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What is Purchase Intent, and Who’s Buying You Today?

10 min
Purchase Intent

It’s always the early bird that gets the worm. But the question is, “How do you become an early bird in the unforgiving world of sales”? The answer to that is quite simple — purchase intent.

A 2020 Gartner study found modern B2B buying behavior to be unique and unpredictable. And it says that this is due to unprecedented levels of interconnectedness and interdependence that modern buying processes entail.

As a result, Gartner predicts the future of sales to witness a permanent transition from a seller-centric approach to one that is buyer-centric. 

With the rise in the unpredictability of B2B customers’ buying behavior, the problem now is, what should salespeople consider as “early” if they are to catch that worm?

Distribution of buying groups' time by key buying activities

What is Purchase Intent in Sales?

Modern buyers have an unending list of digital touchpoints that may help them arrive at a purchase decision before they even get on a call with your sales reps. It is integral that you have an understanding of your buyers’ journey so you can catch them before they make that decision. And that’s where purchase intent comes into the picture.

In this article, we’ll run you through what purchase intent is, how you can integrate it into your sales processes and accurately predict your next customer by tracking buyer experience.

But to do so, we first need to learn what purchase intent really is.

In simple words, purchase intent can be defined as a buyer’s readiness to purchase your product or service at any given instant of time. 

How Can You Identify Purchase Intent?

Purchase intent can be derived using a wide variety of signals, some of which may instantly indicate the change in a buyer’s intent. For example, a prospective deal that fell through because the business didn’t have the budget for it earlier might be open to buying a solution like yours after a round of funding. 

Prospects can go from 0 to 100 in a short span of time considering how modern B2B buyers tend to make their decision over multiple digital touchpoints. High purchase intent is when a prospect has an increased readiness to buy from you.

As a result, if you are to win over these active buyers, you can only do so within this tiny window of opportunity. Meanwhile, your sales reps are spending way too much time chasing prospects that have little to no intent to buy your product at the moment. The best way to overcome this issue of unpredictability is to track the purchase intent indicators of B2B buyers.

Graph illustrating the progression of buying intent with the number of days it takes to purchase

But before we move onto some of the crucial B2B purchase indicators it’s important to understand the different types of intent that B2B buyers showcase.

The Different Types of Purchase Intent

B2B purchase intent can be broken down into 2 different types, active and passive intent. They can be further split into multiple types of intent as follows:

1. Active Intent

When B2B buyers go out and search for a product or solution, they actively display intent to purchase a product or realize a need for it. To understand this better, we need to take a look at the different types of active B2B purchase intent:

The different types of active buying intent

Informational Intent

Informational intent is the intent that is exhibited by buyers at the earliest stage. This is when they are not yet aware of a product and its offerings, and want more information about it. B2B buyers showcase informational intent in order to get a grasp of what the product really is, how it works, and how it can help their business, so as to familiarize themselves with it.

Apart from your impulse buys, think about any product you’ve bought. Let’s say you heard someone talking about the new iPhone’s launch date, developed a curiosity to learn more about its new features, and ended up consuming so much content that you practically became an expert on it before it was even released.

However, there exists a stark contrast between B2B and B2C purchase intent. This is because B2B products and services involve much more complex sales cycles and processes unlike B2C products that are often purchased on a whim. 

When you approach a B2B buyer during the informational intent stage, they’re not yet well-versed with the product and haven’t made a decision yet. However, they still might possess the intent to purchase a product like yours making it a great place to begin nurturing them for the buy. 

Navigational Intent

When B2B buyers exhibiting informational intent reach a certain threshold, their intent exponentially rises up the buying intent meter and breaks into the navigational intent cascade.

Navigational intent is the intent exhibited by a B2B buyer that indicates they’re seeking help navigating towards making the right purchase decision. Every resource or digital touchpoint solicited by a buyer, helps them navigate closer towards a particular decision.

You see, the more time you allow a buyer to wallow in their decision, the harder it becomes for your AEs to undo the same and win them over, or even get your SDRs to have them to book a demo in the first place. To overcome this issue, we must go against the sequence of this intent trifecta, reaching the buyer before they make a decision.

