Content & Inbound Marketing,  Social Selling

How to Convert Your Sales-Oriented Pipeline to a Customer­-Oriented Pipeline

Convert a Sales-Oriented Pipeline to a Customer-Oriented PipelineToday’s consumers are entering the buying process much more educated and from a number of entry points. Some will come to your brand based on the recommendation of a friend, others will see a sponsored social media post, others will come in “cold” from a generalized search engine query. Your sales process must be able to accommodate these various entry points and anticipate the needs of these folks.

The hardened sales process of yesterday will not work for today’s buyers, and certainly not for tomorrow’s.

With some simple steps, such as defining your customer’s buying process, behavior monitoring, and measuring; you can begin to create a sales pipeline that is more customer-focused to provide services or products that gets them closer to closing.

Sales-Oriented Pipeline vs Customer-Oriented Pipeline

A sales-oriented pipeline is outbound focused, it’s mission is to reach as many people as possible, with little regard to the buying stage of the consumer. Sales-oriented is a broad, untargeted blanket.

A traditional sales-oriented process is quick to “close the deal” and often leads with the close. This is not only highly ineffective, but is also off-putting to the customer; whose defenses are now high. The sales person has done themselves a great disservice and now must work harder to establish a bond of trust.

In contrast, a customer-focused sales process puts the sales person in the shoes of the customer and allows the customer to feel as though they are in charge of the buying decision. The result is a sales process that is much more comfortable for the buyer, thus lowering their defenses and being more open to options and the idea of buying.

Customer-oriented process is inbound focused, it’s mission is to attract the right prospect at the right time, meeting them in their time of need. Customer-oriented is highly targeted and focused.

Pillars of an Customer-Oriented Pipeline

  1. Clearly Defined Customer Personas
  2. Content Creation & Marketing Strategy
  3. Lead Nurturing
  4. Monitoring & Measurement

Step 1: Defining Ideal Customer Personas

A persona is a representation of your ideal customer. There is a careful balance between detail and generalization. A well defined persona addresses your ideal customer’s demographic information, their job title and responsibilities, their daily routines and habits, pain points or frustrations, what they value, their goals, where they seek information (their watering holes), and common objections they present to your product or service.

Using High-level Content to Attract Your Personas

Next, to attract those customers seeking answers, we must position our website in front of them through search engines.

Search engines are driven by high quality, original content that is published on a regular basis. High quality means content that is deep in knowledge, well-written (i.e. uses proper spelling and grammar), and addresses the query that originally brought the visitor to the site.

A blog is the perfect tool to publish educational content pieces on your brand’s website. These content pieces are extremely Top of The Funnel and serve to attract visitors to your website to answer their question and establish yourself or brand as an authority.

When a blog is frequently updated with fresh content surrounding a particular topic, search engines display the site higher in search rankings. This results in new visitors being sent to your website.

TIP: Use the answers to your ideal persona’s objections as fuel for your blog topics. Address one question or objection per blog post.

Don’t write content to sell your services, rather, write content that addresses the questions, concerns, or objections of your ideal customer.

When trying to think about what to blog about, one simple exercise is to imagine your perfect, ideal customer approaching you on the sidewalk. Imagine they asked you one question facing them. What would you say, if you knew you could not “Sell them”. You have only one sentence to answer their question to the best of your ability – but not sell them.

For example, if the ideal customer of my fictional home-building company, Acme Builders & Bricks, was approaching me and asked a very common question: “how do I build a house?” My response would be “Start by choosing a location and blueprint.”

Now, I know this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how to build a house, but this is the purest, non-salesy answer I have given the short amount of time I have as I pass this prospective customer. This is a bit of information that he or she can take and improve their life immediately.

This answer can be broken into two different blog posts, one that discusses how to choose the perfect location and one that discusses how to design your ideal home. The point is, answering your customer’s questions often leads to more questions – and a bounty of exceptional blogging content.

Step 2: Using Offers to Convert Visitors to Leads

Sales Process ExampleIn keeping with our fictional home building company, there is a level of information that we freely give away on our blog. There is a secondary level of information that is reserved for those who are more serious about committing to the process. This “premium content” is often referred to as an “offer” available in exchange for some identifying information.

As a sales-savvy marketer, if you have done your job correctly, your blog will establish a level of trust and authority that lends itself to your visitor voluntarily giving their contact information for a deeper, more detailed piece. This could be an ebook, a tip sheet, or a How-To pdf.

By downloading this, the visitor has gone from an anonymous reader to a Information Qualified Lead. They have begun the formal process of educating themselves about their need and your proposed solution.

Step 3: Using Automated Lead Nurturing to Convert Leads to Customers

Since the visitor has provided their name and email, we can use a series of automated emails to send supporting content and information to the lead. At this point, we can identify their pain point based on the content offer — or offers — they have accessed.

A successful lead nurturing campaign moves the lead through the sales funnel by sending further content that addresses common sales questions, introduces the brand and it’s position, and encourages another download of material. This Middle of the Funnel offer is usually product and service information and clearly answers common push backs of customers.

All of this serves to lower the defensive barrier of the buyer. It educates them on the product and brand, without being overly pushy or going for the close too quickly.

If a lead converts and downloads a middle of the funnel offer, they have become a Sales Qualified Lead and are often ready for a product demo or sample. This is the ideal time for the sales team to reach out to the lead and schedule an appointment.

As you can see, this process saves the sales team an incredible amount of time and allows them to focus on the highly qualified leads, rather than wasting time with lookie-loos.

The customer is able to progress through the process at their own rate, but is never pressured into dealing with a sales person until they have expressed interest in learning more.

Step 4: Monitoring & Measuring Your Process

“If it can be measured, it can be improved.”

The last step of any closed-loop marketing system is monitoring your efforts. Without clear analytics, your ability to measure what works and what is failing is nearly impossible.

You must be able to track which blog posts are attracting the most highly-qualified leads, which content offers are converting to sales, and which automated lead nurturing emails and producing results. A constant “pruning” may be necessary to maintain optimal performance, but the result is a highly-effecient sales process that generates greater sales and lower wasted time for your sales and marketing team.

Measurable Metrics include:

Blogging

• Organic, Referral & Social Media Traffic

• CTA Click Through Rate

• New Leads Generated

• Quality of Lead Generated

Content Offers

• CTA Click through Rate

• Landing Page “New Contact” Rate

• Quality of Leads Generated

Email Lead Nurturing

• Overall Nurture Rate (TOFU – MOFU)

• Email Open Rate

• Email Click Through Rate

Creating a Closed-Loop Reporting Process

  • Provides Accountability between sales and marketing departments
  • Closes the “gaps” and keeps leads in the nurturing process longer, if needed
  • Identify content that is working, and what is not

Understanding Lead Scoring

  • Uses sales team’s time most efficiently
  • Used to identify cool, warm, and hot leads
  • Reduces lead “drop out” within the nurturing process

Conclusion

This customer-oriented sales process allows the customer to navigate your buying path at their own pace, with minimal, low-pressure sales tactics.

Rather than lead with your close, start with by answering the customer’s question, educating them further, and showing how your product is the ideal solution for their need. A customer-focused sales process is efficient, optimized, and highly-profitable.

If you would like help designing a marketing blueprint for your brand, I would love to help. Drop me a note and we can schedule a time to talk about your needs and goals.

Bonus: Download this Presentation

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