One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is assuming they can have a thriving business, simply because they are good at something.

That’s a huge misconception.

To have a sustainable business, it’s not enough to be great at, let’s say, photography, web design or health coaching.  You’ve got to know how the essential elements of running a smooth business operation and how to apply them to your unique situation.

Blindly adopting the techniques of people who claim that their strategies are absolute “must-haves” is a recipe for disaster.

You always have to look at your offerings through the lens of your business, your skills/strengths, and your goals.

You have a better idea of the necessary elements of your business by doing the exercise where you list everything you do in your business and categorize those items.

As we go through this systems series, you can check your list against the essential business structure elements we discuss here to make sure you’re not missing anything.

Today, we’re analyzing the sales cycle.

A “sales cycle” or “sales funnel” is absolutely vital to every business.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people tell me they spent months working on creating their program and then launched it—unsuccessfully—because they had no sales cycle or funnel.  That’s crazy!

You’ve got to have a strategically designed sales cycle or funnel if you want to succeed. 

Yours might be quite different from mine, but the fundamentals will be the same.

Let’s take a look.

A sales cycle system is a systematic path that converts your prospects from random passersby to raving fans.

Building trust is an important step on this path.  The more you cultivate people’s trust, the less relevant the price of your offerings becomes.

I will never forget Marie Forleo’s RHH Live 2011 when one of the participants shared that she sold her couch to buy the ticket to this life-altering event.  She’d been following Marie’s work for quite some time and trusted her so much that she was willing to take this action.  She was confident it would pay off.

You need to foster this kind of trust in your own potential customers, and you need to do it through your sales cycle.

5 STAGES OF EVERY SALES CYCLE

1.  Grab Your Target Audience’s Attention

Create a buzz about your offerings—services, products or programs—while also getting your prospects to initiate a connection with you by visiting your website, calling a number, filling out a form or some other type of action that brings them closer to you.

My target audience is solopreneurs — mainly service professionals, who are running virtual businesses.  I drive them to my website by:

  • blogging once a week
  • guest posting once a month
  • commenting on the blogs of other people
  • engaging in conversations on social media
  • doing promotions.

Ask Yourself: Who are my ideal clients, where are they hanging out, and how can I get them coming to me?

2.  Demonstrate Your Desire to Provide Value

You start building trust by demonstrating your competency in your field and your knowledge of what your ideal client needs from you.  Offer them something great—free of charge and at no risk to them.  In exchange, ask for their name and email address so that you can stay in touch.

I encourage my website visitors to subscribe to my newsletter by entering their name and e-mail address.  In return, they get a 5-part free e-series called the Systems Chick’s Guide to Mastering Your Delegation Skills and access to my Insider’s Guide.

Ask Yourself: What information do my ideal customers need?  What format is best suited to them?

3.  Engage Them in Conversation

Now that you’ve started building trust with your potential clients, develop and enhance it.

Shift your mindset away from “making the sale” and towards how you can assist them.  Learn about your prospects’ problems as fully as possible so that they know—and feel—you truly understand them.

My friend Michelle Rodriguez greets each one of her list subscribers with a personal video and asks them a few questions to connect with them.  What an amazing policy!

If you can’t go to such lengths for each subscriber, ask them in the confirmation e-mail what they are struggling with.  Use social media as a listening tool to learn more about your ideal clients.   Or openly ask them in surveys in polls.

Ask THEM: Where do you feel most stuck and what types of offerings would be most convenient and valuable to you?

This is the part I need to work on myself.   I admit that I don’t do enough asking and listening.

4.  Provide Value

Continue to add value by helping your potential clients incorporate the information that you provide for free in your blog posts, video or podcast series, webinars, free templates or reports.

Once you’ve established the initial rapport, you may introduce low-barrier offerings—ones requiring just a small investment on their part.  Given the trust that you’ve earned, they’re likely to feel comfortable enough taking you up on your offer.

There are plenty of great options: e-books, printed books, e-courses, group coaching or membership sites.

What’s often missing at this stage is follow up.  Create even more value for your potential customers by following up with something as simple as a sequence of automated e-mails that help them use the content.

Ask Yourself: What are the urgent needs of my potential clients?  What type of information beyond my initial offering would benefit them?  An interesting article?  A referral?  An introduction?  A surprise gift?

This part is practically missing in my sales cycle.  *Blushing.*  Need to get to work!

5.  Have a Sales Conversation

As Michael Port puts it, “All sales start with a simple conversation and are executed when a need is met and the appropriate amount of trust is assured.”

When your client has received great value from a low-priced service or product, you then can offer them your next level of product or service, something that requires more of an investment than the previous product or service they purchased.

You increase the client’s trust factor and prove that your solutions work and that you deliver on the promises that you make.  They are then more likely to commit to your higher-priced offerings.

In my case, people tend to get a lot of value out of my free offerings. When they are ready to customize and develop their solutions in depth, they come to me.  They are confident that their investment in my services is going to empower them to streamline their systems so that everything flows smoothly and they can enjoy their business while at the same time grow it.  They know I’m going to lift a huge burden off their shoulders, and the relief will be immediate!

Ask Yourself: What needs to happen in the life of my ideal clients that will prompt them to reach out to me?  When is the time they need my support the most?

This is the point when you offer personalized coaching, big-package offerings, live events or mastermind programs.

It’s important to understand that the sales cycle is not necessarily a linear process.

Some clients will go through those 5 stages, from 1 to 5, others will randomly jump from one to another. A few individuals will have enough confidence from your social proof to buy your highest offering right away.

So, don’t be attached to the sequence of the sales cycle phases.  Just remember that you are building relationships of trust that will grow and, hopefully, last a lifetime.  When the time is right, potential clients will become current clients.

All you need to do is to provide value upon value until they believe that your services are right for them.

TIME FOR A CHALLENGE

Look at your sales cycle.  What parts are weaker than others?  What single step you could take this week to make your sales cycle more complete?  Let me know in the comments below.

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