Weekly Sales Funnel Challenge: Wrap-up

This week’s Weekly Sales Funnel Challenge was to use the big list of objections you created in the Sales Funnel Challenge from a week earlier and counter/refute/destroy them in at least 2 different ways. Then, you were figure out where they go in your sales funnel so you can pre-emptively eliminate those objections BEFORE they’re even asked!

Now, I realize this challenge was time consuming, but for those of you that followed through, you will easily make up that time very quickly because you’ll deal with objections far less, and you’ll close more sales faster because your answers to the top objections were embedded preemptively in your sales funnel!

Here are three examples for you to “check your work”. I posted this one last week…

Product too expensive

  • Higher priced but it lasts longer than any other similar product: To reach the Lead and Prospect stages, change our product tagline to add the words “longest-lasting”
  • Actually costs less than 75% of other providers: To reach the Lead and Prospect stage, make sure that we highlight this in at least one blog post every two weeks
  • Also comes with a free thingamajig and a lifetime warranty: To reach the Prospect stage, make sure this item is highlighted at least twice during every face-to-face sales presentation and at least three times during every telephone sales presentation.

And here are two more…

No money in the budget

  • Higher priced but we deliver a higher ROI than competitors: To reach the Lead and stage, make sure every benefits list includes “higher ROI”.
  • People who buy lower-priced products from competitors usually have to budget higher maintenance and servicing expenses. Therefore, if you spend a little more with us, you’ll spend less on the servicing side of the deal: To reach the Prospect stage, record 2-3 case studies with this message as the main point.
  • Because our product is higher value, your customers will buy more; therefore, you’ll generate more revenue: To reach the Lead stage, include this as one of the teaser points when capturing emails.

I’m not sure that you have experience in my very specific niche

  • We have a variety of industry experience in this industry and other, similar industries: To reach the Lead stage, list the industries we have worked in.
  • We have the experience to help your industry: To reach the Prospect satge, identify similarities between industries and highlight those aspects of our experience.
  • We learn new industries quickly: Create a whitepaper that outlines our process for quickly becoming experts in an particular industry.

(And don’t forget: Feel free to send your own Weekly Sales Funnel Challenge results to me and I’ll upload them here. Scan it or design it in your favorite word processing program and email it to me. Or, if it’s just a simple text-based answer, comment in the wrap-up. If you ever send something to me to post for a challenge wrap-up, I would kindly ask you to remove your competitive differentiators!)

4 deadly sales funnel sins that could completely ruin your business

A sales funnel is the most important part of your business because it’s the way you generate revenue; everything else in your company grows out of your sales funnel successes. Unfortunately, there are 4 deadly sales funnel sins that businesses commit, which dooms the business to almost certain failure.

Are you committing any of these?

Building an Audience is not that hard, especially in today’s highly connected social-networking-crazy world. Unfortunately, businesses commit the first deadly sin by not strategically pushing Audience members to become Leads. For example, maybe there is no plan to take all of those Twitter followers and Facebook fans and get them clicking from Twitter or Facebook to your website. Or, maybe there isn’t an attainable SEO strategy that will generate enough traffic to your site.

In my experience, it’s rarely an intentional mistake. Rather, I’ve met many entrepreneurs who confidently believe that people will somehow find the business website simply because it’s online. Or, they confidently believe that fans or followers will click the website just because they can. But that’s rarely the case. Like contacts in any other stage of the sales funnel, people in the Audience stage need a reason to move the forward. Are you giving them that reason? Are you tempting them to take the next step in the relationship? Are you asking them for a small commitment to move forward?

How deadly is this sin? Figure out the amount of time that it takes for someone to go from Audience stage to the Customer stage. That’s how long your business will live if you don’t prompt more of your Audience to become Leads.

Marketing is fun, easy, and creative. You can do lots of it yourself, very quickly, and pretty affordably. The web gives a lot of options to market. Unfortunately, Prospects don’t become Customers through marketing alone. There needs to be some sales effort, and that is where a lot of entrepreneurs fall short. Selling can be hard work, time consuming, and it can feel negative because it’s filled with rejection.

Entrepreneurs who spend all of their effort marketing but zero effort on sales, will run out of money very quickly. Sales will dry up (or will simply not occur if there were there at all). If you’re running a business that is heavy on marketing and light on sales effort, you may not be generating the revenue you were hoping for because contacts in the Prospect stage are not converting to the Customer stage.

