When you meet another awesome connection, what do do you?
Exchange business cards, and follow up with an email suggesting coffee.
And if they don't respond... do you have a process to stay in touch?
Creating relationships in your business is just like creating relationships in the rest of your life. When they are new and tenuous, they take some extra nurturing to gain momentum.
The same concept applies in business.
Creating a strong sales funnel might sound intimidating, but it’s really all about being attentive to relationships and knowing the journey your client takes before they sign on the dotted line.
If you don’t have a standard follow up process for anyone expressing interest in your business, leads will slip through the cracks. Bye bye, revenue.
Ten Steps to a Killer Sales FunnelOne of the best ways to improve your bottom line is to nurture a pipeline of new and interested leads. Let’s talk about how.
1. Clearly define your sales processWhat steps do your prospects move through as they make their way to the contract? For someone who teaches music lessons, there might be a referral then a few follow-up emails before the first lesson. For more involved projects, like website design, there might be an initial contact after someone has seen your marketing materials, then a personalized follow-up email, a screening phone call, and an in-person meeting before a proposal and a contract.
Where do people tend to drop out of your sales process? Are those people a good fit for your services?
Define what works for you, what doesn’t, and how you can make it easier for clients to follow the sales path.
2. Follow up with leads immediatelyLet’s not give them time to change their minds or get distracted. Plus, replying within just 30 minutes makes you 3,000 times more effective (!?) than replying in 5 hours or more.
Don’t worry—you can tackle this without being tied to your business 24/7. Put autoresponders on your Facebook Messages and your email if you’re not going to be able to answer the same day. And make sure you have text notifications enabled, so you can quickly respond if you're out and about.
3. Get personal
Get to know your ideal customer and their pain points. The deeper the relationship you can build, the more deeply you can serve their needs and give them value that no one else can. Aim to spend about 60% of your communication talking about them and what they need. No matter where you are in your business, constantly asking for comments and feedback will only make the client experience richer. It’ll also help you find those perfect clients you love to work with.
Photography by Tina Padron
4. Focus on the best leads
You can’t be everything to everyone, and your time is limited. While it’s best to be consistent in your follow-up process, think about which leads are most worth your time. As a prospect moves down your pipeline, the more likely they are to convert.
Remember that it takes about eight touches to close, so add in automation where you can.
Spend your time nurturing leads that are looking to buy soon and have the budget to do so. Before you take someone out for lunch to discuss a potential project, ask when they want it done and how much they want to spend. It’s a bummer to spend precious time and a chunk of cash on someone who’s just kicking the tires.
5. Establish boundaries
Draw a clear line in the sand between what’s a free sample and what would be giving your service away for free.
For an professional organizer, you might give a free tip sheet to entice people to sign up for your email newsletter. You might give free estimates. But when your client calls to ask “just a few quick questions,” you might need to remind them of your hourly consulting rate.
6. Know purchasing triggers
Understanding your clients’ motivations will help you build your processes accordingly.
- Create urgency: Discounts can work, but there are other ways to make clients move without taking a bite from your bottom line. Exclusive access, limited spots, bonus content, added value, etc., can all help convince leads to take action.
- Encourage trust: Testimonials are incredibly powerful, so make sure they’re easy to find. Monitor reviews and highlight good ones. Show how you’re making yourself an expert in your field. Compare yourself to other companies and demonstrate what makes your service unique.
- Leverage life events: As we know too well, college applications, new babies, and weddings can all create a sense of urgency.
- Capture seasonality: Think health at the beginning of the new year, spring cleaning, and family photos to be ready in time for holiday cards. When do your clients feel motivated to make the leap.
7. Leverage referralsNever underestimate the power of a referral! Getting referrals shows that you’re providing a valuable service. When your prior clients refer a friend to you, it’s a reminder that you provided a great service for them. Make it simple to leverage your clients’ networks.
8. A “no” isn’t always badAnd it’s not always the last word.
Understanding why someone says no might be the most valuable opportunity for you to increase your revenue. It usually boils down to one of three things:
- They don’t need it.
- They don’t have the money.
- They don’t trust you.
9. Always be sellingIf you become maxed out on clients and you’re hitting your goals — fantastic! Consider raising your prices! But at the same time, find a low-touch way to keep building your funnel.
When things slow down, as they almost always do, a thrumming sales funnel will help you pick up again quickly. A waitlist or a referral program with another contact will make easier to find work when you need it — without the time and cost of starting from scratch.
10. Constantly improve
This can seem like a lot! Set aside any feelings of overwhelm and carve this process into bite-sized portions. Try to improve at least one part of your funnel every month. Once you’ve outlined a clear process, start thinking about how you carry out each step, and how each can be improved. Focus on small-but-powerful improvements, and test one thing at a time. (If you change more than one thing, and you notice a change, it’s hard to tell what actually works and what doesn't.)
For example: if you want to increase your participants for a webinar, try tweaking the topic or the format. Reach out to attendees for feedback.
Keep learning, and keep optimizing, one step at a time. Your sweet spot is where your sales funnel brings you more sales, greater loyalty, and happy repeat visitors who are a pleasure to to work with.
And if you want even more personalized tips on how to improve your sales processes, I have limited spots in my Close More Customers webinar. We’ll spend 30 minutes on identifying some quick wins to help you build momentum. I hope to see you there!
Kate Keough, COO
Loves building, helping build, and swinging for the fences. Former COO at Paint Nite, which claimed Inc's #2 spot with 36k% growth. She consults with a number of early stage startups in an advisory capacity. Oldest of 6 children who has always looked up to her mother.