In a recent Forrester survey, 62% of B2B buyers said they can now develop selection criteria or finalize a vendor list solely on the basis of digital content. Even the best sales reps cannot win a deal they aren’t aware of. Although this may seem like unwelcome news for sales reps, it’s not. Sellers spend a great deal of time engaging with their buyers to ensure they are included on that final list of vendors. This still must be understood, but in addition to working directly with the buyer to gain these insights, sales should also use buying signals to identify need. Reps can use valuable direct buyer interactions to then differentiate their organization’s products and offerings from the competition.

Buyers conducting online research provide better signals than what reps can get through direct interaction alone. The biggest challenge is finding a way to take this data and translate it into recommended actions the rep can use to engage with buyers. Here are three steps sales operations can take to enable this capability:

  • Monitor intent data. The first step is to get access to this data, as it comes in many forms and from many places. There are vendors that support first-party signals like form fills and historical sales data and others that focus on third-party data publisher networks and review sites. Although all these data points offer insights, they are most valuable when aggregated and linked to accounts, contacts, and opportunities. Without this, key indicators that validate intent may be missed.
  • Translate buying signals into opportunity. Although unfiltered intent data can be useful to reps, asking them to spend time identifying opportunities from this data is time consuming. Instead, sales operations can organize the data into buying signals. For example, three contacts from the same account have downloaded an e-book on the same product. When this happens, they make a purchase within three months 62% of the time. Collaborate with marketing to agree on the best translation to ensure any opportunities that are not ready for direct sales interaction are provided with additional marketing engagement to further qualify the opportunity.
  • Translate signals into recommended actions. The third step is to offer the next-best actions that provide details on what has worked in the past to engage the buyer. For example, when an e-book is downloaded, offering a demo has been the most effective way to progress the opportunity. This helps the rep determine the next-best action but should not be mandatory. Let the rep decide what to do next, but require them to confirm the step taken. This builds an understanding of what works and what doesn’t. The next time there is a similar deal, the rep will benefit from this historical data.

Translating intent data into sales rep action offers a level of information that surpasses what sales reps can determine on their own. When done well it also links the buying signal to the action that has proven to yield the best results. Your sales team may not have as much contact with their buyers, but they can be much more informed than they were in the past and that will allow for more interactions they do have to be more impactful.