Weekly Sales Funnel Challenge: Review your competitor’s sales funnel

The Weekly Sales Funnel Challenge is a week-long challenge for business owners to focus on a specific aspect of their sales funnel for one week. It’s a fun way to keep you focused on one of the most important parts of your business. A new Weekly Sales Funnel Challenge is published every Monday and a wrap-up post is published every Friday.
Weekly Sales Funnel Challenge

Okay, last week’s Weekly Sales Funnel Challenge was a real challenge! It was a lot of work for you to squeeze into your already busy days.

So I’m going to go easier on you this week. For this week’s challenge, we’re going to choose a competitor and we’re going to write down THEIR sales funnel. Knowing your competitors’ sales funnels will help you keep tabs on what your competitors are up to so they can’t blindside you, and you’ll find ways to differentiate your business.

Writing down one of your competitors’ sales funnels doesn’t have to be complicated:

First choose one competitor. Be specific about who it is. (Don’t generalize by saying “most of my competitors are similar).

Second, list “Audience”, “Leads”, “Prospects”, “Customers”, and “Evangelists” down one side of a paper.

Third, write down all of the elements in each stage of your competitor’s sales funnel that you’re aware of. Maybe do a bit of digging to discover any additional channels or products or tactics that you aren’t aware of.

Email me to let me know how it’s going! I’d love to hear if you find this week’s challenge enlightening.

Have fun!

Monthly Sales Funnel Check-up

When I was just starting out in sales management, I was completely blindsided by something that really hurt the financial health of my branch. My manager gave me a useful piece of advice that I have tried to adopt ever since, no matter what business I’ve been in. He said: “Know your business well enough that there will never be any surprises.”

As a business owner, this comes naturally for me and it probably comes naturally for you, too: If you’re a sole proprietor, you likely know exactly what is happening in your business.

The same should apply for your sales funnel, your most important and strategic business asset. If you know your sales funnel inside and out, and are aware of its general health and operation, you’ll be in great shape to keep it “well-oiled”. Nothing will surprise you and you’ll be more likely to grow your leads, prospects, and customers.

So, I’m introducing a tool to help you: It’s the Monthly Sales Funnel Check-up, and I’ll post it at or near the end of each month so you can work through it.

Download the Monthly Sales Funnel Check-up PDF here.

It’s a simple chart that outlines your sales funnel and prompts you to fill in what you’re doing to reach contacts at each stage in your sales funnel. For example: What marketing and sales channels are you using for each stage? What key messages are you using in each channel? And, how many contacts did you have. Plus there is a place to include your own observations and ideas to make next month even more effective!

It’s very simple so it shouldn’t take long (maybe a little longer the first time you do it, but it will get faster as you gain experience) and the value it provides will be noticeable the very next month!

Download the Monthly Sales Funnel Check-up PDF here.

FAQ: I want to build a sales funnel. Where do I start?

Building a sales funnel is fun and easy. Yes, there’s some work involved but most entrepreneurs like working in their business (and working on your sales funnel isn’t as tedious as some of the other things you could be doing!).

So the very first step depends on whether your business has sold something before or whether it hasn’t. Below, I’ve written answers for both:

IF YOUR BUSINESS HAS SOLD SOMETHING BEFORE
If your business has sold something before, and you are just wanting to articulate and improve your existing sales funnel, then your very first step should be to look at your customer(s) and trace them backwards as far as you can:

  • What was the final action that made them become Customers? (A “buy now” button? A phone call? etc.)
  • What were they thinking about and asking you about before they bought? (How did you interact with them? Where did you interact with them?)
  • What did they do to reach the point where you could present to them? (Did they click to a sales page? Did they telephone you? Did you meet them at their office?)
  • How did they find you in the first place?
  • What are your customers like, demographically? (What was similar about them?)

If you have sold something to other people before, your goal here is to figure out who those people were, why thy bought from you, and how they progressed through your sales funnel. That doesn’t mean you can’t create a new sales funnel; rather, it means that you have a sales funnel starting point… but a sales funnel starting point you have not articulated before.