How many times have you come across clients that were dead set on a competitor’s product but ended up doing a 360 and choosing yours in the end? This mostly tends to happen only when you catch the buyer at the right time.

The point we’re trying to drive here is that the navigational intent phase still remains a holy one, but only if you reach the buyer at the right point in time, before they make a decision.

With so much information out there, tons of product reviews and discussion platforms to base decisions off, it’s hard to believe that sales reps are even required in the modern day. 

But as we all know, that’s far from the truth, and as a result, into the picture comes transactional intent.

Transactional Intent

The choosing of a particular competitor can only be fulfilled by following the pathway that leads to it. But the same pathway is highly subjective, filled with unresolved uncertainties and possibly still needs to be paved by the winning account executive.

Once the B2B buyer is well-versed with the various alternatives at hand, they then move on to the phase of intention to make a transaction to purchase. This is called transactional intent.

The modern B2B buyer goes through so many digital touchpoints that their decision can sometimes already be made even before getting on a call with a sales rep. This is primarily the doing of a B2B buyer’s navigational intent.

This is when things really start to get serious. Checking out pricing pages and booking demos are a few examples of transactional intent being exhibited by a B2B buyer.

Today, any business that wants to build a successful sales process that can be scaled, needs to make sure they’re approaching these buyers at the right moment. And to be able to do so, sales processes need to become buyer-oriented as opposed to the seller-centric approach most businesses employ.

Tracking customers within different stages of the active purchase intent cycle is one way of winning a ton of customers. However, there also exists a whole universe of customers that are invisibly showcasing an intent to buy your product. That’s where passive intent comes into the picture.

2. Passive Intent

Passive intent can be defined as the unrealized need for a product that buyers possess. Buyers with passive intent aren’t outwardly looking for the product but might have an inherent need for it based on their circumstances.

An example of this can be businesses that use LinkedIn for prospecting. With LinkedIn now limiting people to just 100 requests a week, SDRs will need to find alternative channels to prospect. As a result, these businesses might have an inherent need for sales intelligence platforms without knowing what they might be. 

Other factors such as expiring contracts, buying patterns, and ‘unsatisfied’ competitors’ customers can also serve as great passive intent indicators.

Your TAM as defined using buying intent

Passive intent requires a trigger or the right navigation for it to be realized and turned into active intent. As a result, reaching out to buyers that possess a passive intent for your product is a great way to find otherwise hidden opportunities.

The only issue with passive intent is that it cannot be found manually. Much like you can’t see the microscopic world without a microscope, you can’t obtain passive buyer intent data without a third-party purchase intent tool. Third-party purchase intent tools harness the power of machine learning and AI-assisted big data analytics to scour the internet and analyze hundreds of billions of data points to bring you these prospects.

Understanding the different types of purchase intent indicators will help us see where our prospects are and predict exactly when that tiny window of opportunity opens up.

How can you identify purchase intent?

The following are some crucial purchase intent indicators that will help you gauge where a B2B buyer stands:

1. Firmographics

A great place to start is by getting a macroscopic view — scouting for firms that give out certain indicators signifying their readiness to buy. Firmographic indicators are a great way to identify purchase intent and allow you to see whether a particular business is worth pursuing. Some crucial firmographic intent indicators include:

  • Funding, Mergers, and Acquisitions 

A newly funded, acquired, or merged firm is one that is clearly looking to grow. As a result, firms that have recently been through one of these events have a vastly expanded budget that is looking to be pumped into areas that can deliver growth. So it is well worth targeting such businesses as they possess a much higher intent to buy.

  • Financials

The financial statements of a business including revenue statements, P&L statements, balance sheets and other useful financial information can be a great indicator of how they have spent their money in the past and how willing they are to spend on a product like yours. Companies that are doing well may be looking to multiply that success and this is where you and your product/service come in. If you’re looking for a business’s finances, a quick Google search does the trick.

