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Buying Intent: The Future of Sales & Marketing

A Guide to Buying Intent — Why it’s important, what it is, how to find it, and how to use it to achieve breakthroughs in B2B sales.

B2B salesperson making a call in a lobby


Chapter 1


Chapter 2

Buying Intent: What is it and why is it important?

Chapter 3

The Different Types of Intent Data

Chapter 4

How is Buying Intent Gathered?

Chapter 5

The Applications of Buying Intent

Chapter 6

How to Pick A Buying Intent Solution

Chapter 7

The Future of Buying Intent

Table of Contents

Chapter 1


Buying intent transforms sales and marketing by removing guesswork and revealing which accounts are likely to buy and what’s driving their decision-making.

This guide will explain what buying intent is and how revenue teams can use it to reduce go-to-market waste and achieve higher ROI.

Chapter 2

Buying Intent: What is it and why is it important?

Fifty-seven to 70 percent of a B2B buyer’s decision is already made even before they begin engaging with a sales rep.

The later you reach out to a B2B buyer, the less likely you are to influence the buyer’s decision.

The solution to this problem is to reach out to buyers sooner. But how do you know who your buyers are before they raise a hand and make their interest explicit?

Modern tools allow us to track almost every phase of a prospect’s purchase journey and map specific online behaviors to each stage.

To use buying intent information to its fullest potential, it’s important to realize how a prospect’s buying journey works.

The Prospect’s Purchase Journey


  • Recognition: The buyer recognizes that they have a problem that needs a solution.
  • Self-education: Their initial research is often focused on defining the problem, e.g. “Why is so much of my contact info wrong?”, “How do I get better contacts for prospects?”, or, if they’re using a search engine, “fix bad contact data.”


As buyers become more educated about the problem they’re confronting, they start looking for solutions. This often involves:

  • Ecosystem research: The buyer looks for solutions from companies that are already in their tech ecosystem. Maybe there’s an unused feature that could solve the issue.
  • Identifying a missing capability: The buyer realizes that products from companies within their ecosystem don’t meet their requirements. As a result, the buyer will look out for a new solution in the market.
  • Market research: The buyer looks for the best vendors through references, word-of-mouth recommendations, and online research.


  • Evaluation and review: After identifying a potential solution, the buyer books a demo, subscribes to a free trial, or reaches out to a sales rep to learn about the solution. Online reviews, reference checks, and internal discussions are performed.
  • Due diligence: In B2B deals, the full buying team engages in deliberations, and additional members of the buying team may kick off their own research.


  • They want you: The buyer makes the decision to purchase a solution
  • They want the best deal: It’s time to negotiate pricing, setup, onboarding, and other specifics.

Now, how does the buyer’s online behavior indicate intent at every phase of this journey? And how can your company use this information to make a successful sale? To understand this, we’ll need to first talk about the fundamentals of buying intent.

What is Buying Intent?

Buying intent (or purchase intent) measures a prospect’s inclination to buy a product or a service. These indicators of intent can often be interpreted as follows:

Active High-Intent Prospects (In-Market)

An active high-intent prospect is someone who is currently in-market — meaning they are actively looking for a product or service to solve a challenge. For example, they could be reading blogs, downloading product collateral, comparing products on G2, and booking product demos.

Passive High-Intent Prospects

A passive high-intent prospect might have a need for a product or service, but isn’t actively performing any actions that might indicate immediate interest. These prospects could definitely benefit from your offerings, but may not be aware of your solution or ready to make a change.

For example, someone who is using Excel to manage their team’s tasks might not realize just how much dedicated project management software could help. This prospect would be readily interested in such a product if they understood its value.

Passive buying intent signals often precede active buying intent signals, and tracking them will help companies keep an eye on prospects that are likely to purchase their product or service from an early stage.

Why Is Tracking Buying Intent Important?

Tracking your target prospects’ buying intent can have several benefits. Here are just a few:

Optimizing Expenses & Resources

Knowing who’s more likely to purchase your product can help you optimize your ad spend and allocate sales resources wisely. Intent signals can help your Sales Development Representatives target the right prospects from the beginning instead of “spraying and praying.”

Increasing Conversion Rates

Understanding your prospect’s intent to purchase your product can help you target them when they’re ready to buy and close more successful deals, improving your team’s overall lead-to-deal conversion rate.

Intent-Based Marketing

Knowing your prospects’ level of buying intent allows you to target them with ‌smarter, more personalized messages. You can run ads and marketing campaigns tailored to everything you know about the customer, including their company info, job role, pain points, and buying stage. .

