The consideration phase in B2B buying can last a long time.
In this period, sales reps may already have presented a demo, had several rounds of discussions with multiple stakeholders, and shared pricing and contract details.
But there often comes a moment of silence before the sale, where the buying team is deciding whether or not to buy.
This period of silence may seem like a black box, but there are ways to measure which way the buying team is leaning.
These are buying signals––the data-driven and intuitive signs that quantify a prospect’s interest in your product.
Learning to measure buying signals (and having a system in place to do so) can be very profitable to your sales team and to your business as a whole.
Buying signals can steer you away from the time-wasting buyers, and towards those who want to say “heck yes” to your offer.
The result is a stronger pipeline, better forecasting, and a higher close rate.
In this guide, we'll show you how to systematically identify buying signals, including using two tried-and-true buyer qualification methods.
We’ll also explain:
- the types of buying signals
- how to measure purchase intent
- what tools to use to gather strong indications from potential customers to inform your overall sales strategy
What are buying signals?
Buying signals are indications—verbal or behavioral—from prospective customers that they’re likely to buy.
Buying signals are best measured from sales-qualified leads (SQLs) who are already in the sales cycle and close to making a purchasing decision.
Example buying signals include:
- Signing up for a sales demo
- Quickly responding to sales follow-up emails
- Pulling in stakeholders for a conversation
- Transparently discussing budget
- Engaging with marketing and sales content
- Using the product more actively
Of course, the above can be strong indications of buyer intent, but they’re not guarantees.
Types of buying signals
In a dream world, prospective customers communicate their leanings throughout the sales process. But it’s never so direct.
For one, the decision is not completely up to one buyer, and even those individuals with buying power (e.g., the economic buyer) have many factors to consider before pulling out the credit card.
There are generally two types of buying signals: hard and soft.
- Hard buying signals are measurable. These are often called intent data. This data includes signals like messages exchanged, marketing engagement, and product usage.
- Soft signals are moments when you have to read between the lines. Soft signals include body language on calls, the enthusiasm of the buyer champion, and buy-in from the executive team.
Together, hard and soft buying signals will give you a complete picture of the prospect qualifications needed to close deals.
Hard buying signals: how to gather intent data
Hard buying signals are measurable data points from prospective buyers.
- Engagement with marketing and sales content: email open and click-through rates, likes and comments on LinkedIn, views of blogs, case studies, videos, and podcasts
- Engagement with product and success content: views of product pages, help center tutorials, and payment plans
- Product usage: signing up for a free trial, adding users, completing activation steps
- Sales workspace engagement: number of people invited to the workspace, number and recency of views
- Communication touchpoints: how many times they’ve reached out to your sales team directly
We’ll come back to tools for measuring these signals later.
Soft buying signals: good signs to look out for
While hard buying signals build confidence as you move through defined steps of your buyer’s journey, soft signals can fill in the “dark funnel” stages that come between phone calls and defined action steps.
Because there are so many soft signals and they can be so varied, let’s break them down into the three qualification compartments from the Sandler Selling System.
Pain point signals
- Buying urgency: They’re experiencing urgent, painful issues your product solves.
- Competitor issues: They’re having trouble with a competing product.
- ICP alignment: The company fits your typical ideal customer profile.
- Strong buyer champion: Your point of contact is knowledgeable about the product, has used it with colleagues, and asks you well-researched questions about how to get the most out of it.
- Company changes: Changes in organizational structure, raising of funds, or new leadership (although these can also be negative buying signals).
- Presence of economic buyer: The person with purchasing power shows up to sales meetings, engages with content in your sales workspace, and completes steps towards fulfillment.
- Non-verbal cues: The prospect shows positive body language and/or eye contact during calls and meetings.
- Speed and type of communication: Their outreach is unprompted and continues with fast follow-up.
- Transparent communication from the buyer: They discuss timeline, budget, and implementation, showing that they’re thinking through the next steps.
- Deal progress: The deal moves along as planned. The buyer requests a pricing proposal and works through your mutual action plan.
As you become more aware of both hard and soft buying signals, you should develop a method of tracking them that will inform your overall sales strategy.
