How the sales funnel can help you grow your business

There is so much to do if you want to run a successful business. It’s easy for entrepreneurs to become overwhelmed with the amount of marketing opportunities available, and sales activities required, for a business to succeed.

Each new marketing opportunity or sales activity pursued can help to drive revenue but can chip away at the limited time available for an entrepreneur to run a business. And just when you think you’ve got on top of your marketing efforts, a new marketing channel appears that you need to think about integrating into your marketing efforts.

Here’s a money-making, time-saving tool you can use to take control of your business, reduce the marketing/sales overload, all while increasing profit and saving time.

THE SALES FUNNEL

Your sales funnel gives you a bird’s-eye-view of the relationship your business has with prospective and existing buyers. A sales funnel looks and acts similar to a real-life funnel: Leads go in the wide opening at the top of the funnel and the funnel narrows to the point where only a few prospects hand over their money and buy something from you.

Many business owners view the sales funnel as a nice-to-know concept rather than what it really is: A practical strategic tool to control the business. As a result, many businesses end up with haphazard marketing and sales efforts that are not always as efficient or profitable as they could be, developed over time through organic growth rather than intention.

HOW TO USE THE SALES FUNNEL AS A STRATEGIC TOOL

Start by drawing out your sales funnel. Create lead profiles of the people who are entering your sales funnel and buyer profiles of the people who become your customers.

Next, identify what marketing channels they encounter between becoming a lead and becoming a customer. There’s a path that most people follow. For example, maybe they learn about you on Twitter then click to your website’s home page then click to your product page then click on the Buy Now button. Make note of that in your sales funnel drawing.

Then look for opportunities to optimize the process.

  • Perhaps you are using other marketing channels that aren’t driving traffic to your website in the same way. By becoming aware of its role in your sales funnel and tracking the results from each channel, you can streamline your marketing efforts.
  • Perhaps you could skip a step in the process and achieve the same results. (From the example above, you might send them from Twitter directly to your product page, for example, and test whether that improves the number of people who click the Buy Now button).
  • Perhaps you could add a step after the Buy Now button to offer an ancillary product or service to your new customer.
  • And, of course, you should test the copy at each of those “steps” in your sales funnel and see if one type copy converts better than another.

The sales funnel provides a way to add some structure to your business and provides more clarity to you as you find ways to get more people to buy from you in a more profitable way.

Willpower: The most important skill for success

When I started my business, I loved the fact that I was my own boss — I could serve clients on my own schedule. I could sleep in, eat when I wanted, work with those I chose to work with. It was basically a free-for-all.

It was fun for a while but then I noticed a few things: I wasn’t growing my business. I was becoming complacent. I was serving clients but not building for the long term. I allowed myself to procrastinate or become distracted in the middle of projects. I wasn’t as healthy as I could have been, either.

And whenever I tried to change, I would fade back toward my less-than-healthy habits.

I soon discovered that the real cause of my problems was not the choice to do these things but the lack of willpower to do something different.

Willpower is sometimes called “self-discipline” or even “focus” or “concentration”. It refers to your ability to choose a goal and then to push through the pain, discomfort, displeasure, obstacles, etc. that you face until that goal becomes a reality. I hate to admit this but I lacked willpower. If I wanted something, I bought it. My workouts were not really that challenging. I only did things if I felt like it.

… and the results showed. My business did okay (I still had year-over-year growth most years) but it wasn’t stellar. My health was so-so. I was less interested in taking risks.

I ended up like a pot-bound plant — grown into myself — and I didn’t like what I had become.

So I started making changes in how I do things (by eating better, exercising, focusing on my work, etc.), plus I also started studying willpower.

One of the changes I made was to take on a writing project at a client’s office. Although I much preferred to write in the comfort of my home, the discipline of going to a client’s office every single day helped to “reset” my clock. I did that for a year (this was a few years ago now) and enjoyed it. And I’ve willingly done it again since then, simply because it was an excellent way to inject some discipline in my life.

Another change I made was to workout in the mornings and change my diet. I’ve limited my coffee intake, I eat my bigger meals earlier in the day, I have drastically cut back my carbs.

Another change was the Finish What You Start series I blogged about last year. It was part of that whole effort to improve my willpower.

I also study willpower voraciously. I read Theron Q. Dumont’s The Power of Concentration every year, I’m reading Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich (which covers the topic of willpower), I’ve read Kelly McGonigal’s The Willpower Instinct (which I’ve included as one of the 10 business books that changed my life). And there’s more (which I’ll talk about in a moment).

I’ve come to the realization that willpower is the most important skill for success. Success has little to do with how good you are at something or how much money you have or whether you have a great idea. Rather, success is almost entirely wrapped up in willpower — how much pain you are willing to tolerate to achieve your goal.