  • Number of Employees

The general rule for this one is the more the employees, the higher the intent to purchase. Why? Because if businesses are willing to invest a ton of money into a large workforce, chances are that they’d be willing to invest in your product/service if you can convince them that it will help make the same workforce doubly efficient. Again, all you need is a quick Google search here.

There are a lot more firmographic indicators such as company structures and geographic location that can influence buyer intent, depending on your product or service. You can learn about them in more detail in our firmographic data examples post.

The best way to get instant firmographic intent insights is by signing up for our weekly alerts newsletter that brings you everything from funding alerts to other turnkey firmographic insights as they happen!

2. Technographics

The relationship between technology and man is of prime importance when gauging a B2B buyer’s intent to purchase. As we mentioned earlier, the modern buyer has already made their purchase decision via the mountain of resources and platforms the internet has on offer. This is where technographics come into play. With every digital touchpoint, a B2B buyer leaves behind a footprint. These footprints can point you to the exact B2B buyer that’s yet to make a decision.

A business’s tech stacks can give you a clear indication as to how they spend their money on tech products. Businesses that currently use products similar to yours, your competitors’ products or products that supplement/complement/integrate with yours, already have a use for your product. As a result, they fall much higher on the speedometer of intent, meaning targeting such businesses would be a no-brainer. 

But the question that arises is how do you find such businesses? This free resource along with Slintel’s technographic tool can come in handy when finding prospects that use competitors’ and related technologies.

Technographics can involve the condensation of billions of data points, offering a wide spectrum of insights such as buying patterns and predictive analytics that help you pinpoint these undecided high-intent B2B buyers. But the only scalable way to avail such comprehensive and actionable data that helps you find these buyers at the right time is by getting a data provider like Slintel.

3. Contract Expiry

The greater the urgency to buy, the quicker your sales team needs to intervene. Nothing shouts urgency like the impending expiry of a contract and this is exactly where your sales team needs to be on its toes. The expiring contracts of your competitors’ customers are a great occasion for your sales team to serenade them into switching over to your product. 

Slintel provides contract renewal data and helps your reps reach out to your competitors’ customers at just the right time, right before they make that all-important decision.

4. Content Consumption

Someone that’s already reading through your product collateral is much closer to the finish line than those that are going through one of your blog posts. It is therefore essential that your content consumption is tracked properly and accounted for so you can prioritize who your reps need to reach out to, catching them right before they begin making that all-important decision.

If you’d like to access over 100 billion data points scattered across the internet, condensed into dynamic lists of 60+ intent indicators including psychographic, technographic, and firmographic intent, competitor, and contract insights, from the comfort of a single platform then Slintel is a no-brainer. This is the most effective way of reaching high-intent buyers that are yet to make a purchase decision. If no is the answer, we’ve got some free intent hacks for you.

Free Purchase Intent Hacks

LinkedIn’s Search Bar

Using LinkedIn’s search bar to find prospects posting about their difficulties or challenges is a great way to find high-intent buyers that are looking for a solution but are yet to make a purchase decision. You can use the search bar to find keywords relevant to your product within posts. 

For example, you can look for LinkedIn posts from decision-makers who are unhappy with/looking to move away from your competitors’ products or looking for alternatives. Do this by searching for posts that contain your competitors’ names.

Free Purchase Intent Tools and Hacks

Make sure to use the appropriate filters to find the right post. 

Relevant Groups and Channels 

Joining relevant groups/channels where decision-makers are trying to solve their problems is also a great way to find active buyers that are looking to start considering a purchase decision. Being a part of relevant Slack channels and LinkedIn groups can always come in handy.

There’s so much more to it!

Buying intent is a deep subject, and if you’d like to learn more about it, you’ll want to check out our ebook on the topic. We update it regularly, and it comes with rich insights on how you can determine the purchase intent of a prospect and how you can use this information to win sales.

Give it a read today!

The 6sense Team

6sense helps B2B organizations achieve predictable revenue growth by putting the power of AI, big data, and machine learning behind every member of the revenue team.

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