Discover and implement effective sales funnel tactics used by other businesses

In a previous blog post, I listed 99 ways to optimize your sales funnel and grow your business. One of the tips I gave was to “Look at businesses you’ve bought from who share a similar business model. Map out their business plan to see how it compares to yours.

Here’s how to do that:

STEP 1: KNOW YOUR BUSINESS MODEL
First, you need to know what kind of business model you have. If you already know your business model, you can skip this step. However, it might be useful to do it anyway. Although there are different ways to define a business model, here’s a few ways that you can narrow down the search:

  • Do you sell products and or services?
  • Do you sell something you, yourself, provide or are you a broker/agent/affiliate?
  • Do you sell a one-time purchase (i.e. an ebook) or an on-going purchase (i.e. a subscription)?
  • Do you sell primarily to consumers or businesses?
  • What problems does your product/service solve or what needs does your product/service fulfill?
  • What does your target market look like? What does it NOT look like? (i.e. who do you sell to versus who don’t you sell to?)

STEP 2: FIND OTHER COMPANIES THAT YOU’VE BOUGHT FROM
Now that you have some notes about your business model, think about other companies you’ve bought from in the past that are similar. You’ve defined a sort-of “mosaic” and you probably won’t find a company that is exactly the same. Try to find a company that fits parts of this model. In fact, try to find a few companies like this.

And, I’m advising that these be companies you’ve bought from, simply because you’ll have gained a great view into their sales funnel – you’ll have seen every step of their sales funnel from the “inside” of their sales funnel!

STEP 3: COMPARE SALES FUNNELS AND TAKE NOTES
Now, compare their sales funnel with yours and take notes. Use the Sales Funnel Worksheet to track how you entered their sales funnel as an Audience member, how you moved through the Lead and Prospect stage, and finally how you became a Customer. And, if you became one of their Evangelists, track that, too. In particular, take note of:

  • How you entered their sales funnel as an Audience member.
  • What they said or did that convinced you to listen to them as a Lead.
  • What sales techniques and marketing collateral they used to sell you as a Prospect.
  • What objections you had and how they overcame those objections.
  • How long it took you to go through each stage.
  • What actions (“triggers”) you performed to move from one stage to the next.
  • How you responded to the product/service when it was delivered. (Was it quick? Did you sense the value you hoped would be present?)

STEP 4: MODIFY YOUR SALES FUNNEL
Draw inspiration from the successful ideas that worked on you – the techniques that moved you through their sales funnel from their Audience stage to their Customer stage – and apply them to your own sales funnel.

If your sales funnel is completely different, consider setting up and testing a sales funnel that is very similar to theirs to test against your existing sales funnel.

Or, start smaller by integrating some of the more successful tactics on a regular basis.

STEP 5: REPEAT
This is one of those exercises where it doesn’t hurt to do it again from time to time. Depending on how often you buy, consider doing this at least once a quarter or even as often as once a month. You’ll progressively improve your sales funnel!

A counter-intuitive sales funnel tip to increasing sales in your business

When implementing your sales funnel in your business, one of your goals should be to optimize your sales funnel to get more people moving through each stage on their way toward becoming a Customer.

And, when most people think about sales funnel optimization, they think of reducing the number of steps that someone has to take in order to buy. For the most part, that makes sense: A prospective buyer shouldn’t have to click here then there then there then there then somewhere else in order to buy. It’s a generally accepted truth that the easier and faster and smoother the steps in the sales funnel are, the more sales you’ll make.

But it’s not always the case.

In my recent blog post 99 ways to optimize your sales funnel and grow your business, one of my tips (tip #4) was to actually increase the number of steps in each stage of your sales funnel:

Increase the number of steps in each stage. This might sound counter-intuitive but it can help to reduce the amount of resistance people feel by helping them take baby steps instead of giant leaps.

HERE’S WHAT I MEAN
Your sales funnel is made up of five stages — Audience, Leads, Prospects, Customers, Evangelists. And each of those five stages of your sales funnel is made up of steps. (The number of steps vary, though, depending on your marketplace and business model.)

Sales funnel contacts move from one stage to another by going step-by-step through each stage. (Check out this blog post on how to identify the steps in each stage of your sales funnel).

If the steps were carefully selected, each step should be the next obvious step for the sales funnel contact and each step should be a step that they move to with little or no resistance. It should be an intuitive step that the contact automatically gravitates toward in their desire to find a solution to their problem or fulfill their need.

Where businesses fumble, though, is by streamlining their sales funnel so much that they don’t have enough steps in each stage, thereby resulting in too big of a space between each step. The steps are no longer intuitive. They are no longer easy or obvious for the prospective buyer.

For example, a Prospect might think (step 1) that you have a potential solution, (step 2) that you have a potential solution that will work for them, (step 3) that you have a potential solution that they can afford, and (step 4) that you have a potential solution that needs to be purchased immediately. Those are good, obvious, small steps.

But consider this example: A Prospect might think (step 1) that you have a potential solution, and (step 2) that you have a potential solution that needs to be purchased immediately. See how there is too much of a space between those two steps? The steps are no longer intuitive and easy to move to.

