Why B2B Brands Need to Embrace Buyer Intent

By James Burnette

Throughout my 25 years of working in sales and marketing, I've seen significant growth in new technologies to help sellers and marketers do their jobs more effectively. Digital engagement tools are why the lines between field sales and inside sales have been blurring over the last several years — a development that has been only heightened by post-pandemic realities. And those tools are why the lines continue to be blurred between B2B and B2C marketing.

In today's age of digitization, one of the most important tools for both marketers and sellers is buyer intent, a digital signal such as form completions, white paper downloads, clicks, social likes/shares, web visits, and professional identity. This intelligence is critical for sales, marketing professionals who are trying to help ensure they are reaching buyers in the best ways possible. As an example, it allows a sales team for a POS software company to identify 100 restaurant CTOs who are in-market rather than blanket 1,000 hospitality CTOs.

That precision is still relatively new to B2B, but it is available and needs to be a major ingredient for any B2B sales and marketing organization going forward. Let's dive into why.

Driving engagement with the right data

Until recently, buyer intent conversations have focused on B2B marketing and how organizations use data to make their marketing more efficient. The main idea for a long time has been about driving top-of-the-funnel engagement tactics such as blog posts, webinars, and infographics.

While those tactics can still be useful for marketing, the consumerization of this space is taking hold of the B2B buying process, which calls for greater sophistication. Just as consumers search for their items, read product reviews, and join communities of like-minded folks before chatting with a sales rep online or offline, buyers are not engaging with sellers until the final steps of their purchase decision: In fact, 83 percent of a typical purchasing decision occurs before a buyer interacts directly with a provider.

Indeed, buyers are spending very little time with sellers and, to make it even more challenging, 95 percent of buyers aren't in the market for new goods or services at any given time. Therefore, engaging with buyers with the right message at the right time is incredibly important. That's where buyer intent can come in and make an incredible difference for sellers.

Combining intent with technique

There are a few ways to look at the power of buyer intent for salespeople. First, knowing when and how to reach out is just as important as knowing who to reach out to. Therefore, sales pros need to leverage accurate buyer intent signals to improve their chances of getting buyers to respond.

For instance, if you are selling content optimization software, you will not only want to look for titles such as CMO and CRO but also whether the prospect is hiring content specialists more than they have before. These signals are available in several places online, and digital tools can help you find them and guide you toward the next, correct action.

Next, it's integral to combine such powerful intent signals with multi-threading sales techniques and relevant insights that are tailored to your buyer. This combination will differentiate you from those who rely solely on automation or spamming every prospect with the same message.

Lastly, not all data is created equally, and you need to ensure your data sources are reliable and dynamic so you can keep up with the changes happening on your buying committee. The Great Reshuffle, where people are actively rethinking their careers, including where, how, and why they work, has made data accuracy incredibly important for sales and marketing teams because so many employees have changed employers.

Building alignment with the right tools

Tools, tools, tools — modern selling is all about digital tools. Sales organizations need tools that alert them when accounts are showing interest in your company. These interest signals include company page visits and website visits or content engaged with.

More generally, for sales and marketing teams to be aligned, they need technology that enables teams to look at the same data sets and success metrics — then and only then, they will share a vision and understanding of how to move audiences through the buyer journey. Better process alignment across sales and marketing functions — when powered by intent signals — can help create a culture of respect and trust as departments collaborate toward a growth objective.

In conclusion, buyer intent is a key ingredient for driving sales engagement with in-market buyers and generating greater ROI across a B2B brand. Buyer intent is not just about marketing anymore — in fact, it's salespeople's strongest path toward finding the right prospects with the right message at the right time.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

James Burnette is the senior director of global sales at LinkedIn.