How To Shorten Your B2B Sales Cycle With Buying Signals

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The COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 was a year that shook the sales industry and forced nearly everyone to embrace new ways of generating leads and, more importantly, closing sales. A recent McKinsey survey found that B2B respondents across 11 countries in seven sectors had interesting conclusions to share about how their companies have changed because of the pandemic:

 

“Looking forward, B2B companies see digital interactions as two to three times more important to their customers than traditional sales interactions.” 

Almost 90 percent of sales have moved to a video conferencing (VC)/phone/web sales model, and while some skepticism remains, more than half [of businesses] believe this is equally or more effective than sales models used before COVID-19.”

The B2B digital inflection point: How sales have changed during COVID-19, MicKinsey & Company
 

Fortunately, the same survey has shown that spending among these businesses has remained intact or has increased, as new initiatives and projects are taken to adapt to these uncertain times. 

Because of this trend, we need to adjust our perception about buying signals in this new normal, considering most transactions and sales are now closed more through digital channels than traditional means.

In this post, we’ll go through everything you need to know about how to optimize your B2B sales cycle with buying signals so your business can close sales faster. Here is a roadmap of what we’ll cover:

 

What are buying signals? 

First things first, we need to understand what buying signals are.

Buying signals are clues from your buyers, based on their behavior, that indicate their intention or willingness to buy from your business. These point to how ready your customer is to complete a purchase or close a sale.

In a B2B setting, buying signals are helpful for determining whether your leads are ready to be brought from simply nurturing tactics to sales pitches and deals. 

Because you might have to deal with multiple decision-makers before a sale is made when you’re in B2B sales, it’s not only important to monitor which buying signals matter, it’s crucial to know which signals coming from which decision-maker matters most.

Different customers may come to your business in various stages. Some may not be aware that they need your solution, so these leads may require education and further nurturing before they purchase. 

Others may already be problem aware and are trying to find solution providers that can best meet their needs. At this stage, most buyers will only require the final few stages of your sales process before they might convert, as they’ll want to see how you as a business can cater to their specific needs.

Finally, you might meet buyers who are already provider aware, meaning they already know different providers who might be able to meet their business needs. They’re at a point where they’re deliberating who is best, and you’d need to convince them that you’re the best provider for them. Each buyer at different stages will have different buying signals. 

 

Critical buying signals to monitor 

 

1. Types of content consumed

You may already be familiar with how different content contributes to buyers at different stages in their buyer’s journey. Pay attention to what type of content your buyers are consuming on your platforms.

Many leads, qualified and unqualified, will likely hover only around the top of the funnel content. You’ll want to monitor those leads and buyers consuming either middle of the funnel content or bottom of the funnel content. 

Nextiva shares a great example of middle of funnel content. In its blog, it explains what a hosted contact center is and why it counts as the middle of the funnel. The article explains that buyers would need to be aware they have a problem that can be solved by a hosted contact center, or they think it is a possible solution. Potential buyers who read through the post could prove to be viable leads who are curious about whether or not a hosted contact center will actually help them and their business.

 

2. Sign up to a content offer 

Another strong buying signal is when leads sign up for content offers. Depending on the content offer, leads may sign up to receive a case study or a webinar. Newsletter sign ups and opt-ins also count toward this signal as it may point to leads being interested in hearing more from your brand over time.

Fortunately, it’s easy to track each lead who signs up for a content offer using simple reporting tools and it is beneficial to monitor those leads opting-in to multiple content offers you provide, since the more a lead engages, the warmer they might be. If you notice leads who are constantly opting in to free content offers, that can be a good signal they’re ready to move down the funnel.

 

3. Posts on social media 

Engagement on social media is another good sign that someone might be ready to buy from you. Engagement metrics can be as simple as a prospect liking and commenting on your posts or watching your stories on Instagram or Facebook. Though some leads may even go further and engage via private messaging.

Any lead who actively follows you on your social media profiles may indicate that they’re ripe for outreach, so be sure to keep track and reach out when you find people like this.

 

4. Visits to your pricing page 

Another buying signal that you should watch out for in your B2B sales cycle is when a lead visits your pricing page. That indicates they have a strong interest in what you offer. They’re aware you have a solution for their needs and are now looking at how much it might be to invest in your services.

If a lead is already on your pricing page, this would be a good opportunity to reach out and offer to help. Chatbots on the pricing page work well here to shorten the sales cycle and answer potential buyers’ questions faster.

 

5. Nonverbal gestures and expressions 

If you take sales calls to close sales, some strong buying signals can come from your customers’ nonverbal gestures and expressions when you’re speaking to them. As you talk about your offer and how you might be able to help, observe how your leads react.

Are they nodding along enthusiastically? Do they seem interested in what you have to say? Is their body language conveying openness? Or are they distracted and closed off?