How deadly is this sin? Add up all of your expenses in a month. How long can your business survive by borrowing that amount of money every month from lenders, friends, and investors? Since there are no Customers, there won’t be any revenue.

Once a Prospect becomes a Customer, you’ve done the hard work of convincing them that you can help them. They’ve handed over their money and you have provided your product or service. For many businesses, this is the end of the story and they move on to spend their time and effort to convert another Lead into a Prospect then into a Customer. Many businesses ignore the already-sold Customer as a “past customer”. Instead they should be thinking of those Customers as “repeat buyers”.

Very few businesses have an effective method to sell to their previous buyers. Small businesses often only have a couple of products or services and if they sell those to a Customer and solve the need, end of relationship. But there is much more that businesses can do to turn one-time Customers into repeat-purchase Customers. The advantage of this is that it’s usually cheaper and faster to sell to these “already-sold” Customers than it is to sell a Prospect.

How deadly is this sin? Add up the per-Customer expense of bringing a contact along the sales funnel from the Audience stage to the Customer stage. Now figure out how big you want your business to grow and multiply your sales funnel expense by the percentage of growth. That’s expensive! Now, you will still spend some of that, but you can fuel profitable business growth at a lower cost by selling more to your existing Customers.

The deadliest of the deadly sales funnel sins! Every year, thousands of small businesses start and fail. Businesses start because of a good idea by an innovative, energetic entrepreneur who wants to build a business. Businesses (often) fail because there isn’t enough revenue to pay the bills, to manufacture the goods, to pay for marketing and sales, and to keep the lights on.

While it’s true that there are several reasons for business failure, many business failures are tied to a sales funnel that did not produce the flood of eager Customers the businesses needed to thrive. Maybe the sales funnel was intentionally engineered but the demand wasn’t there. Maybe the product was too expensive and the sales funnel marketing collateral did an insufficient job at positioning the product at that price point. There are lots of reasons. But frequently, businesses skip out on designing and building their sales funnel. They know their market, they have some marketing and sales ideas, and they have a compelling product… shouldn’t that be enough?

It’s not. A sales funnel is an essential, strategic business asset that can help increase the likelihood of business success.

How deadly is this sin? We’ll never know. But there are a lot of struggling businesses out there. A sales funnel may not be the panacea to eliminate all of their woes, but it can help to highlight where many of those challenges are so they can be mitigated.

If you are committing any of these sales funnel sins, it’s time to stop where you are and start designing your sales funnel from the ground up.

Start by downloading the free Sales Funnel Quick Reference Guide to get an at-a-glimpse overview of sales funnels.

Then subscribe to my blog to learn more about sales funnels. I’ll show you how to design and engineer a sales funnel to help achieve business success. And very shortly, I’ll be publishing some exciting, useful tools to help you.

4 ways to insert yourself into your competitor’s sales funnel and steal their customers

Building a sales funnel can be a lot of work: You need marketing and sales collateral, you need to get out there and aggressively fill your sales funnel with contacts, and you need to continuously move those prospects along while you keep your sales funnel full. It can be exhausting!

But one effective way to strengthen your competitive position is to steal prospects from your competition. In other words, get your competitors to put in the sales-funnel-filling effort and you can reap the rewards. It’s neither unethical nor immoral; it’s all about saying and doing the right things at the right time!

Here are four ways you can do that:

If you have a business that operates out of a physical location, you’ll want to make sure that prospects can see your sign at the same time they see your competitors’ signs. This is one reason why you tend to see fast food stores grouped together. On a smaller scale, you see this in grocery stores, where an entire aisle will be devoted to a particular type of product.

This concept also applies online, too. If your competitors use a specific mix of keywords, and you want to steal their customers, you need to identify what keywords they’re using and surpass your competitors on how you are optimized for those keywords. Ideally, you want to accelerate past them on search engines. (And, if you end up on the same results page as your competitor, improve the text that appears as a blurb/summary in the search engine results to make it more compelling).

The challenge in choosing this method is to make sure that your brand shines the brightest when you are side-by-side with your competitor.