The importance of buying intent can be compared to shooting arrows at a target.  Trying to make outbound sales without buying intent insight is like shooting in the dark. You don’t know where the target is, and you hope that you hit the mark before you run out of arrows.  And the worst part? When the lights come on, you may discover that you never hit the target even once.

On the other hand, using buying intent insights is like shooting arrows at a target in broad daylight. Not all of them are going to hit the bullseye, but you know what you are aiming for, and this helps you save your resources and hit the mark with much more efficiency.

Adding Relevance to Your Interactions

Intent data equips you with all the information you need to have meaningful conversations that lead to conversions. With intent data insights, your conversations, interactions, and messaging become personalized and tailored towards your prospects and audiences. Imagine going into every conversation with a prospect equipped with context and background information on their industry, challenges, and unique needs.

Chapter 3

The Different Types of Intent Data

There are three kinds of intent data. They are:

First-Party Intent

All intent data that is obtained first-hand, via sources within your business’ direct control, is called first-party intent data. This could include:

  • Form fills and other marketing automations set up to track user interaction on your website
  • Email and nurture campaign interactions
  • Webinar registrations
  • Cookies and ad interactions
  • Direct interactions with your sales team
  • Social media interactions

Collecting first-party intent is an incredibly efficient way to capture high-intent prospects that are actively interested in your product. Ensuring your website and campaigns are well set up to facilitate the collection of this data allows you to nurture these prospects and influence them to buy.

Second Party Intent

Second-party intent is acquired from external sources such as review sites, and other platforms that collect intent data. This may include contact information and other interaction data recorded on the second party’s platform with users’ consent.

The problem with first- and second-party intent data is that it is only limited to the data that a single website or group of websites can gather by itself. This means that you’d be relying only on a limited number of sources, which can only take you so far.

But the final type of intent data offers your revenue team the deepest insights into buyer behavior.

Third-Party Intent: The Holy Grail of Intent

Web users generate billions upon billions of data points. Every single user interaction across every digital touchpoint results in the creation of data. Third-party intent tools match these billions of digital footprints and data points to specific accounts, and condense the intel into buyer intent data businesses can use to spot and acquire customers.

While the amount of data that’s available about customers is immense, that can create its own problems. Big Data can quickly overwhelm, causing confusion and decision paralysis. To truly harvest the power of third-party intent data, you need an AI marketing platform that can combine those data points with everything else you know about your target accounts, then analyze signals to help you understand the best course of action to generate revenue.

Indicators of Buying Intent

Content Consumption

Content consumption can be a great indicator of high, active purchase intent. Downloading ebooks, reading reviews, comparing products, and doing online research are all actions typically performed by prospects that are actively looking for a solution.

Buying Patterns

A company’s buying patterns can also indicate buying intent. This is typically uncovered by looking at their technology stack, upcoming contract renewals, or funding information. For instance, the software ecosystem a company is using might give you insight into how much of their budget they allocate for purchases. You can also track down prospects that are currently using your competitor’s product and are due to renew soon. If you successfully educate them on ways your solution is better suited to their needs, they may sign up with you instead of renewing with your competitor.


You can analyze your prospects’ activities, interests, opinions, and values by using psychographic insights.

For example, insights into a company’s philanthropic activities or community involvement can tell you what your prospect values. This opens the door to meaningful, engaging conversation if you can position your service or product as a solution that meets their needs and aligns with their values.  

Tracking Search Intent Based on Content Consumption


  • Allows you to find in-market buyers for your product
  • Helps you understand queries and keywords prospects are researching, which can influence your content strategy and sales pitches


  • Keyword-based intent and content consumption only help you with companies that are already searching for services. To build targeted brand awareness with other prospects, you’ll need information about passive intent.
  • Might include a lot of “noise”, i.e., irrelevant signals and indicators that are not related to their purchase intent for your product or service, especially if using reverse IP lookups to determine buying intent. If you are evaluating providers for this type of intent data, pay close attention to their account match rates and accuracy.

Tracking Technographic Intent Based on Buying Patterns


  • Helps you discover target prospects for your company at a much earlier stage, even before they start researching solutions
  • Can reveal competitors you could displace, or partners whose products yours complement
  • Allows you to uncover both active and passive high-intent buyers for your product


Tracking Keyword Intent Based on Psychographic Insights


  • Helps you create stronger pitches that appeal to personality, pain points, and values
  • Can help you spot prospects who are similar to your happiest and most profitable customers


  • Might not provide information as quickly as the previous two indicators

Chapter 4

How is Buying Intent Gathered?

Here’s how it’s done for each data type:

How to Collect First-Party Intent Data

Companies capture first-party data in a variety of ways. The most old school method is setting up a booth at a trade show and asking passersby to drop their business cards into a goldfish bowl. The online version of this is asking people to volunteer their contact info on your website. 

