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See No Buyer, Hear No Buyer: Missed Signals Are Holding Back B2B Sellers

4 min

We have two eyes. Almost (not quite all) living creatures that have at least one eye have more than one.  We also have two ears, of course. The often minute differences in the signals detected on each side of our head allow our brains to hone our understanding of the important things in our environments.

We have other senses, as well, of course, each providing critical signals: You swat away a mosquito that has brushed a hair on your arm before ever seeing it. You catch the scent of spoiled milk and so avoid ruining your morning cereal.

Non-human animals have an even wider variety of sensory modalities to help them detect, understand and respond to the threats and opportunities in their environments.

It’s no different for B2B organizations. Our environments are full of prospects we need to detect. These prospects are emitting a wide range of signals, from content consumption on our own websites, to interactions on social media, attendance at industry events, and many others (see list in Appendix). 

B2B Sellers Need a Robust Sensory System

There are more ways than ever to research business solutions online, and nearly all of them can provide signals that selling organizations can acquire and use to detect buyers.

What’s more, compared to our counterparts in B2C whose prospects are most often individual people, our prospects are virtually always buying groups that range from a low of about five individuals to groups of roughly 20 for large B2B purchases.

In theory, it may be possible for one person who’s researching B2B solutions to completely fly under the radar. It’s harder for a buying group of 20 to go undetected. But whether, and when, your organization detects that team depends entirely on the sensory system you have to detect it.

If your buyer detection consists only of a form-gated website and a bit of outbound calling, you are probably going to miss out on more deals than you detect. And you’ll find out about others too late to effectively sell to them.

By setting up a sensory system that detects buying groups wherever they’re researching, you give your organization a chance to engage with those buying teams more consistently and on more favorable terms.

If You Miss Big Buying Groups, You Also Miss the Biggest Deals

In the B2B world, the size of a buying group is closely related to the size of the purchase. Higher value deals are bought by bigger teams. Higher value deals are also less common than lower value deals. So, while higher value deals are easier to detect, the cost of missing them is also greater.

We recently surveyed organizations to see if  B2B organizations with more expensive offerings are using a wider variety of signals.

The answer was a bit disappointing.

While we did find that high average sale price (ASP) providers sold to bigger buying groups, that connection does not seem to influence signal acquisition as we expected. In our study, selling to bigger buying groups was associated with using fewer, not more, signals. Our research also found that organizations with high ASP solutions don’t acquire a greater variety of signals, nor do they spend more. 

It’s as if marketers with big buying groups are saying, “Hey, they’re easier to detect, so I’ll just keep it simple.”

This is not recommended. The cost of missing buying journeys — or just getting in too late — is not worth the risk.

There are two factors that predict when a company will use a diverse portfolio of buying signals, and the factors are entirely predictable:

  • They are tech companies
  • They’re big companies with large revenues

Tech companies and big companies in our survey did not sell to bigger buying groups (or smaller for that matter), they just take greater advantage of the available signals.

It is also worth noting that tech companies do not spend more on signal acquisition. Instead, their spend is in line with other industries, but they diversify their data sources — spreading their budgets across more types of data signals.

Hopefully, this blog and our other research will help change what we found and highlight the importance of capturing as many signals as possible.


Signal Descriptions 

Signal Type  Description
Ad Clicks Person clicks on a digital ad
Form-Fill Leads Web visitor fills out any web form, including chat sessions, unless specifically listed here
Email Clicks/Opens Email recipient opens and/or clicks in the email
Marketing Qualified Leads (scored form-fill leads, MQLs) A form-fill lead that has been scored and achieved the threshold for passing to sellers
Demo Requests/Downloads A web visitor completes a form to request a demo or to download a demo
Live Event Registrations A web visitor completes a form to register for a live event
Social Leads A prospect expresses interest through social media activity
Contact me” requests A web visitor completes a form to request to be contacted
Partner Referrals A partner organization refers a potential buyer
Virtual Event Registrations A web visitor completes a form to register for a virtual event
Syndicated Content Leads Form-fill leads received from sites that host relevant gated content
Anonymous Traffic, De-anonymized Web visitors whose account of origin have been determined
3rd Party Intent Signals of buyer research activity acquired through linking keyword usage and digital content consumption across the internet
Freemium Downloads A web visitor completes a form to download a restricted version of a solution
Product Review Site leads Form-fill leads acquired from websites that host product reviews
Demo Usage Evidence of product usage from users of a demo version of a product
Product Review Site Intent Aggregated consumption of product review site content, associated to prospect accounts
Freemium Use Evidence of product usage from users of a free, restricted version of a product

Source: 6sense

Kerry Cunningham

Kerry Cunningham

Kerry Cunningham is a thought leader in B2B marketing and is a former SiriusDecisions and Forrester analyst. He’s an expert in the design and implementation of demand-marketing processes, technologies and teams for a wide array of B2B products, solutions, and services. He’s also developed a wealth of expertise in the alignment of marketing and sales organizations.

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