This is related to the tactic above, but it’s effectively used when there isn’t an obvious side-by-side comparison, or if there is a lot of loyalty to the competitor.

In the 1980’s, Lee Iaccoca inserted Chrysler into GM’s and Ford’s sales funnel by challenging his audience with the line: If you find a better car, buy it. In a way, it reminded contacts that there is a choice. Today, we see Ford commercials where Ford contacts people selling their used Hondas and Toyotas (and are likely going to buy another Honda or Toyota) to get them to test-drive a Ford.

As a freelance writer, I used to use this tactic effectively to keep my sales funnel full: I often told prospects that there would be a lot of freelancers vying for their attention and offering ridiculous prices to win their business. I wasn’t about to lower my prices, but I empowered my prospects with some helpful decision-making tools so they could easily determine which freelancer worked for them. (Sometimes it was me, and sometimes it wasn’t).

Progressive.com provides real-time quotes from several competing insurance companies on their websites. Sometimes Progressive’s quote is higher, sometimes it’s lower, but it gives a sense of authenticity to a very competitive industry, and it encourages a lot of people to click there first to find out.

When I was in sales, the company I worked for had a lot of people calling in to get a quote, and if we couldn’t close the deal on the phone, we were instructed to tell prospects to call us back and we would beat our competitor’s lowest price. This was an effective way to ensure that prospects called us back (although, in general, I don’t think that being a low-priced provider is a smart long-term strategy for many businesses).

And waaaaaaay back when I was in high school and working at a fast food place, we were instructed to take any competitor’s coupon. I worked at a sub place, and if a prospect brought in a buy-one-pizza-get-one-free, we were to give an equivalent offer. This was an effective way to get customers to clip all kinds of coupons but still to come to our restaurant.

It is possible to show up on your competitor’s website! If your competitor posts ads from an automated ad network (i.e. AdSense), chances are good that those ads are for a related product or service. If you sell that product or service and use the right keywords, paying for an ad in that ad network could get you listed on your competitor’s website.

Another way to appear on your competitor’s website is to contact your competitor and work out a referral agreement for customers that don’t exactly match the kind that you serve. For example if your competitor is a low priced provider and you provide a longer-lasting product, then most of your customers will remain your own but any low-priced customers who come to you can be sent to your competitor and any customers looking for longer-lasting products can be sent from your competitor to you. This can be a difficult strategy to pitch, though, so expect a lot of resistance and skepticism. But I’ve used it myself when I was a sales manager.

Timing is everything. Showing up at exactly the right moment (when your competitor’s lead or prospect is about to advance a stage in the competitor’s sales funnel) can win that contact over to you.

But doing that effectively isn’t easy. Real estate agents and financial advisors try to do it with marketing collateral (magnets, calendars, etc.) that keep the professional’s name in front of the prospect.

But there are better ways to do it: If you know approximately how long people take to use a product or service that they’ve purchased from your competitor, you can time your marketing to reach out to them when they are nearing the point where they have to buy again and incentivize them to buy from you.

A very simple example of this is placing a coupon on the bottom of a tissue box and then blitzing the marketplace to get a box of tissues into people’s homes (perhaps through a cross-product promotion or a loss-leader-style giveaway). The coupon on the bottom of the tissue box is there for them to use for the next time… essentially inserting you into your competitor’s sales funnel.

Another example is the bank of dedicated phone lines at airports. You’ve seen them (and probably used them): Your plane lands, you pick up your luggage, and then you go to the bank of phones. If you want a rental car, you pick up one of the phones with the rental car logo on it and it connects you immediately to that rental car place. If you want a hotel, you pick up one of the phones with the hotel logo on it and it connects you immediately to that hotel.

Lots of businesses can use this. When I first started my business, I was contacted by a marketing firm that wanted to sell their services to me. They found my information from the list of new companies published by the government licensing agency every month. Although I didn’t hire them, they showed up in my life at a time when I was looking for the kinds of services they provide.

I, Me, You, We, They, She, He, Everybody: Are you using the RIGHT pronouns in your marketing?

Businesses produce and publish marketing content and one of the ways that they can make their content more effective is by carefully thinking about what pronouns to use.