Common tactics include:

1. Lead Capture Forms

You can use marketing automation tools like HubSpot to create automated lead capture forms to gate various resources and Calls-to-Action (CTAs) on your website. To bypass this gate, the user will be required to submit their contact details. Book a demo CTAs, free trial CTAs, gated resources, webinar registrations, and newsletter subscriptions are all ways of capturing leads.

They have a dark side, though: Users often hate them. Only about 3% of website visitors fill out any sort of contact form — even when you’re offering valuable information they could use to evaluate your solution. The reason is that most buyers are still in research mode when they fill out these forms. They aren’t ready to talk, and don’t want to be called. 

2. Chatbots and Conversational Marketing Tools

Pop-up chatbots and conversational marketing tools such as Drift and Intercom are great ways to get website visitors to initiate conversations and collect first-party intent data. They’re especially powerful when they incorporate intent data to deliver a personalized experience for the user.

3. Social Media Tools

Social media, especially LinkedIn, offers tools that help you track and collect leads that interact with your social media content. Social media platforms also come with analytics that provide insight into who is actively following and engaging with your content.

When you go about collecting any first-party intent data, you need to make sure that you obtain prior and explicit consent from the user to align with GDPR and CCPA statutory requirements. This is best done using interstitial pop-ups or plugins that allow users to opt in/out.

Compliance is mandated within the European Union, even if your company is not based in the EU. If your company employs or does business with individuals in the EU, you want to select  GDPR- and CCPA-compliant solutions and data-collecting methods.

How to Collect Second-Party Intent Data

Second-party intent data is collected every time a user on the internet signs up to a platform or service, writes a review, or partakes in any activity that requires them to input their data under the conditions of a user agreement policy that gives a site ownership to the data.

Websites or publishers that collect this data from users with their consent add it to a common repository. Intent data providers and other companies then uses this information to derive insights or create profiles with contact information. 

To access this data, you’ll need to buy it from a second-party intent vendor that is specific to the use case of your product and customers. For example, if you’re a B2B SaaS business, you can get valuable second-party data from a review site like G2. There are also second-party intent data vendors that you can choose from, depending on the market you serve.

How to Collect Third-Party Intent Data

Here are some of the main ways third-party intent is tracked:

1. Technology Stacks

Technology stacks, or tech stacks, are ecosystems of tools and software that a company uses to automate or improve its daily operations. Tech stack data can be valuable since it allows Marketing and Sales to understand a prospect’s historical purchase behavior and software requirements, and also spot gaps in the technology stack that can be filled by your company’s offering.

It also allows you to find companies that are using one of your competitors’ products, or companies that are using software with which your product integrates.

2. Firmographics

Firmographics are data points, such as funding history, EBIDTA information, quarterly targets, and other financial information, which can act as purchase intent signals.

3. Company News & Updates

News around a company’s acquisition, investment, funding, growth, or hiring can also act as an intent signal.

Information around a company’s growth or recent hires can also be a great conversation starter when you’re talking to prospects.

4. Analyzing Buyer Themes & Objectives

Keywords research helps you identify prospects that align with your product’s use-cases.

For example, if you’re a checkout/payment gateway service or plugin, you’d want to find a keyword that best resonates with your ICP’s use case. In such a case, finding businesses that use a keyword phrase like “reduce cart abandonment” would be a great way to find prospects that have a use for your product.

5. Competitor Insights and Contract Expiry/Renewal Information

Tracking your competitors’ customers and gaining deep insights into their behavior is a great way to find high-intent buyers. Insights such as technographics, firmographics, psychographics, and contract renewals are extremely precise indicators of buying intent that will help you win your competitors’ customers.

6. Reverse IP Lookups

Reverse IP lookup or reverse DNS lookup tells you the approximate location and/or the organization from which a person is visiting your website. In a nutshell, this method uses the Internet Protocol (IP) address of a person’s digital device, like a computer or a mobile phone, to see the location of the website visitor. You can then use this to uncover the office phone number or similar information about your website visitor, which you can then use to contact them.

Reverse IP lookups give a rough idea of who could be looking at your website, but does not give accurate information when the user is, for instance, working from home, or accessing your website from a place other than their office. More advanced account matching services also incorporate signals like mobile advertising ID to more accurately map activity back to parent organizations.

Chapter 5

The Applications of Buying Intent

Buying intent is so comprehensive and actionable that it can be used across multiple functions in your organization. Here are some of the ways your organization can make use of this data:

Buying Intent for Sales

Buying intent is a boon for any sales function because it allows them to work much more efficiently. Salesforce’s “State of Sales” report shows that 72% of sellers’ time is spent on non-revenue-generating activities like prospecting. And even when sellers are reaching out to prospects, they often chase dead-end leads with no intention of buying (or picking up the phone).

