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Buying Signals in Sales: 6 “Weak” Signals You Could Be Missing Out On

May 18, 2022
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Buying signals in sales are signs that indicate a potential sales opportunity or suggest that a prospect is interested in buying a product.

Strong signals are easily spotted. Examples of buying signals include behavioral and verbal cues like a prospect responding to email outreach or asking questions.

Other signals are less obvious. They’re gleaned from company news, recruitment drives, customer reviews, and other data.

These are what we call “weak signals”. Easy to overlook, weak signals play an important role in fine-tuning your pitch, timing your outreach, and closing more deals. You just need to know how to identify them. 

Buying Signal Examples: What Do We Mean By “Weak” Signal?

The use of weak signals is a B2B sales strategy that focuses on low-frequency, subtle signs that a business might be interested in buying from you. Examples include company fundraising, the arrival of new team members, or new office openings.

The idea of monitoring weak signals was created in the 70's by Igor Ansoff, a mathematician and business manager. His theory was to use weak signals to build a "Strategic Early Warning System" and avoid bad surprises.

We can apply the same theory to a sales setting to identify potential business opportunities.

Weak signals give context and relevance to your outreach, offering a boost to any prospecting, activation or reactivation campaign.

How to Use Weak Signals in Your Sales Strategy

There are two approaches to using weak buying signals in sales:

  1. Without any structure or strategy. You listen out for “everything” and contact any company showing the slightest example of a buying signal. Obviously, it doesn’t work — a signal alone doesn’t qualify a lead.
  2. Where you work off a pre-filtered B2B prospect list. This is a list of companies based on your ideal target and enriched with data using a
  3. web scraping and data enrichment tool like Captain Data.

This second approach is the one we’ll focus on. You can’t use weak signals successfully without first qualifying your prospect accounts.

And to do this, you need to know your audience and target personas. The first thing to do, if you haven’t already done it, is define your Ideal Customer Profile.

<div class="cms-tips"><div>ℹ️</div><p>Reminder: An Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) represents the type of customer that’s most likely to need your product or service, i.e. the one you want to win over. It’s this customer you should focus your sales and marketing efforts on. Once you define an ICP, it’s easy to produce a list of corresponding companies and know which signals to look out for.</p></div>

Defining your target profile and its associated signals

To get the max value from weak signals, be strategic. Before launching a prospecting campaign, follow these three simple steps to define your ICP: 

  1. Make a list of your best customers
  2. Identify common characteristics
  3. Prioritize these characteristics

This way you start your campaign with a precise idea of which type of company to target. The next step is identifying which signals lead to this target and where to look for them.

Example: You’re selling a cloud-based phone service and you’re targeting companies with large customer service operations. 

  • The signal to look for: either a large number of employees in customer service roles OR a newly launched recruitment drive for customer service agents 
  • Where to find these signals: LinkedIn Sales Navigator to check team size and recruitment sites like Indeed to find job offers

Once you know what to look for, the next thing is to create a lead-scoring system based on different buying signals and events. Keep in mind that not every signal will be relevant; it depends on the target company.

6 Less-Obvious Buying Signals You Should Watch Out For

1 - Company recruitment and hiring trends 🤝

Job vacancies tell a lot about a company’s strategy and current situation.

Recruitment drives can indicate that a company is growing and expanding to new markets. Or that it’s struggling due to understaffing issues.

The amount of job vacancies gives clues as to the projected growth. And the type of recruitment (senior profiles, middle management) indicates the current phase of development — a confirmed product-market fit, hyper-growth, restructuring, etc.

Hiring certain roles can also predict future gameplays. For example, recruiting senior finance managers, following a recent funding round, is a strong signal this company might look to acquire other companies.

How to use recruitment as a business signal: Detailed method and example

  1. Define the target. For example, you’re looking for early-stage companies in the process of structuring their financial and administrative departments. Hiring a CFO is a strong buying signal.
  2. Go to recruitment sites like Indeed or any niche site for hiring financial professionals. Find companies hiring CFOs and prepare a list of about 50 companies to contact. For each company that’s hiring, you’ll need to find the right contact and create a tailored cold email sequence.
  3. Scale your prospecting strategy with tools like Captain Data to identify buying signals, Dropcontact or to find individual contact information, and a tool like Lemlist to launch cold email campaigns. 

If you worked for Agicap, a cash flow forecasting tool, you could find a company that’s building out its finance department. Contact the CEO or founder, and highlight the value of your solution for a company like theirs. While the future CFO will likely be the decision-maker, you'll at least be fast-tracked onto their to-do list once they arrive.

What you shouldn’t do, however, is reach out to every possible company recruiting a finance director. Make sure each company actually corresponds to your ICP. What type of company is it? What type of role is this? Is there a keyword to help qualify the target better?

Before launching a prospecting campaign on the basis of weak signals, it’s best to test such signals manually to understand the value and confirm if they’re worth pursuing.

