How Successful Sellers Use Content to Fill Their Lagging Pipelines
It sucks to be in a sales slump. The fear of not having enough business creeps in — and it’s paralyzing.
Your anxiety runs at an all-time high.
You’re ruminating on worst-case scenarios (am I going to lose my job? My business? My house? — hell, how am I going to eat?)
Okay, let’s not panic.
It happens to all of us.
And I know you’re anxious to take action — but what?
You can’t just pick up the phone and get appointments like it’s 1999.
So, where do you start?
When it gets to this point, take a step back, get organized, and develop a plan taken from the playbooks of the most successful digital sales and marketing experts who are using content to engage, educate and shorten sales cycles.
Step #1. Stick to Your Ideals
Now is the time to get super clear on what your ideal prospect looks like.
If you’ve done this in the past, do it again. You’ll most likely have new information to add and discover some “aha” moments. For example, what have you been consistently hearing in sales calls? What personas do you typically engage with? Is there a typical evaluation and buying process?
This activity will put you in the right frame of mind to grab the low hanging fruit in your database.
Your ideal prospect profiles should include:
- Industries, geographies, company size (revenue and employee count), and buyer personas
- Typical problems that they must solve
- How you have engaged with them in the past
- What was their buying process (what titles were involved in the decision)
- How long it took to make the sale (from initial engagement to close)
Step #2: Bring the Pain
People buy solutions to their problems that must be solved.
So, once you’ve developed your ideal prospect profiles, key in on two or three of the most compelling pain points among them.
It’s always funny to me how prospects think that their problems are unique.
Then go through your past content (blog posts, white papers, ebooks, infographics, webinars, videos, etc.) and look for any that speak directly to that problem and how to solve it.
Classify them in separate content libraries for quick access.
From those content assets, are any of them lead magnets? (Lead magnets are content that lives behind a landing page where they have to give up their information to get access).
If you can’t find a lead magnet that’s compelling enough, you’ll need to create one. But don’t reinvent the wheel here — go through your library and pull together past content into a new piece that speaks to that pain point directly.
For example, can you put together a compelling webinar? Do you have enough blog posts to culminate them into a new white paper?
Your lead magnet should give you intelligence on that prospect — a topic where you know they’re not going to download that asset unless they’re having that problem.
Also, you do not have the luxury of addressing multiple pain points in one lead magnet. There can be multiple facets to that pain point (which can make some interesting blog posts) but it needs to point to one very specific pain.
Step #3: Build the path
Once you’ve identified the most compelling lead magnet, you want your prospects to find it.
To do that, you need a content distribution strategy. That can be a link to the landing page directly or embedded in a blog post.
Think in terms of the prospect’s state of mind when they’re reading a post. Do they know they have a problem? if yes, send them the lead magnet directly. If no, send them a blog article that frames the problem for them leading them down the path to “sales readiness” where they’ll take your call.
Now you can:
- Go through your content library and schedule those posts with comments on Linkedin
- Write an email blast linking to an article explaining why it’s relevant.
- Embed the article in your newsletter and advertise the lead magnet.
And don’t worry if the articles are old (update the date if you need to). I’ve had a lot of success generating brand new leads simply by writing an email that points to an old piece of content.
They’ll never remember because it wasn’t relevant at that time.
Step #4 Paddle your canoe downstream
The goal of your content marketing is to attract qualified prospects and lead them down a path to being sales-ready. You want to get the attention of prospects that are entering the buying window now, while continuously nurturing the rest.
That’s the path of least resistance — as opposed to a barrage of outbound sales messages, which is akin to paddling your canoe upstream against the current.
This is where you want to prioritize your leads so you can take efficient action. Here’s the hierarchy:
1. Past clients that will take your call. We all know it’s easier (and cheaper) to sell to existing clients rather than getting new ones — and assuming they’re happy with your services, they’re more likely to return your call. If you don’t have something new to offer them, use it as an opportunity to ask for referrals.