Empowered with buying intent data, sales teams can reach high-intent customers at just the right moment and reduce the time wasted on prospects that aren’t ready to buy.

Buying intent helps make conversations and demos more relevant and impactful by providing reps with great, consolidated intel about the customer. This helps sales teams deliver immediate value by addressing specific customer concerns.

Buying Intent for Demand Generation

Marketing teams use intent data to identify prospects worth spending ad dollars to reach, then nurture prospects and move them forward in their buying journey.

Buyer intent data helps you segment your audience with precision, so they are always seeing marketing messages that are relevant to their current moment in the buying journey. The result: effective nurturing campaigns with higher ROI and bigger pipeline impact.

Buying Intent for Account Based Marketing

Hey, Marketing? Are you sick of Sales not working the precious leads you provide?

Hey, Sales? Are you sick of Marketing calling a pile of dead fish MQLs?

Hey, C-suite? Are you sick of those two teams pointing fingers when you just want results?

One of the major causes for the blame game is that both marketing and sales are working their tails off, but they often disagree about the metrics, goals, and data signals that matter. Thus, marketing focuses on the accounts that they think will move the needle, sales does the same, but they disagree about which accounts matter!

Intent data can help you fix this misalignment and unify your Sales and Marketing teams around a common set of goals, metrics, data sources — and incentives. Firmographics, technographics, behavioral data and other intent indicators are extremely effective at helping you accurately prioritize key accounts, whether you’re working those accounts at the top or the bottom of the sales funnel.

Buying Intent for Content

Intent data provides valuable clues about the information your prospects need. Armed with this info, you can craft campaigns that address specific concerns. You can target the content they are researching and deliver resources appropriate to their buying stageby segmenting your audience so they are enrolled in campaigns that match their interests.

Buying Intent for Customer Retention

Not every customer is enthusiastic. Sometimes they’re satisfied… but only just. The first step to keeping your customers happy is getting to know them.

Intent data can be used as a signal that a customer needs help getting the most from your solution.

It can also serve as an early warning signal that a customer is thinking about ditching you for a competitor.

For example, with technographic data, you know when a customer signs up for a trial of an alternative product. This gives you an opportunity to reach out and educate them on the superior benefits of your product or service, start conversations that dig in to what problems they’re looking to solve, and position your offering as the solution.

With firmographics, you can get insights into how your customers’ business is performing and identify personnel changes in their decision making hierarchy that can‌ lead to churn.

Chapter 6

How to Pick A Buying Intent Solution

Here’s what to look for when you’re shopping for an intent-data provider.

How to Evaluate Buying Intent Tools

Here are some attributes to consider when picking the right buying intent tool for your business:

1. Scope

First-, second- and third-party intent data tools offer varied scopes of buying intent. First-party buying intent tools offer intent data that’s within the scope of your own website. Second party intent tools offer intent data that’s within the scope of a singular website or a network of sites. Third-party intent tools offer data that’s within the scope of most technological interaction. This includes a whole world of passive intent buyers that other solutions cannot track.

2. Data Accuracy

When you buy any tool, you want it to do exactly what it was advertised to do. Inaccurate data, unfortunately, is a huge issue with many buying intent tools. Third-party intent indicators that use a wide variety of indicators driven by AI and machine learning can give you upwards of 90% in data accuracy.

3. Contact Information

Reaching the right person via the right medium is crucial for modern businesses. The best third-party buying intent tools can help you determine which decision makers to target in an organization based on their authority, and provide contact information to reach them.

4. Customer Service

Finding a buying intent solution that caters to customer needs is crucial. You need a provider that treats customers as partners, and grows its solution based on customer needs.

Chapter 7

The Future of Buying Intent 

We live in a world where contact data is easily accessible, but simply having access to information is not enough to make a successful sale. Intent data is the game-changer because it helps your revenue team identify:

  • Customers who are most likely to benefit from your solution
  • Who is most likely to buy your solution
  • Who is likely to make a decision soon
  • The best way to influence buyers’ decision-making

Intent is currently one of the fastest growing categories in SalesTech, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. The value is clear.

In 2022, when Forrester conducted a Total Economic Impact study of 6sense Revenue AI™ on customers, it found that those who focused on accounts identified as strong opportunities by 6sense generated:

  • 454% ROI
  • 2X increases in average contract value
  • 4X increases in win rate
  • 31% increases in opportunity volume

Ready to see 6sense in action?

Picture of The 6sense Team

The 6sense Team