Without giving you a boring grammar lecture, pronouns are the words we use to indicate that we’re talking to someone or about someone. I, me, my, you, they, his, her, etc., etc., etc. Those are pronouns. (There are WAY more pronouns and if you really care to learn more about them, you can click over to Wikipedia’s entry on pronouns. I’ve only covered a few of the pronouns used most frequently in marketing).

If you are developing marketing content for your business, you do need to think about which pronoun to use, and you need to make sure you use the right ones at the right time.
The right pronoun can make all the difference in your marketing. Here are the common ways pronouns are used in marketing:

I, Me, My: Used in two different ways:

  • When speaking as the owner. Example: “I’m not just the president, I’m also a customer”.
  • When as a surrogate of the audience (i.e. someone who your audience can relate to). Example: “As a mom, I know how tough it can be to find a meal that my family will enjoy…”

You: This has three purposes:

  • When you want to be adversarial. Example: “Think you know how delicious bacon is? Think again!”
  • When you want to specifically address your audience. “This phone is all about meeting your needs.”
  • When you want to highlight your audience and make them think about themselves: “It’s all about you!”

They: this is a great way to align yourself with your reader by separating you and them from someone else. Example: “They want to charge $100 for this product…”

We, Our: This helps to generate alignment between you and a buyer. Example: “We can be more successful when…”

She, He, Her, Him: For products that are gender-specific, this is a great way to point to someone who either should be emulated or shouldn’t be emulated. Example: “He’s talking to his doctor about…”

Everybody, Everyone: This one is pretty general and should be used cautiously, and only if you are sure that your audience feels the same way you do about the rest of the populace. Example: “Everyone is switching to a lower-cost provider!”

And, of course you can mix and match as necessary:

  • “I know how you feel.”
  • “It’s you against everybody else”.
  • “We’ve found the solution they don’t want you to hear!”

In general, I would recommend that you take a look at the pronouns you currently use in your marketing and make sure you are using pronouns consistently. It’s okay to use a mix of pronouns, but it’s critical that you maintain consistency throughout all of your marketing: If you sometimes refer to your sales funnel contacts as “you” and sometimes you refer to them as “us” and sometimes you refer to them as “them”, you end up blurring your point.

This isn’t just a problem moving from one stage in your sales funnel to another. I’ve also seen it as a problem in websites and ebooks as well – the site creator or the ebook writer switches from one pronoun to another when talking about the same group of people.

So, figure out what your main message is and how you want to communicate it. Does it require an adversarial approach? Do you want to make your audience think about themselves? Do you want to separate yourself from “the other guys”? Then, craft your marketing with the most effective pronouns.

Weekly Sales Funnel Challenge: Pre-emptively destroy sales objections

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

Nothing kills a sale like a well-timed, well-executed, unanswerable objection. I know! I’ve sold products and services to all kinds of customers in all kinds of situations: In retail; as an investment advisor; as a freelancer and consultant.

Fortunately, if you have a well-thought-out sales funnel, and if know in advance what your top objections are, you can do something about it!

For this week’s challenge, I want you to use the big list of objections you created in last week’s challenge and counter/refute/destroy them in at least 2 different ways. Then, I want you to figure out where they go in your sales funnel so you can pre-emptively eliminate those objections BEFORE they’re even asked!

Here’s an example to show you what I mean:

Let’s say that you frequently hear prospects say something like “your product is just too expensive”. So you’ll first write down the objection:

Product too expensive

Then, you’ll think of at least two ways to counter it or show your customer why it’s not. So you might write:

Product too expensive

  • Higher priced but it lasts longer
  • Actually costs less than 75% of other providers
  • Also comes with a free thingamajig and a lifetime warranty

Next, you’ll find places in your sales funnel to weave these objection-destroyers. So you might write:

Product too expensive

  • Higher priced but it lasts longer than any other similar product: To reach the Lead and Prospect stages, change our product tagline to add the words “longest-lasting”
  • Actually costs less than 75% of other providers: To reach the Lead and Prospect stage, make sure that we highlight this in at least one blog post every two weeks
  • Also comes with a free thingamajig and a lifetime warranty: To reach the Prospect stage, make sure this item is highlighted at least twice during every face-to-face sales presentation and at least three times during every telephone sales presentation.

So this is a two-step challenge! Take the objections you wrote down last week and turn them into objection-destroying messages that you can embed into your sales funnel.

Have fun and get creative!