Grow Your Personal Brand in Sales Using the Problem-Led Approach (via Jen Allen-Knuth)

Jen Allen-Knuth
READ TIME – 8 minutes

The key to making a lasting impact on LinkedIn or X/Twitter, or other social platforms lies in a strategic shift – move away from focusing on solutions and start addressing problems.

This chance can help you build your personal brand, and possibly bring you more potential clients as a B2B creator or open up the doors to new possibilities.

But why should you talk about problems?

The usual approach when you want to engage with potential clients on LinkedIn and sell them your offers is by highlighting a specific problem, what you can do and the benefits you can offer.

While this tactic sometimes works, it may not be the most effective strategy.

Why? Because most of the people or the audience you address on social media might not be actively seeking a solution.

And when your prospects are not in an active buying mode, bombarding them with what you can do can fall flat.

Executives, particularly now in this economic uncertainty, tend to tighten up their budgets, let alone spend money on something they heard from an unknown person on LinkedIn.

That’s where you need the problem-led approach.

It piques curiosity and it opens the door with a discussion about a bugging issue within your niche.

Like Jen Allen-Knuth said, only talking about a service or a product you sell will result in a hard time self sourcing your pipeline because that pipeline is a demand you are creating.

But providing insights into the problems your audience might not be fully aware of, you position yourself as a knowledgeable and valuable resource.

This is something I learned from doing research on Jen Allen, also known as DemandJen.

Who is Jen Allen-Knuth you might ask?

Jen was a full-cycle Enterprise Sales rep for 18 years, but she says on her website that “you’ll never hear me refer to myself as an “expert”.

She used to host the Winning the Challenger Sale podcast where she grow the audience from 2.000 to 20.000 per month and created the role of Chief Evangelist at Challenger

That’s when she realized she liked speaking at SKOs to help marketers and salespeople rethink their beliefs about how to earn buyer attention and trust, and to defeat the status quo.

And eventually led her to start her own business called DemandJen where she delivers, you guessed it, SKO keynotes and virtual workshops for the marketing and sales teams.

When she left Challenger, she took a full-time role as Head of Community Growth at Lavender, but shortly she switched to a contract base as Evangelist Partner doing content creation and speaking engagement.

Besides all mentioned above she’s an adviser for UserEvidence and for Women in Sales, and a co-host on the 30 Minutes to President’s Club – self proclaimed the #1 sales podcast in the world.

Jen also started to be more active on her LinkedIn account where she grew her audience to 44,100 followers who interact with her posts.

How does Jen lean into this approach and why is she a B2B creator?

  1. Stop talking about solutions, talk about problems (the problem-led approach)
  2. Slaying sales 
  3. From a full-time to a business owner

Stop talking about your solutions, talk about their problems

Why is Jen called DemandJen?

Because she created a demand for the products and services she sells by taking this different approach.

In one of the podcasts she was invited to she said that after a talk with her former VP of Sales, she needed to find a different way to get more leads.

So when trying to connect with buyers, she realized that it wasn’t just about understanding where buyers acquire knowledge but about leveraging that insight to engage in meaningful conversations.

Instead of talking about research studies in her LinkedIn content, she shifted her focus. 

Started sharing personal experiences with past challenges and the lessons learned along the way.

The transformation in her approach had a great impact.

CROs began reaching out to her through direct messages, expressing that they, too, faced similar challenges and were seeking someone who could discuss and offer insights into these shared problems.

She stopped sharing about narrow product-centric pitches and recognized the potential of potential buyers who were exploring options rather than ready to make an immediate decision.

Jen observed that by centering discussions around problems rather than solutions, individuals were drawn to her. 

The absence of pushiness and a genuine commitment to understanding and addressing shared challenges became a magnet for those seeking authentic dialogue.

Slaying sales

With her 18 years of experience in sales, Jen brings a deep understanding of B2B sales dynamics, challenges, and strategies, and is not afraid of sharing what she knows with others.

1. Growing an audience on LinkedIn

Jen started to be more present on LinkedIn two years ago posting about Challenger and sales.

She even tagged Challenger in most of her posts.

Then she shortly started to talk more about the Winning the Challenger Sale podcast and about her guests.

If in the beginning most of her posts were written text, she soon started to make short-form videos from the podcasts.

In one of her LinkedIn posts she mentioned that in the beginning the Challenger’s podcast had 2,000 downloads per month, but after nine months it started to have 18,000 downloads per month.

She mentions that among the lessons she learned, podcasting has helped her recognize so many shortcomings in her sales approach

After a while she gained more confidence and started to post more about her own opinions about sales using this new problem-led approach.

And that’s what I think is her secret to growing her audience to 44,100 followers.

Like this post where she talked about taking a shift when answering the question, “What does your company do?” when engaging with prospects.

