risk factors of their organization and the functions they represent but also their own professional risk factors. New Forrester research illustrates how complex this decision-making process can be and shows how risk avoidance and defensive decision-making often dominate buying processes.

In Forrester’s 2021 B2B Trust Survey, we asked B2B buyers to consider a recent purchase decision they had made and to quantify the potential risks and rewards that would accrue to them personally and to the overall business they represent. The results are very revealing: B2B buyers expect most rewards to flow to the organization they represent while more risk will be directed toward them personally and professionally. The resulting risk-reward gap explains why so many B2B purchase decisions are defensive, as buyers look to mitigate their own personal exposure. Often, B2B buyers don’t buy the best solution but rather choose the lowest-risk solution. Understanding this dynamic requires B2B sellers to fundamentally reevaluate how they should be building trust with buyers (see the B2B Trust Mandate report).

This reality has profound implications for marketing, sales, and product teams. How this risk avoidance plays out will depend on the specific purchase decision but also on the specific demand type. This is a subject we plan to explore in much more detail at B2B Summit North America, May 2–4, in our session, Risky Business: Defensive Decision-Making Poisons The Buyer’s Journey, Making Trust Mandatory. The session is part of our Executive Leadership Exchange, a program that expands on the content presented at the conference to support senior leaders’ priorities. We look forward to seeing you there.