Social Buying Signals: What They Are and How to Use Them

Guest Post by Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing and the author of Successful Social Selling.

Sales and marketing professionals have talked about buying signals for a long time. And traditionally, those buying signals have focused on immediate, ready-to-buy moments. For example, asking about price, time to installation, etc.

These buying signals still exist, but a whole new set of buying signals exist today that few sales and marketing professionals look for and leverage.  And that creates a significant “leveling effect” and competitive advantage for all companies, big and small, who find and leverage them.

On social media, buying signals start early

One of the greatest benefits of the social Web, especially for B2B companies, is how early in the process buyers start signaling a need. They don’t ask for price or delivery time. They express a need or a pain. They describe an obstacle to which they haven’t yet identified a solution.

Your prospective customers are also complaining about their current vendors. Expressing frustration with an earlier way of doing something (which they’re still using). Looking for something that will help with this problem, but which they can’t yet explain or articulate.

If you watch and listen, you’ll hear prospects ready to switch. Some are still discovering the pain, others are actively seeking solutions.

But these are the buying signals that surround us every day. If you’re not listening – if you aren’t actively seeking the channels your customers & prospects are using to communicate, and establishing listening platforms to capture what they need – you’re missing a huge selling opportunity.

How to respond to buying signals

Of course, how you respond to these buying signals is also key. Most of these prospects are very early stage, and will not respond well to a sales offer. They will respond, however, to advice. Help. A link to a best practice article. Someone who helps them discover and self-educate.

The source of that information has a leg-up on a sales process that hasn’t begun, but where the prospect is already becoming qualified and establishing solution preferences.

There are several ways to look for these buying signals.  On Twitter, for example, you can set up searches in Vocus to follow your prospects and watch for keywords and phrases that you know to be buying signals.

You can also use tools such as Twithawk and Nearstream to search the entire Twitterverse for instances of keywords and phrases from prospects you don’t yet know.  Want to know every time someone within 50 miles of your offices uses the phrase “server failure”?  These tools can do it for you.

Key to this, of course, is understanding your customers and prospects better than you likely do today.  It’s about knowing the root cause for and reason behind why they might want to engage with you in the first place.  It’s about understanding and leveraging the context in which they’re working, the core needs & pain they have, the aspirational objectives and outcomes they’re seeking.

Unlock this intelligence, and you’ll have a treasure trove of buying signals to mine, respond to and convert.

Your new customers are looking for you. They just don’t know it yet. How will you respond?

Matt Heinz is president of Heinz Marketing, a Redmond-based sales & marketing firm. You can connect with Matt via emailTwitterLinkedIn or his blog.

Image: James Jordan (Creative Commons)

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