Lack of willpower is why people don’t stick to their diet. It’s why they don’t quit smoking. It’s why new year resolutions are broken. It’s why people dream of quitting their job to start a business but fail to take the plunge.

But the person with willpower says: “I will adhere to my goal, no matter what, until it is achieved.” That is the person who will succeed.

With that kind of willpower, you can overcome any obstacles, achieve any goal, see results, and enjoy success (however you define it).

So if we want 2014 to be The Year of Awesome then the one thing each one of us needs is MORE willpower.

I believe willpower is a skill. It’s something we’re not really born with (have you ever seen a baby with willpower? Neither have I). It’s something we learn. It’s something we can improve. Here’s how to get more willpower in your life:

  • Start small. Willpower is like a muscle. If it’s out of shape, it doesn’t work as well. So start small and build up your willpower muscle with little successes. If you are trying to change your diet, for example, start with just cutting out the cookies. You can always grow your willpower over time. Once you’ve mastered the cookies, move on to the candy. By doing so, you’ll grow your willpower in a way that isn’t actually that hard.
  • Celebrate every success. Good habits are so easy to give up because we wait until the achieved goal before we celebrate. But what makes the Alcoholics Anonymous method so powerful is that they celebrate every success. If you are trying to quit smoking, don’t make your new year’s resolution to be “no smoking in 2014”. Rather, make an hourly resolution — “I won’t smoke this hour”… and then repeat it every single hour. And don’t stop celebrating. Someone I know just posted on Facebook that she has been sober for 20 years. That’s great. I’m sure it’s a daily battle but as long as she has enough willpower for TODAY, that’s all she needs.
  • Study willpower. There are many great resources out there that will help. I’ve listed some of my favorites above but you will also find some great books about habits — making good habits and breaking bad ones — that overlap with the willpower conversation.
  • Eliminate the temptation. This one is overlooked by so many people, I think. If you want to cut back on the candy you eat, STOP BUYING CANDY. Don’t buy it for other people just to keep in the house. Just stop altogether and ask other people to stop buying it for you. Related: When I found it really difficult to get up in the morning to workout, I analyzed the reasons and made some changes… workout equipment is set out at night, workout clothes are at the foot of my bed, and my thermostat is set to warm up the house shortly before I workout (so I’m not tempted to lay in bed where it’s warm).
  • Replace your rituals. I’m not a smoker but this one makes a lot of sense to me: Smokers have a hard time quitting because, along with the nicotine hit, they also get some sense of comfort from the ritual of smoking — putting something to their lips. So these rituals need to be replaced with other rituals. For me, I want to get lean so I’m changing my diet (what I eat and when I eat). Among those is a new ritual of eating a lot of vegetables throughout the day. My goal is not only to eat healthy but also to create a ritual where I’m gaining enjoyment and comfort in eating vegetables.
  • Decide what you really want and decide how important it is to you. This was huge for me. I was making choices because they were easy and enjoyable for the short-term. When I gave some serious thought to what I wanted in the long-term, and why those long-term goals were more important, I actually found it very easy to change my habits. I was motivated to push through the short-term discomfort because the long-term goal was inspiring to me.

There are other tips but these ones have had the biggest impact on my life.

Hey, I definitely don’t have all the answers and haven’t achieved all of the goals I want to achieve. I’m not saying that I have. This has been a journey for me and continues to be a big part of my ongoing education. But I feel like I’ve stumbled across the one key that I believe will unlock everything I’m working for. It’s willpower. If you want to make positive changes in your life, strengthen this skill in your life!

2014: The Year of Awesome

2013 was a great year for my business. I pushed my business (and myself) in new directions, strengthened my brands, built some NEW brands, made progress… and had a lot of fun doing it. All that pushing wasn’t always comfortable and easy, nor was it always 100% successful, but I’m looking back on the year with satisfaction and no regrets.

And now 2014 is here! I’ve got exciting plans for 2014 and I can’t wait to share them with you as they are unveiled.

Watch for my book to be finally published, a couple of new brands to roll out, and a big push to grow the real estate investing side of my business. I intend to take some risks and push my business (and myself) even higher. I want to finish 2014 having achieved a new level I couldn’t even imagine when I started.

I want 2014 to be The Year of Awesome in my business.

Here are a few rules/resolutions for my business this year to get me there…

  1. I will build deeper relationships with people by proactively helping others.
  2. I will create quality content that makes the world a better place.
  3. I will invest my money, time, and effort in things that build a lasting, passive income (specifically in infomarketing and real estate).
  4. I will eliminate procrastination by choosing to do the hardest thing first, always.
  5. I will thrive on taking smart risks in my business, enjoying the edge-of-my-seat anxiety that sometimes comes with it.
  6. I will focus on a few things and do them well, aiming to finish what I start.
  7. I will embrace rejection.
  8. I will have fun, striking a balance between work and play.

May 2014 be The Year of Awesome for you and your venture!