What is Buyer Sentiment?

Posted March 2, 2021

By Jordan Greene

Senior Director of Product Marketing at Outreach

Customers buy on emotion and justify with logic. According to a Harvard study, 95 percent of purchasing decisions are subconscious. Today, your sales reps rely on more than traditional ‘buying signals,’ such as completing an online form or signing up for a free trial, to identify buyer intent.

Sales reps now recognize buyer emotions and engagement. A task which has become harder— Forrester Research predicts that 80 percent of B2B sales will happen remotely. With prospects now working remotely, buying behavior can understandably be harder to spot but not impossible.

Look beyond buying behavior

The terms ‘buying behavior’ or ‘buying signals’ refer to actions prospects take when completing a purchase. These behaviors often drive any sales process forward and more specifically, infer how your sales reps should sell. Particular actions, such as clicks, opens and reply rates, indicate the ‘how’, the ‘what’, and the ‘when’ of buyers wanting to buy.

The question is — can these activities or ‘vanity metrics’ accurately show a buyers’ emotion or sentiment?

Does opening an email truly indicate how the prospect felt about that email? Or, how the potential buyer now feels about the company? Do these actions tell your sales reps whether the prospect will truly buy? Or, whether their sales efforts are working for that particular buyer?

In short, the answer is no. It is not effective to simply know when prospective buyers respond. As your sales reps eagerly look forward, best practice shows it is key to take a step back and realign on buying behavior, more specifically, buyer sentiment— the missing piece to many sales teams’ engagement playbook.

Identify true buyer intent

Buyer sentiment indicates a buyer’s emotional response to sales engagement— whether it is positive, an objection, a referral or an unsubscribe. A buyer’s reaction can indicate the likelihood of the sales process moving forward, or even the next best step for your sales reps to take.

A prospective buyer who reacts positively to an outreach, whether via email or over the phone, indicates they may be interested in finding out more information about the product or service.

However, if the prospect reacts negatively to outreach, your sales rep will need to make an informed decision on whether another method of contact would be best. These indications could also help sales reps decide whether to work with the marketing team to create a nurture journey, or even whether to hold off until a later date. Buyer sentiment can help your sales reps truly listen to what the prospect is telling them.

Buyer sentiment should also inform your sales timeline. Recent research shows the window of opportunity narrows with each day that passes without speaking to the prospect. Therefore, a general sales rule is that it’s critical to follow up with buyers sooner than later. While a positive response requires immediate outreach, further outreach after a negative response can cause more harm than good down the line— best to allow a ‘cooling-off’ period. Time is of the essence in sales, so dialing into emotional cues and reacting timely and appropriately is key.

It is no longer enough to know if and when buyers respond to communications but how well they respond. Sales reps need to focus on buyer sentiment over traditional signs of ‘buying behavior’ to truly understand a prospect.

Discover how understanding buyer sentiment can help you close deals faster. Get a free copy of our new ebook, “Outcome Over Output: Why reply sentiment delivers better outcomes than reply rate.”


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