Sales intent behaviour - how to use it

Sales Intent Behaviour – How to identify sales-qualified leads

What is sales intent behaviour?

Let's start by helping you understand exactly what sales intent behaviour is.

Luckily for us, people change when they are ready to buy versus when they aren’t.

Sales intent = a customer’s intention to purchase a product or service. Sales intent behaviour is the specific behaviour that people display when they are making a purchase decision.

Understanding sales intent behaviour is crucial for businesses.  Because it allows us to identify where they are in the buying journey, and whether they are ready for us to get in contact yet.

How do we do this?

Via the process of behavioural progressive profiling, which allows us to progressively collect relevant behaviour. Then we can identify where our prospective customers are in the awareness journey. We can use marketing automation tools to track a prospect's activity, see their clicks and how they go from blog to blog post. 

Tracking this allows us to tap into the prospect's sales intent and serve them up the right content, and the right level of contact at the right time. 

Related content: How to use behavioural progressive profiling to drive demand generation

Sales intent behaviour as a 'real-life' example

You’ve probably thought about sales intent behaviour before, even if you didn’t realise it. In fact, it’s something we inadvertently notice more as consumers, than as businesses. 

I bet this has happened to you before…

You’ve been thinking about maybe, potentially buying something and started to enquire with some companies for some more information. You definitely haven’t narrowed down your search and are just in the beginning stages of research. 

Next thing you know your phone rings📱

And, after you’ve let it ring out (because it’s 2022 and you don’t answer unknown numbers), you get a voicemail. It informs you that they “just want to chat” about your recent enquiry. 

The problem is that you aren’t ready to chat. Because you don’t even really know what you are looking for yet - you’re just researching. You certainly aren’t ready to talk to someone in the sales team yet. 

Getting contacted by a sales representative before you are ready to speak to them is one of the most off-putting experiences for a buyer (especially for us introverts). With the vast amount of information available on any given subject, it’s our prerogative as buyers to peruse this data at our leisure. We don't want to be hassled by a sales representative.

That’s why as businesses we need to be tuned into sales intent behaviour. This way we know if our prospects are ready to hear from sales yet (or want to be left alone)

In the rest of this blog, we’re going to explore the concept of sales intent behaviour, to help you understand exactly where your sales team should get involved with leads.

Why is understanding sales intent behaviour important?

Let's think about the example I shared above...

If you get a sales call before you are ready to speak to someone, how does that make you feel?

Probably annoyed, hassled, pressured - usually not good feelings. It’s likely to impact your feeling toward the company that contacted you. And if and when you are ready to buy, you might not want to contact them again. 

This is why understanding sales intent behaviour is so integral to the success of sales. It allows us to identify when potential customers move from Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) to Sales Qualified Leads (SQL). 

Marketing Qualified Lead = someone who could become a customer if nurtured effectively. 
Sales Qualified Lead = someone who had been vetted and is primed and ready to go ahead with a purchase.

We know when prospects are primed and ready to purchase. And as a result, we know what content to serve to them and when to contact them. We can time our interventions to coincide with their purchase readiness (and even engineer this readiness - more on that later). 

So, instead of creating superficial “random acts of content” you can offer prospects the right content at the right time. In a world where sales must do more with less (time, money, and attention), intent data provides insight into where to concentrate effort and engage in activities. It can uncover new qualified leads, create meaningful relationships and drive more sales. 

When you know a person’s sales intent, you know what type of content they need to solve their current pain point in order to move them towards purchase.

Examples of sales intent behaviours:

As we said, people act differently when they are ready to buy, rather than just researching. Some of the sales intent behaviour people might display are:

  • Visit the‘ pricing’ page
  • Click through from a specific email
  • Visit the ‘Contact us’ page
  • Download a buyer’s guide. 

If you can progressively track your prospects and identify when they are hitting these thresholds, then you can engineer campaigns to drive sales intent. 

How do the awareness stages influence sales intent behaviour?

Understanding sales intent behaviour is all about understanding what stage sales should become involved in. Too early, or too late and you risk losing the sale for one reason or another. 

The thing is, exactly where sales join the conversation will differ depending on each individual business. And to figure out what makes the most sense we need to look at the awareness stages.

The five awareness stages:

There are five levels of awareness that your consumer might have. Which stage they are currently in dictates whether or not they are ready to speak to sales. 