These nonverbal cues can point to how interested or enthusiastic a buyer is. The more positive their reactions, the better chances you have of closing a sale. If not, you might need to think about how to nurture leads better in order to drive them down the funnel in the future.

 

7 ways to shorten your B2B sales cycle 

Now that you know different buying signals that are critical for your business, it’s time to look at different strategies that will help you shorten your B2B sales cycle using these signals.

 

1. Clearly define your ideal customer 

Clearly defining your ideal customer goes beyond simply knowing their demographic information—you want to understand what goes on in their lives and businesses that might provide opportunities for your brand to be present.

If your buyer isn’t the key decision-maker in the business, create separate buyer personas for those people as well. If you know who influences the decisions of your target audience, you might be able to better prepare steps in your funnel geared toward every decision-maker in the transaction.

Knowing your customer will help you not only craft better marketing messaging, but even help you determine different channels to invest time on and which publications or blogs to build links through. This way, you can shorten your B2B sales cycle and optimize your time. 

 

2. Align your sales and marketing teams 

One crucial step to making sure your sales cycle is as efficient as possible is to make sure your marketing and sales teams are aligned. Both teams should be on the same page about promotions, campaigns, audiences and buyer journeys.

The insights sales teams might possibly hear while prospecting or during their interactions with customers can be relayed to your marketing team, which can then help them create better marketing messages and campaigns that can help with warming up leads. 

On the other hand, marketing teams can give information about what types of content and nurturing activities specific leads have gone through so that sales teams know exactly what customers have already been consuming prior to a sales call.

 

3. Carefully map your content within your marketing funnel 

If you’re already investing time and effort into your content marketing strategy, you want to make sure your content is free of any gaps and helps take leads down your sales funnel. You can do this by mapping out different content types and pieces in each stage of the buyer’s journey and assigning how your content meets customers where they are.

 
Content marketing funnel chart
Image source
 

Generally, top of the funnel content falls under the awareness stage. A majority of users will fall under this stage, and users who consume your top of the funnel content may not necessarily be qualified leads.

New leads that are qualified, however, may become interested in your middle of the funnel content. These might be more specific blog posts and videos that show them how to use your service or that you understand their problems.

Finally, leads landing at the bottom of the funnel are most primed to be sold to. They might be swayed through free trials, a webinar, or directed to a free consultation call. At this stage, you want to provide content that seals the deal and shows that your service is the best for them.

 

4. Embrace marketing automation 

It’s hard to shorten your B2B sales cycle without the right tools, and while it’s impossible to track each lead’s activity with your brand manually, fortunately we have marketing automation and sales intelligence tools on our side.

Marketing automation tools, like a CRM or an email marketing software, can help you understand where your leads came in from and what they’re signing up for, as well as determine whether or not they’re qualified, and if they’re ready to be pitched to.

All these details can help paint a clear picture about each lead, so that by the time you get them on a call, you have everything there is to know about their business and what they need to know about yours.

 

5. Practice lead scoring 

Lead scoring brings together many of the things we’ve been talking about in this post. This is because lead scoring is a quantifiable way to track buying signals.

When you practice lead scoring in your sales cycle, you assign a specific score (positive or negative) to a particular action that a lead takes. For instance, leads may get negative points if they aren’t the right decision-makers, while leads get positive points if they sign up for your newsletter, click links in your emails, or sign up for a company webinar.

You’ll also have a matrix that tells you when a lead has scored high enough that they might be more likely to convert. This way, you’re efficiently making the best use of everyone’s time as you won’t be offering a pitch too prematurely.

 

6. Launch a remarketing strategy 

Remarketing strategies are important because sometimes it can be hard to keep leads engaged with your brand. The goal of this strategy is to try to get leads to engage with your brand more–whether to check out new content offers or to be reminded of the services they were checking previously. An example of this is, leads might see your remarketing ad on a social media platform or a banner ad on a different site that reminds them of your service. Your sales team should work with your marketing team to develop an effective remarketing strategy that will continually bring in new leads. 

 

7. Monitor and evaluate your results 

As with any marketing strategy, it is extremely important to closely monitor the results of your efforts. The goal is to shorten your B2B sales cycle, so after you implement the steps in this article you’ll want to see if specific steps actually helped.

You might make educated guesses about the best buying signals your specific customers have, but putting them to the test is the only way to know if your guesses were right. Over time, you’ll be able to notice trends and make stronger connections among the different buying signals of customers.

 

Key Takeaways

Monitoring buying signals is one  of the most important steps in shortening your B2B sales cycle. They can tell you whether or not a lead is ready for a sale, and the information can help you create more efficient sales funnels and make better use of your sales team’s time and effort. Use the tips in this guide to help you understand different buying signals to help shorten your B2B sales cycle and convert leads faster.


Kevin Payne, Growth & Content Marketer headshot

Kevin Payne is a content marketing consultant who helps software companies build marketing funnels and implement content marketing campaigns to increase their inbound leads.