In the online world, there is a lot of confusion about what constitutes a buying signal. Here are four things you should know:

1.     LinkedIn. A prospect accepting your LinkedIn connection request is not exhibiting a buying signal. For most people, the bar for accepting a LinkedIn connection request may be lower than it is for a Facebook friend request. Accepting your request gives you the ability to see deeper into your new connection’s network and she into yours.

Comments about your contribution to a LinkedIn group (or responses to your comments) are not buying signals. The nature of the engagement tells you nothing (unless, of course, it does). High engagement on something you post is no indication that what you posted has moved anyone to action. Engagement is not a buying signal.

A prospect sending you a LinkedIn request may be a buying signal, while an InMail asking you contact to him is absolutely so.

2.     Followers. If you are out in the online world being social, someone deciding to follow you is not a buying signal. Neither is someone retweeting something you tweeted or shared. These social tools are designed for sharing content.

The number of your followers might be a good measure of your popularity. It might also be a good indication of how much time (or money) you have invested in social media. But it is not a good indication of whether or not someone is interested in buying now.

Having a prospect tweet you asking you to call him is a signal with some weight.

3.     Downloads. If you were to ask those who have downloaded a white paper whether they hoped to be immediately called by a salesperson, the percentage would be very, very low. (But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call.) There are a lot of people who like to read and discover new ideas and new ways they might improve their situations who also have zero interest in buying whatever it is you sell.

A lot of downloads may be a measure of how good your content is. It might also be a good measure of how well you write a compelling title. It is not, however, a reliable buying signal.

4.     Webinar attendance. In general, businesspeople like to learn. They want to know things they don’t already know, and they want to be prepared for changes in their business. Your webinars should be built around an insight you can share and teach. Your approach shouldn’t be “sign up for our webinar, so we can call and pitch you afterward.” (Although I would never suggest that you shouldn’t follow up with webinar attendees. It is possible to do so with without being a nuisance.)

Of course you need to build your brand online. But the metrics that indicate how well you are building your brand don’t say much about how well you sell. Don’t confuse some of the conventions of the online world for buying signals when they’re not.

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S. Anthony Iannarino is the managing director of B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, a boutique sales coaching and consulting company, and an adjunct faculty member at Capital University’s School of Management and Leadership. For more information, go http://thesalesblog.com/s-anthony-iannarino/.