Let’s look at these five stages along with an example of what that looks like for a company (like us) who are looking to help customers create content. 

1. Completely Unaware

The prospect doesn’t know why they have a need or who you are. They are just dealing with symptoms of a problem. 

Example: A business is living hand to mouth, after they finish a job, they never have any more business lined up. And as a result, they struggle to make enough revenue to cover their expenses.

2. Problem Aware

The prospect is aware they have a core problem and they are broadly exploring solutions. They are not looking for specific solutions or companies at this time.  

Example: The business realises they need more consistent leads and customers, but they don’t know exactly how to go about this. They’ve always just relied on referrals.

3. Solution Aware

The prospect knows about the potential solutions to their problem, but hasn’t narrowed it down yet to your company/product/service. 

Example: This business realises they need a way to increase leads and are aware there are multiple potential ways of doing this including creating blogs, social media management, email marketing, FB ads, networking groups etc.

4. Product Aware

The prospect is looking for specific products to fit their needs. They are exploring the marketplace to find what fits their needs.

Example: The business is now looking for specific companies to help them create blogs so they can drive leads and sales.

5. Most Aware

The prospect knows about your product, knows it will solve their problem and are ready to buy. But they need to justify and validate the reasons to commit to purchasing.

Example: The business knows who you are, and wants to invest in your blogging service, but now they need to justify including it in their budget. 

The Awareness Journey - Marketing Automation for B2B

Understanding the awareness journey, helps you decipher where your sales team should get involved based on sales intent behaviour. 

Related content: What is awareness, and why does it matter?

What awareness stage should sales get involved in?

The question to ask yourself is: “What awareness stage is most appropriate for my sales team to get involved?”

Did you know that the average B2B prospect is already 67% of the way into the purchasing journey before they engage with a salesperson

This is good news, as it reinforces what we already know - people like to do their own research before speaking to sales. 

Some industries will have a particularly complex buying process, in which case the sales team might need to get involved early on (maybe in the solution-aware, or even problem-aware stage). However, for most businesses and industries, this is too early and can be off-putting. It's more appropriate to involve the sales team at the product or most aware stage. 

But ultimately you need to figure out what behaviour your prospects display when they are ready to talk to the sales team and potentially ready to buy. 

From there you need to figure out what content you need to create to support this transition from MQL to SQL, rather than passively hope for it. 

How to use sales intent data to drive demand generation?

So, by now you’ve figured out when in the process it’s time for sales to get involved - but what do you do with the information?

It’s not enough to just track, and categorise behaviour, you need to do something with that information. You need to have an action-ready, and pre-empt the next behaviour. 

At this stage, some marketing teams just hand prospects off to sales. But, even when a lead is sales qualified, it’s not solely their job to get it over the finish line. It’s then time for marketing to nurture the relationship to help justify why you are the right choice. 

You can create the right content together, offer it up to people at the right time and even use it to trigger SQL with data anchors.

What is a data anchor?

In practice, you want to build campaigns to encourage the behaviour that you want to see displayed. 

We hear it time and time again, that marketing should be driven by data. But, what’s the point in collecting multiple points of data if you don’t implement it?

The problem is that while many marketers analyse blog data after it is published, to understand what is working, they very rarely use data to inform the content before it is created. 

We can be smart with the data we have and use it to create blogs that indicate a particular point in the sales process. 

For example, you might create a blog or lead magnet that indicates when someone has moved from MQL to SQL. This might be something like a “buyers guide”, or a blog on “lead times” which would indicate they are serious about buying rather than just perusing. 

We call this a data anchor ⚓

A data anchor is a specific piece of content that signifies when a prospect has reached a particular point in the awareness and sales cycle. 

Data anchors are a way of engineering content in a way that identifies sales intent behaviour rather than letting it passively work. 

Related data: What is a data-driven content plan?

Need some help with sales intent behaviour?

Understanding sales intent behaviour is crucial to building relationships and making sales.

If you know where that behaviour sits within your buyer and awareness journey then you can cleverly create campaigns that cater to, and even engineer sale intent behaviour. 

Need some help with this?

Speak to a Ninja directly about designing and implementing your perfect customer journey. It’s all about giving you the best competitive advantage with a supreme behavioural journey.

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