Your prospects are out there right now, hunting for a solution to a problem you can solve. They’re searching online, reading content, and comparing options to relieve their pain.

But they’re not asking your sales team for help. In fact, the average B2B buyer is mostly through the buyer journey before they ever engage with a salesperson. 

What if you could get ahead of this process? 

That’s the goal of buyer intent data, a cutting edge sales intelligence tool that cues you into prospects’ subtle buying signals, positioning you to be first in the door to make your pitch.

To use a sports analogy, if firmographic data shows where all the players are on the field, intent data shows what they’re each about to do next.

What is Intent Data?

Intent data shows which leads or accounts are actively conducting research online. When research on a particular topic spikes in activity (is significantly higher than usual), the account is shown to “surge” on those topics. 

Sales and marketing teams can then prioritize accounts that are surging on relevant topics over equally qualified accounts that don’t show intent. When used correctly, B2B intent data dramatically boosts conversions and sales.

Activities that link buyers and accounts to a topic include:

  • Downloads of whitepapers, case studies, tech publications
  • Website visits
  • Product reviews
  • Time on website pages related to industry topics
  • Online subscriptions to newsletters and updates
  • Views of infographics
  • Attendance of webinars
  • Spikes in content consumption on a given topic

When buyers have pain points, they visit websites, read articles, download ebooks and whitepapers – and generally rack up a lot of digital footprints as they consume content across the internet. (B2B buyers – they’re just like the rest of us!)

Organizations that can collect and use online data – behavioral signals – are able to reach buyers much earlier in the process, guiding the decision-making process before a competitor even knows about their prospect’s interest.

But most of the time, the first salesperson through the door wins the business.

Buying intent indicators represents a huge opportunity for forward-thinking companies.

“In theory, the digital footprint that B2B buyers create may actually be bigger, or at least have more depth and breadth. So, why is it easier for a small floral delivery service to target a B2C buyer online than, say, a 1,000-person data security company that provides its services exclusively to financial services companies based in the United States?”

Henry Shuck, ZoomInfo CEO, in Forbes

How is Buyer Intent Data Collected?

87% of pre-purchase research is done online: Web searches and content consumption is a strong signal of buyer intent. The easiest way to access this data is to buy it from a third-party vendor.

These platforms collect and aggregate online research activity from a data-sharing co-op that includes thousands of B2B websites and media publishers. From these publishers and websites, they also analyze billions of content consumption events.

By aggregating activities each week, they create baselines for each company’s average content consumption over time – and look for surges above normal levels of topic searches.

Of course, it’s hard to act on raw data. To generate a “surge,” data vendors’ algorithms typically factor in a number of indicators including:

  • Amount of content consumed
  • Number of consumers
  • Types of content consumed
  • Time on page
  • Scroll speed

Company surge data allows providers to send relevant information in an unobtrusive way at the right time in their research journey.

It also helps down funnel salespeople focus their time when those opportunities are coming to fruition and want to hear from them.

How is Intent Data Different than Other Web Tracking Data?

When prospective buyers hit your website, you can track the activity and bump up lead scores. Or at the very least, when someone fills out and submits a form on your website, you can nurture them with ads and email, and potentially convert them.

Great. But what about all those prospects that are researching solutions like yours elsewhere on the web?

What if they’re researching, but not on your website? When your prospects go to other websites, you have no visibility into their activity or implied intent.

Ad for ZoomInfo's Chrome extention, ReachOut. It allows you to see in your web browser all the data ZoomInfo has on the company who's website you're visiting.

How Do You Use B2B Intent Data?

Initiating go-to market plans are effective to customers and prospects because of B2B intent data. It helps sales and marketing teams with segmenting activity and contacting the right people.

Companies that don’t use predictive intelligence data are limiting their response to data from their own website, while their potential buyer has likely been trying to solve a pain point for weeks.

