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Buying Intent: The Future of Sales & Marketing

While the act of determining buying intent or segmenting prospects into different “intent buckets” by itself isn’t a new concept, what’s changed over the recent past is the way in which we capture data to deliver these insights. Modern software tools allow us to track almost every phase of a prospect’s purchase journey or a company’s software requirements. This makes it easy for Sales and Marketing teams to reach out to buyers that have a higher propensity to purchase their product or a service, and scale revenue or sales numbers rapidly.

But before that, it is important to realize how a prospect’s buyer journey works in order to use buying intent information to its fullest potential. Let’s look at the illustration below about the five stages a prospect typically goes through prior to making a new purchase.


The Prospect’s Buying Journey

Now, how does the buyer’s purchase intent change at every phase of this journey? And how can your company use this buying intent information to make a successful sale? To understand this, we’ll need to first talk about the fundamentals of buying intent. Let’s start by defining the basics.

What is Buying Intent?

Buying intent or purchase intent is the measure of a prospect’s inclination to buy a product or a service. Buying intent can be typically recognized using signals that a decision maker or a company exhibits, or by uncovering insights based on other passive indicators of intent. We can break it down further as follows.

1. Active High-Intent Prospects

An active high-intent prospect is someone who is currently looking for a product or service to service their individual, team, or company requirements. For example, someone who’s actively searching for wrist watches on search engines, e-commerce sites, and social media channels has a higher probability of purchasing a watch online over the next few days or weeks than someone who hasn’t performed any of these actions. The user in this example would be an active high-intent prospect for a watch brand.

In the context of B2B software, apparent buying signals that active prospective buyers could exhibit are actions like running searches, reading or downloading content, and comparing products on G2.

2. Passive High-Intent Prospects

On the other hand, a passive high-intent prospect is a user that might have an inherent need for a product, but isn’t performing any actions that might indicate that they have a requirement for it at all. These prospects might have an immediate need for the solution, or might need it sometime in the near future.

Examples of such prospects would be ones that have an upcoming contract renewal for a software they’re not particularly satisfied with, or a team that’s working in a company that has made internal changes and may purchase a specific software shortly.

In some cases, passive prospects might not even realize that a software or a solution might make a significant positive impact to their current modus operandi, and would be ready to purchase a product or service as soon as they become aware of it. In a case like this, the piece of the puzzle that’s missing is not the requirement, but the awareness about such a solution.

For example, someone who’s using Excel sheets to manage their team’s tasks might not realize that there are dedicated project management software that can help them immensely. A prospect like this one would be readily interested to buy such a product as soon as they’re made aware of the fact that said product exists.

In most cases than not, passive buying intent indicators precede active buying intent indicators, and tracking them will help companies keep an eye on prospects that are likely to purchase their product or service from an early stage.

We might have defined buying intent and high-intent prospects successfully, but the real question you might have here is, “Why is tracking buying intent important for my company?”. And this brings us to the next section of this post.

Why is tracking buying intent important?

Tracking your target prospects’ buying intent can have several advantages and benefits. Here are some of them:

  1. Optimizing Expenses & Resources: Knowing who’s more likely to purchase your product can help you optimize your ad spends and allocate sales resources wisely. Uncovering high-intent prospects can guide your Sales Development Representatives to target the right kind of clients from the get-to instead of “spraying and praying”. Similarly, it can help you pump more money into display and retargeting ads for prospects that are closer to the bottom of the funnel instead of leads that just aren’t there yet.
  2. Increasing Conversion Rates: As you’ve probably experienced already, reaching out to prospects, getting on demos, and doing so much more just to hear a flat “No” at the end of the day can be time consuming and wasteful. Understanding your prospect’s intent to purchase your product can help you target them in a timely manner, and close more successful deals, thus improving your team’s overall lead-to-deal conversion rate.
  3. Intent Based Marketing: Knowing your prospects’ level of buying intent allows you to segment them based on their propensity to purchase your product. This helps you run ads and marketing campaigns that will appeal to each segment better and work on moving them down the funnel to eventually convert them into customers.

For Sales and Marketing, the best way to depict the importance of buying intent is by drawing a comparison to a target board. Trying to make outbound sales without buying intent insights is like shooting in the dark. You’re not sure whether the target is, and you’re hoping that the arrows hit the mark, and as a result of that, you’re going to soon run out of arrows in your quiver. And the worst part? When the lights come on, you may eventually realize that you never hit the target even once.

