Where do we start? How do we build a sales pipeline robust enough to hit our quota when we’ve nothing but a blank pad of paper, an empty contact list, and a fresh inbox? In this series, we’ll look at how to build a sales pipeline from scratch, using the most modern digital tools and techniques at an individual level.
Part 3: Triggering Interest
Triggering interest, triggering the decision to look for a solution to a problem, requires us to have an audience that’s paying attention.
The Interested Audience
Depending on our industry, at any given time only a small percentage of our audience will have a problem we solve. The rest of the audience isn’t in a buying or even seeking mindset. They’re along for the ride, and our role to them is to be a helpful provider of value – typically information – until they have a problem we solve.
Thus, our first and most important task as a salesperson is to create the interested audience. How do we build an interested audience? Predominantly through two channels: email and social media.
Every salesperson needs a personal website of some kind; from this home base, they launch all their audience operations including a newsletter. A salesperson should be sending out a newsletter appropriate to their sales cycle; I send one out weekly. What’s in the newsletter? About 80-90% of the newsletter is industry news or commentary, and about 10-20% is something for sale (typically books or training courses). Thus, the vast majority of the newsletter benefits the reader – helping create an engaged, interested audience.
We use the website as the place for people to sign up for the newsletter. How do we shepherd people to the website? By creating content that attracts them through search, and through the use of social media.
The second way we build an interested, engaged audience is using social media, especially LinkedIn. By following people who are likely to be interested in what we do and sharing information that is relevant, timely, and valuable, we attract an interested, engaged audience. From our social sharing, we nudge people towards our website, where they can sign up for our email newsletter.
What to Create
Fundamentally, we can create three kinds of content that prospects might engage with:
- Content that explains why they’re even interacting with us
- Content that explains what their problem is
- Content that explains how to solve their problem
This content exists on a spectrum of buying intent.
Someone who becomes aware of a problem and is researching why it’s a problem has little to no buying intent. They’re just getting a handle on the problem itself.
Someone seeking clarity about what the problem is, what the nuances are, what the potential solutions could be has moderate buying intent.
Someone seeking how to solve a problem or how to use a product or service category has significantly higher buying intent.
As we look for content to share with their audiences through social media and our email newsletter, as we write new content for our website and our email, we should strive to create a balance of content in the three categories listed above.
If we are skillful in our use of measurement, we can determine what stage our various audience members are in based on the content they consume, share, and engage with. An audience that engages with mostly why content means that they are at the very beginning of their journey. It’s unlikely we’re going to trigger any interest. An audience that engages in mostly how content indicates stronger buying intent. This is an audience in which we will trigger interest for what we have to sell.
Building an Audience Takes Time
Let’s set expectations: building an audience takes a lot of time. It’s not something you can do overnight or even in a year. Building a strong, vibrant, loyal audience requires effort, time, and some resources. as salespeople building relationships, we know that relationships don’t happen instantly – at least, not ones worth anything. building an audience is no different.
Next: Creating Service Awareness
Once we’ve built our audience, we will need to create awareness of our products and services. Stay tuned for the next post in this series on that topic.