Want to know how to build a lead gen machine like the one described in step 3? Book a demo with Captain Data and we’ll show you. 🔥

2 - Position changes and new arrivals 📢

The arrival of a new manager represents two things: a new strategy and new needs. The manager will likely be a decision-maker and buyer.

In short, this kind of buying signal can represent huge value for you.

You can track such signals on Linkedin Sales Navigator by searching "Manager / company name" and then importing the company’s LinkedIn URL into your CRM.

When you automate this process with Captain Data, there are several steps:

  1. The LinkedIn profile is extracted by scraping the company website
  2. If no LinkedIn profile URL is found on the website, Captain Data runs a Google search to find it there instead.
  3. Data from the LinkedIn page is automatically extracted and recorded.

When you analyze the data, there are two possible scenarios:

  1. There’s been no change in positions
  2. There have been significant changes in positions and leadership, which indicates a business expansion or new strategy

In the case of no.2, you can use this weak signal is to qualify your leads and create context for your outreach message.

<div class="cms-tips"><div>💡</div><p>Top tip: the best way to keep up with newly appointed positions is to regularly enrich your CRM with up to date information. We’ve actually written an entire article on how we enrich our own CRM here at Captain Data. Check it out to see exactly what the process looks like.</p></div>

3 - Funding, acquisitions, mergers and related milestones 💸

Fundraising events, IPOs, SPACs, mergers and acquisitions all indicate that a target company has entered a new development phase. Big changes are happening internally which creates a great opportunity for B2B sales.

You don’t need to wonder about a prospect’s budget. You know for sure that a company has extra funds available. And with more money to spend, there’s a good chance they’ll be open to new service providers. Use this type of weak signal to reach out to a prospect at the right time.

<div class="cms-tips"><div>⚠️</div><p>A word of warning: Because this signal is so easy to spot, it often gets misused. While it might be tempting to reach out to a company founder directly, it’s better to spend time looking for the operational contact within the team. Founders get spammed with this type of outreach all the time so they’re more likely to ignore your message.</p></div>

There are a number of sources to identify and monitor such buying signals:

  • Business news sites like TechCrunch that focus on investments and funding
  • Platforms like Crunchbase which provide information about private and public companies. You can monitor the pages of companies you’re interested in from $29 a month.   

4 - Signs of international expansion 🌎

So why should a salesperson take notice of a company going global?

Because such signals can reveal a wealth of potential business opportunities!

When a company expands into a new market, you can safely assume there’s a budget behind the project along with a need for new tools and services.

Think about it. A company launching in a new country needs:

  • Employees
  • Suppliers
  • Customers
  • Partners
  • Office space

However, such signals can be tricky to identify. You can run an X-ray search on Google or LinkedIn to see which countries a company has employees in but it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s any strategy or entity for that country.

Sparklane is a predictive lead scoring solution that uses artificial intelligence to predict company trajectories (and potentially, signs of going international).

Another option is to scrape a company’s website for information about its operating locations or news articles about new office openings.

5 - Customer reviews ✅

Customer reviews can also reveal a wealth of information about prospects. Not only do they provide valuable insights about a company and its product, but also about its customers (who can become qualified leads for you!).

1. Information about the company itself 

It could be a company you’re prospecting or a competitor you want to monitor. The volume and quality of a company's customer reviews are a good indication of a product strategy.

For example, if an email marketing software concentrates all its customer reviews on the Shopify marketplace, it's obvious this company wants to develop its ecommerce vertical. On the other hand, a company that builds its reviews on Google My Business is looking to develop local traffic.

2. Information about a company’s customers

Customer reviews for a competitor solution can highlight potential leads. Customers who are unsatisfied with a competitor solution and its limitations are the perfect targets — if you’ve got a good counter-offer. To position your offer as a better alternative, use negative reviews as talking points in your outreach.

If you sell a Shopify marketing tool for ecommerce owners, contact the ones who complain about a lack of marketing tools on Shopify. There’s legitimate interest because the Shopify user has expressed a desire to have a tool like yours. 

6 - Using new software or tools 🔧

New software is a strong sign of a change in company strategy and a potential openness to try other tools.

You can easily check and monitor a company’s tech stack with lookup tools like Builtwith or Visum.

The use of niche tools can give important context on a lead. A pricey SEO tool like Clearscope for example, suggests a significant investment in content marketing.

But the real value lies in identifying the new tools being used. The fact that a company switches from one software to another, or that it’s using a certain tool, gives an idea of a company's current issues and strategic vision.

For example, a company that installs a CRM like Salesforce is probably structuring its sales processes. A tool like Marketo suggests significant investment in lead nurturing and relationship marketing.

Weak Buying Signals are a Real Business Opportunity

In short, weak signals unlock a wealth of business opportunities and you really don’t want to miss out. The tricky part is monitoring and interpreting them, and then choosing the right time to make your move.

Captain Data’s automation platform lets you monitor business signals and automatically enrich your CRM with fresh, relevant data.


Guillaume Odier
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