On the other hand, using buying intent insights is like shooting arrows at a target board 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 that much more efficiency.

Making Sales & Converting Deals With & Without Buying Intent

With all that being said, we can now move on to the most important question:

How can you determine and measure buying intent?

There are several different ways to determine a prospect’s propensity to purchase your product or service. This is usually accomplished by analyzing certain signals for transactional intent from a prospect. Here are some of the signals companies use to capture buying intent insights

#1 Technology Stacks

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

#2 Reverse IP Lookups

Reverse IP lookup or reverse DNS lookup is a method using which you can find out 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 some other similar such 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.

#3 Co-op Data

Co-operatives are a group of websites or publishers that collect data from users with their consent and add it to a common repository. This information is then used by data providers and other companies to derive insights or create profiles with contact information.

#4 Website Behavior

One of the most explicit ways in which users can exhibit buying intent is by downloading collateral or filling up book-a-demo forms on websites. While these kinds of actions are transactional in nature, there are also other engagement activities that may signal buying intent, like reading multiple blog posts or spending a good amount of time looking at your products or solutions pages. The buying intent of the user may vary depending on the kind of action they perform.

#5 Analyzing Buyer Themes & Objectives

Funding history, EBIDTA information, quarterly targets, and other such financial information can also act as purchase intent signals and influence buying decisions.

#6 Company News & Updates

Funding history, EBIDTA information, quarterly targets, and other such financial information can also act as purchase intent signals and influence buying decisions.

There are a few other signals that also convey and capture user buying intent, but these are the most common ways to source this data at the moment. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s dive deeper into the different ways in which you can segment these pieces of information to deduce prospect buying intent.

Indicators of Buying Intent

How can one actually deduce the buying intent of a prospect? At this point in time, using current technology, there are three broad indicators that you can use to do this. These indicators are essentially just a collection of the different signals that we discussed in the previous section.

  1. Content Consumption:
    Content consumption can be a great indicator of purchase intent to help you find active high-intent buyers for your company. As we discussed earlier, downloading ebooks, reading reviews, comparing products, and doing online research are all actions typically performed by prospects that are actively looking out for a product.
  2. Buying Patterns:
    A company’s buying patterns can also exhibit buying intent, and 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 insights about how much budget they are able to allocate for products purchased by different teams. You can also track down prospects that are currently using your competitor’s product, but have a renewal that’s due three months from now. Play your cards right, and they might be signing up with you instead of renewing with your competitors a few weeks down the line.
  3. Thematic Analysis:
    Some prospects will innately have a higher inclination to buy your product or service over others, and that’s where the thematic analysis indicator comes into the picture. You can identify, analyze, and interpret patterns from key themes that your prospects are focusing on at the moment using insights on the software that a company uses, the keywords it is focusing on, or the industry vertical that it falls under.

Ideally, as a company, you need to be tracking all these things in a holistic sense. Focusing on just one type of buying intent might not give you the whole picture. To elaborate on this, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of using these three types of intent determination.

Buying Intent Table

As you can see here, there are a variety of pros and cons that come with tracking different types of buying intent. The ideal approach should be to keep an eye on all of these things, and if you can’t do that due to budget limitations, you could still track prospects using two of the three methods portrayed above.

And that brings to the end of this post! Well, almost. We spoke about what’s possible at this point in time, but what does the future hold for the world of buying intent?

The Future of Buying Intent

We live in a world where contact data is easily accessible and simply not actionable or valuable anymore. Personalized and targeted insights derived from raw data is the game changer today, and buying intent prediction software does a great job of doing just that.

Buying intent is already gaining more popularity, and this trend is only going to continue over the next couple of decades. Intent is currently one of the fastest growing categories in SalesTech, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. Over the next few years, we can also expect to see inbound lead scoring and other such Marketing Operations practices gain more mainstream adoption.

New ways to determine buying intent insights are still emerging, and there is no doubt that the accuracy with which companies can predict prospect requirements and intent is going to improve. It’s an exciting world we live in, and only time will tell how this will evolve. The dream is to get to a world where buyers and vendors can both know exactly whom to reach out to when there is a requirement without any friction whatsoever. Let’s hope we get there soon!

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