Sales methodologies for identifying buying signals
The biggest challenge with tracking soft buying signals is the inconsistency from rep to rep. Some reps always have that gut feeling that the deal will finally close this quarter.
One way to create more structure around buying signals is to use a qualification-focused sales methodology, such as MEDDIC or the Sandler Selling System.
MEDDIC or MEDDPICC
MEDDIC is a widely adopted methodology to qualify buyers. It’s used by companies like Zendesk and Salesforce.
For B2B sales, the acronym has been adapted to MEDDPICC, and it includes the following steps:
- Metrics: How does your prospect measure their success?
- Economic buyer: Can your buyer contact authorize spending?
- Decision criteria: What is your prospect basing their decision on?
- Decision process: How is your prospect reaching a decision?
- Implicate pain: What pain point (if any) is forcing them to buy?
- Champion: Who will advocate for you on your buyer’s team?
- Paper process: What contracts, legal, and security documents need to be signed?
- Competition: What other alternatives could your buyer consider?
Part of implementing MEDDIC or MEDDPICC as part of your sales strategy involves creating a shared space where sellers and buyers can document the answers to all of the above questions.
Their answers are valuable qualitative buying signals, and MEDDIC systematizes measurement of this hard-to-capture, “soft” data.
The Sandler Selling System
The Sandler Selling System compares complex B2B sales to a submarine with different compartments, where the seller has to move linearly from compartment to compartment.
It’s a particularly useful model for large, valuable deals that take months or years to complete.
Its seven compartments are grouped into three phases:
- Qualification, and
Buying signals are mostly tracked in the middle phase: Qualification.
This is when sales reps learn about customer pain points, discuss budget, and get all decision-makers involved in the sale.
Like MEDDIC, Sandler buyer qualification involves customer interviews. The interviews emphasize pain points, budget, and decision-making.
From this process, you’ll learn:
- What are the highest-priority needs
- How much they’re willing to spend
- Who’s involved in making the decision
- What their timeline is
- What factors weigh most heavily in their decision-making process
- How many other solutions they’re considering
Sandler is effective because it helps Sales orgs better predict deals that are bound to stall out. If the prospect can’t get through the first or second compartments of qualification, they’re not likely to go through with the sale.
How to track buying signals with Dock
Forecasting and monitoring sales are often just as gut-driven as they are data-driven. This can result in a leaky funnel, an unreliable pipeline, and inaccurate forecasting.
By incorporating buying signals into your forecasting models, you can gain more insights into:
- Your most valued product features
- Effective communication methods
- Factors that affect the buying decision
You don’t need an analyst or a data team to track data related to buying signals. When you use a shared sales workspace such as Dock, that analysis is built in.
By using Dock with prospective buyers, you can see:
- When and how often your buyers view your space
- Which buyer contacts view your space
- What content your buyers engage with
- How many steps are completed in your mutual action plan
- Time spent viewing and/or downloading PDFs or slides, including time per page
Accessing all your buying signals from one place makes it easy to see which content is most resonant to buyers, what goes into their decision-making process, and how you can better enable your buyers.
Other tools for measuring buying signals
While Dock shows you just how much customers want to engage with your content and people, using it with other data analysis tools can paint a more complete picture of buying signals.
These tools all dig deep into buyer data:
- Your CRM, such as Hubspot or Salesforce, will provide you with all the basic sales metrics, including some buying signals, such as engagements and touchpoints.
- Clari provides AI-powered sales forecasting that helps you see how a deal is trending in real-time.
- HeadsUp uses its CRM, product, and billing data analysis capabilities to predict buying signals
- Pocus and Endgame identify product-qualified leads (PQLs), and allow you to pinpoint user actions that indicate buying intent, and exactly which product functions to emphasize in your sales pitches, and when.
Use strong buying signals to improve your pipeline
By learning to recognize, track, and utilize buying signals in your sales process, you don’t have to wonder what a prospect is thinking or feeling.
Buying signals bring information about prospective customers out of the dark and into the light, preventing stalled-out deals and frustration on both sides.
Incorporating buying signals into your sales strategy will help you create a smooth and scalable process for your sales team that moves qualified leads down the funnel, identifies future selling opportunities, and improves the predictability of your pipeline.