2. Go through your lost deals. If prospects have shown interest in the past but didn’t buy, it could have been because of poor timing. But that was then, and this is now. Things might have changed (for both them and you).
It’s a good reason to reach out and see if they’ve solved their problem or not. (Probably not, because they didn’t go with your solution, right?)
3. Past Marketing Qualified Leads –These are leads that have engaged with your content in some way but never went anywhere.
List them from newest to oldest in your CRM, see which ones fit your ideal prospect profile, and develop a sales cadence to warm them back up.
Hint: a new lead magnet or upcoming webinar could be the perfect reason to get back in front of them.
4. Socially surround your prospects. Can someone in your network introduce you? Is there something shared between you that you can use? You always want to see if there’s a way to get your foot in the door.
5. Research the sphere of influence. If you’re selling a complex solution, you can bet that they’re not the only ones involved in a sale. And many times people reading blogs and attending webinars are researching on behalf of their leaders. So when you track these activities, it’s a good idea to research others in the organization. For example, if someone from ABC signs up for your webinar, you could research others from that organization (both in your database and on Linkedin) and send them a message like:
“I noticed that your colleague NAME recently registered for our webinar on How Successful Sellers are Content to Shorten their Sales Cycles, and I thought you might also find value in it. It’s next Wednesday at 3:00 — if you can attend, we’d love to have you as part of the discussion. Here’s a link to register.”
Send all of them the same message at the same time.
6. Get out in the cold. I’m still not talking about making cold calls. (May you never make a cold call again!) But it’s important to constantly engage with new prospects that fit your profile. Again, use that content you put in the library to get their attention. Then, if they engage, they may be moving into the buying window, so you can elevate them to higher engagement status.
Step #5 Reach out and touch someone
Let’s admit it — most salespeople give up too quickly. After two or three touches, the lead is considered non-responsive and they move on.
But that’s not enough. So when a lead falls within your ideal prospect profile, it makes sense to draw up sales plays to ensure that you’re advancing the opportunity (if there is one).
A basic sales play might look like this:
- Day 1: Email and leave a voice mail (2 touches)
- Day 3: See if you can connect on Linkedin (1 touch)
- Day 5: Follow up with another email with more content and leave a voicemail (2 touches)
- Day 7: Invite them to your upcoming webinar (1 touch)
Step #6: Rinse and Repeat.
Develop this same process for different pain points, different buyer personas, and different industries. The key is to be specific and identify the very top two or three reasons that people buy from you.
When you have developed content libraries around two or three pain points, you can enter them into and editorial calendar. i.e. month one, pain one. Month two, pain two. etc.
Always keep the measurement in mind. Your pipeline will get low again, and when it does, you’ll be able to streamline this process in the future if you’ve kept good records. Things that you want to measure are things like:
- How many touches it took to get a sales call (emails, voicemails, link clicks, etc)
- What pieces of content did they click on?
- Are there any that give you buying triggers?
Finding Your Glengarry Leads
When your sales pipeline is low and your anxiety is high, it’s time to stop pacing around the room, get organized, develop your plan, and take action.
Don’t worry about where you are right at this moment — go into this knowing that these actions will work if you’re consistent.
But that doesn’t mean you have to go into used car sales mode.
Today’s buyer is looking for education on how to solve problems, and therefore you should provide it.
In other words, how can you help?
Because that’s how successful sellers use content to not only open more doors but also to shorten sales cycles.
It’s really no different than it used to be when buyers relied on salespeople to provide the information they needed to buy the right products and services. Today, that need is satisfied by putting content out there for them to find.
And when you’ve hit them square between the eyes with that problem that they must solve, they come pre-qualified making your job much easier.
Those are the Glengarry leads!
Just run your sales process on them as you’ve defined above, your pipeline will start filling up.
And, when you get good at using content to open doors and shorten sales cycles, you’ll find you had plenty of opportunities all the time — you just haven’t worked them well enough.
Before you know it you’ll be breathing a sigh of relief because you’re back in the game.