IF YOUR BUSINESS HAS NOT SOLD SOMETHING BEFORE
If you haven’t sold something (in this business) before, then your very first step should be to list your potential sales funnel (Audience, Leads, Prospects, Customers, Evangelists), and decide on at least one form of media to go in each stage. For example, your Audience might be collected through Twitter; your Leads might read your blog; your Prospects might read your newsletter; etc.).

The goal here is to create a starting point. You will build off it and improve it as time goes on, but you need a foundation and this is a fast way to build a sales funnel and focus your sales funnel strategy.

A customer loyalty lesson learned from my friend’s emergency trip to the hospital

A friend of mine works at a Starbucks not too far from my house. I’ve known him for several years and he became a barista at Starbucks maybe a year or two ago.

Well, earlier this week he was rushed to the hospital because his lung collapsed. He’s been at the hospital ever since, sometimes returning home but frequently staying at the hospital overnight for observation. He seems to be doing okay, although we’re not yet sure why his lung collapsed.

Now here’s what shocked me: I just found out today that some of his Starbucks customers came to visit him in the hospital.

That’s impressive customer loyalty! In fact, that goes beyond customer loyalty to a true relationship!

Loyal customers are profitable customers. They buy again and again with very little prompting, and they talk up the business to others.

HOW CUSTOMER LOYALTY IS CREATED
I’ve found that creating customer loyalty is rarely something that happens at the business level. It happens at the employee level. Customers may become loyal to businesses (and a lot of Starbucks customers are loyal to Starbucks!), but customers more frequently and more easily become loyal to the people in those businesses.

So, are you helping your employees create customer loyalty?

  • Give your employees the freedom to stop and chat with customers. By comparison, a lot of retail-based companies take the approach “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean”, and their staff rush around cleaning instead of pausing for a moment to strike up a conversation with a customer. The downside is that your employees might not get that counter as clean as you’d like it. The upside is higher profitability from customers who feel that they have a relationship with the person behind the counter.
  • Give your employees the tools to strike up a meaningful conversation and build a relationship. Not everyone is socially savvy, so a few conversation starters is a good way to help your employees.
  • Give your employees the freedom to go the extra mile for customers. They do anyway (everyone learns how to game the system to give a little extra to those extra-special customers) so why not help them by giving them lots of ideas.
  • Give your employees the authority to fix mistakes. Nothing takes away from loyalty-building like an employee who says, “I have to call my manager to fix that for you.” Help them know what challenges they will likely face and what an adequate response those challenges might be, then give them the authority to fix it.
  • Give your employees a reason to be proud of the company they work for. Do good things; make a good product; strive for high quality; smile a little and try to brighten your employees’ days.

When you have employees who love where they work and are empowered to fix things and have the freedom to build relationships, they will create massive amounts of customer loyalty.

THERE ARE RISKS TO CREATING CUSTOMER LOYALTY
There’s are risks that comes with this employee-specific customer loyalty, and I think that employers are so afraid of the risks that they skip the loyalty-creating ideas I’ve listed above.

The risks include:

  • Employees who create customer loyalty and are empowered to do so become more marketable and therefore potentially less loyal to an employer.
  • Customers who are loyal to employees may move with an employee if that employee quits and moves to a new business. We see this happening in industries like beautician/hairdressing, where someone moves to a different salon and advertises that old customers are welcome at the new salon.
  • Employees could abuse the additional freedom (intended for relationship-building) or authority (intended to fix problems).

These are risks, but the downside created by these risks can be mitigated with fair pay, empowering management, and an enjoyable work environment. Sometimes you will get employees leaving, customers following them, and employees abusing the system. But more often than not, you’ll get customers who become fiercely loyal to the employees who serve them.

How loyal are your customers? Are they so loyal that they would visit one of your employees in the hospital?