Besides this new approach and seeing more engagement from her audience, what also boosted her confidence was Will Aitken, her friend and co-worker at Lavender.

She says in a post that due to Will she realized that LinkedIn is after all a social platform where you need to earn reader’s attention and make them interact with your content.

Now she posts regularly on LinkedIn where she shares events and podcasts she’s invited to such as RevCon, DemandBase, Cognism, and more.

2. Growing her personal brand

Being the host of the Winning the Challenger Sale podcast soon opened the door for her to be invited as a guest to podcasts and different sales events.

One of the first podcasts she was invited to B2B Power Hour Workshop to talk about her preferred prep methods and prospecting tips. 

She was also invited to WhiskeyWednesday by Revenue Marketing where she talked about being active on LinkedIn, about personalization, and evangelism.

But ever since changing her job and joining Lavender she joined more events as a keynote speaker.

In May 2023 she was a keynote speaker at Sales Assembly Remix in Chicago where she talked about sales problems, trends, and technology.

Jen wrote in a LinkedIn post that over the last couple of years she was invited as a guest to more than 200 sales podcasts, shows, and events and organized 100 into 9 themes on a Linktree.

3. Co-host the 30 Minutes to President’s Club

Jen was invited to co-host two episodes of 30 Minutes to President’s Club, a podcast created by Nick Cegelski and Armand Farrokh about hyper-actionable sales tactics.

In one of the episodes, Jen shared insights into her approach to deal-making, highlighting the importance of embracing healthy tension, and stepping away from agreeableness when needed.

In the second episode, she talked about single-threaded and multithreading sales approaches, discussing why the latter one is better than the first.

3. From a full time to a business owner

Jen was a big Lavender fan even before joining the company.

In one of her LinkedIn posts, Jen reflects on her career transition from a 17-year as a seller to the role of Chief Evangelist for Challenger. 

This shift was triggered by key statistics in the B2B landscape saying that a substantial 83% of a B2B buying group’s time is spent without direct seller interaction, with 27% doing independent online research. 

So she saw her new role as an opportunity to engage prospects where they actively seek information.

But she had to face the steep learning curve associated with cutting through the noise on social media and outdated and questionable advice from Google search.

Jen’s opinion about Lavender? Same as Todd’s or Tim’s – nothing but the best.

“Everyone here is the kind of person you’d want to get stuck with on an elevator.”

She also wrote a post about everything she learned at Lavender during her first eight months in marketing saying what we already know: that she likes to use LinkedIn to learn out loud.

So, why did she leave her full time job?

Even though she’s not a FTE anymore she continues to be a Lavender fan girl and be a Evangelist Partner for Lavender, saying that 

“I was evangelizing Lavender long before I became an employee.”

But the reason she chose a contract base is that even after leaving Challenger she wanted to build something on her own, but postponed the idea because she really wanted to be part of Lavender at the time.

So she did start DemandJen where she delivers SKO keynotes and holds virtual workshops, and seems like she really enjoys what she does.

And the reason she was finally ready to start her business is due to all the connections she has made applying the problem-led approach when growing her LinkedIn account.

What can B2B creators learn?

Selling a solution is not always the answer

By shifting from a benefits-focused approach to a problem-led one, Jen engaged her audience in meaningful conversations and also grew her audience. 

This shift helped her position herself as a thought leader, offering valuable resources.

As a B2B creator, consider trying a different approach next time you want people to listen to you and engage with your content, as selling a solution is not always the right answer.

Use the power of collaboration

Besides the problem-led approach, Jen believed in the power of collaborations. 

Along her journey, she expanded her network, making friends who worked in the same field as her. 

Teaming up with others and sharing insights helps you gain a new perspective and can lead to more opportunities. 

Jen became friends with Will Aitken, with whom she got the chance to work at Lavender and who also brought her in.

Strategically grow your social accounts

Jen grew her audience to 44,100 subscribers, but not until she started to be more strategic with her social media. 

She stopped posting statistics and reports and began paying more attention to what her audience wanted to learn. 

Figuring this out and using new approaches, such as the problem-led method, posting consistently for the past two years, and trying different types of content (short-form, podcasts, personal opinions), eventually led to her growth as a thought leader.

B2B creators, we need to learn the value of understanding our audience, experimenting with content formats, and maintaining an authentic online presence to grow our audience.

Additionally, it’s important to note that patience is key, as growth doesn’t happen overnight. 

It took Jen 2 years to reach where she is today. 

With more creators taking advantage of platforms like LinkedIn, it’s essential to try new strategies until you find what works for you and to remain consistent.

Final Thoughts

For Jen, the problem-led approach worked really well for her audience, and perhaps it will be effective for your community too. 

However, you don’t have to see this approach as the best there is. To grow your personal brand you’ll have to experiment with different strategies and various content formats to see what best fits your audience.