There are five main use cases for sales and marketing teams using intent data in 2021:

  1. Identify early buyer interest: Purchase intent signals help identify which companies are actively researching your solution – before they fill out a form on your site or engage with your sales or marketing teams.
  2. Build targeted account lists: Sales and marketing teams can dynamically filter outreach lists for accounts that show active interest.
  3. Personalization: Marketing and sales teams can better personalize initial outreach with resources that match whatever accounts are already looking for.
  4. Lead scoring and prioritizing accounts: Use predictive purchase data to weight your lead scoring model: Give priority to companies that demonstrate interest and purchase intent – before they initiate the buying process with a competitor.
  5. Analyze and retain customers: Get real-time visibility into which customers are researching topics and solutions. Insights like this on existing customers make it possible to up-sell proactively, as well as identify pain points – before you’re blindsided by customers who failed to renew or bought an offering from a competitor they didn’t know you had.

Why is Predictive Data Important for B2B Sales?

According to TOPO’s Account-Based Technology Report, B2B intent data is the fastest-growing solution in the sales tech stack. (Translation: If your competitors haven’t already started to use it, they’re thinking about it.)

Get in Front of Buyers Earlier in the Buying Process

Most B2B customers prefer to research independently online. Predictive purchase data allows sales and marketing teams to initiate contact with buyers earlier in the buying cycle.

We don’t expect this trend of self-guided buyer research to change anytime soon.

And companies who wait for prospective buyers to stumble across a landing page are going to be late to the game.

Other benefits of utilizing predictive data include:

  • Identifying and leveraging a vast amount of contacts for account targeting, finding the ideal buyer
  • Having opportunity with potential customers that haven’t directly engaged with sales and marketing teams yet
  • Calculating more effective sales and marketing plans using content consumption
  • Maintaining and personalizing relationships with lead

What are Other Types of B2B Data?

Intent data is rarely used alone. To make intent data actionable, it’s helpful to have other types of data, too.

Knowing that a lead is interested in a particular topic isn’t very useful unless that lead is also qualified to buy. That’s why intent data is often paired with firmographic, technographic, and other data which narrow the list of accounts to just those that are high-fit.

You can think about buyer data in three categories: Fit, Intent, and Opportunity.

Infographic explaining fit, opportunity and intent data.

Fit Data

Fit data includes all the different ways of segmenting and scoring prospects (technographic data) and accounts (firmographic data). This includes demographics like job level, job function, age, and location. It also includes company firmographics such as tech stack, size/revenue, industry, and budget.

Fit data is pretty static. It can tell you whether an organization or an individual contact is generally a good fit – but says nothing about context or timing.

Opportunity Data

We refer to opportunity data as “Scoops.” These indicate favorable conditions, within an organization, for a sale. Scoops are company events like new rounds of funding, moves and shake-ups in the C-suite, mergers and acquisitions, new store openings. And all of these buyer signals show favorable conditions for a sale.

Intent Data

This tells you that the time is right. People are actively showing intent to purchase a solution. It’s important because it shows that the timing is right to engage.

When you combine intent data with other signals and a strong fit, the likelihood of success is much higher.

It’s helpful to know when there’s activity at a company, but if you don’t know who to engage with and don’t have a phone number or email address for them, it may be insightful, but it isn’t actionable.

The data trifecta of Fit, Opportunity, and Intent puts all the pieces together.

Evaluating Intent Platforms

When evaluating intent data providers, here are a few crucial questions to ask:

  • Does the data map to leads, accounts, or both?
  • How broad is the coverage and how granular is the detail?
  • Can the provider deliver context? That is, do they provide a breakdown for how the scores are calculated?
  • Does this data integrate into your existing marketing system, CRM, and scoring model?
  • Intent data works best when blended with other sources

With ZoomInfo’s Streaming Intent, you are alerted in real time, the moment a new intent signal is detected. And because our intent data is integrated with the ZoomInfo platform, we save you time by suggesting contacts to reach out to based on your ideal customer profile.

Learn more about selecting a B2B data provider company.


Intent data, like any data, is not infallible. If you use intent data to focus only on buyers who show intent, you’ll invariably exclude some buyers who are interested but who are not captured by the intent data provider’s model.

Too much focus on intent data can also lead marketers to prioritize quick wins at the expense of building a sustainable pipeline. B2B Intent data works best when paired with other data to create a holistic scoring model that also reflects fit and engagement.

Ultimately, If used in the right balance, intent can be a powerful predictor of which accounts are likely to buy.

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About the author

Justin Withers

Justin is the Senior Vice President of Strategy & Corporate Development at ZoomInfo. He brings a decade of experience driving pipeline and revenue growth at B2B technology companies.

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