So, by adding more steps into your sales funnel, you are solving that problem by making each step a little easier to handle. They become more intuitive.

HERE’S WHY IT WORKS
It works because sales funnel contacts want to solve their problems and fulfill their needs but they can only move through a sales funnel in a way that feels natural and is free of resistance. As soon as they sense discord or have questions or can’t make the logical leap from one step to another, they either stall or fall out of your sales funnel completely.

By adding (carefully chosen) steps into your sales funnel, you are reducing the resistance and ensuring that the steps are natural and easy to take.

HERE’S WHAT TO DO
If you are finding that your sales funnel contacts are stalling or disappearing, try this:

  1. Identify the stage in your sales funnel they are stalling or falling out of.
  2. List the steps you currently have at that stage.
  3. Break down those steps into smaller steps, if possible.
  4. Brainstorm ways that you can place steps in between existing steps and implement those.
  5. Have others review your sales funnel with this revised stage of steps to make sure that the flow is as logical and intuitive as you can make it.
  6. Implement.
  7. Test.

99 ways to optimize your sales funnel and grow your business

Grow a profitable business by focusing on the right things… and one of the most important things you can focus on is a well-defined, smooth-flowing sales funnel that takes in audience members and converts more and more of them into customers.

Select one of these 99 ideas, work at it, reap the results, and come back to this list to select another idea. Spend a day, a week, or a month on a single idea. Need to be reminded about the various stages in a sales funnel? Download the Sales Funnel Quick Reference Guide.

(The links in this list are not affiliate links.)

  1. Look at businesses who you’ve bought from who share a similar business model. Map out their business plan and see how it compares to yours. Read more in this blog post: Discover and implement effective sales funnel tactics used by other businesses.
  2. When a prospect says no, we often leave their office with just a handshake and a half-hearted “we’ll call later”. Instead, leave behind something of value.
  3. Enable your Evangelists to explicitly share your business with their peers. Give them specific ideas to help them: Give them extra business cards or a PDF entitled “6 ways to spread the word” that invites them to tweet something about you, Like your Facebook page, or comment on your blog, etc.
  4. Increase the number of steps in each stage. This might sound counter-intuitive but it can help to reduce the amount of resistance people feel by helping them take baby steps instead of giant leaps. Read more in this blog post: A counter-intuitive sales funnel tip to increasing sales in your business
  5. Collect testimonials from Customers and Evangelists… and even from Prospects! (Find out what your prospects like about your offering and what they expect if they were to buy. Construct some sales messages around these and use them in your sales presentation).
  6. Ask for feedback at every stage of your funnel from contacts at every stage in your sales funnel. Refine your message appropriately.
  7. Use split testing to experiment with every message and channel in your sales funnel.
  8. Each stage of your sales funnel has steps that a contact takes. Look at the steps in your Audience stage and see where there is a backlog of people. Chances are, there is an emotional or logical deterrent keeping them from advancing. Solve it.
  9. Do the same thing (as above) with contacts in your Leads stage.
  10. Do the same thing (as above) with contacts in your Prospects stage.
  11. Divide up your Customers into “most profitable” and “least profitable”. Figure out what traits are common among the most profitable ones. Then increase your marketing to audiences with those traits. Read more in this blog post: A step-by-step way to find your most profitable customers (and transform your business).
  12. Read Jeffrey Gitomer’s “The Sales Bible“. Then read it again.
  13. Select a non-profit organization related to your industry and become an active supporter and vocal proponent. Support them financially and with volunteer hours and with your talent.
  14. Set up your own forum or social network. (Ning is my favorite.)
  15. Create a YouTube channel for your brand and start posting videos.
  16. List all of your Prospects in order of most promising to least promising. Figure out how you defined “most promising” and “least promising” because that is an important measurement but it’s different for every business.
  17. Using the above list, identify how you can change your Audience-generation to get more of the most promising Prospects. (In other words, you’re identifying what makes a good Prospect, then shaping your sales funnel in an earlier stage to get contacts who will turn into the most promising Prospects).
  18. Using the above list, identify how you can change your Audience-generation to get fewer of the least promising Prospects.
  19. Using the above list, identify how you can turn your least promising Prospects into more promising ones.
  20. Write a book.
  21. Collect Leads by holding a draw for an exciting prize.
  22. If you have a lot of Leads or Prospects that aren’t doing anything, create an exclusive opt-in report and inner circle ezine and invite only them to subscribe to it. In that ezine, amp up the value. Discard the Leads and Prospects who don’t subscribe to it.
  23. Speed up the points of contact you have with each person. So if you normally talk to a Lead once every 2 weeks, try talking to them every week.
  24. Find the Audience channel that engages your contacts the least and focus exclusively on it for a week. Make it the channel that engages them the most and see what happens.
  25. List all of your Leads in order of most promising to least promising. Figure out how you decided that.
  26. Using the above list, identify how you can change your Audience generation to get more of the most promising Leads.
  27. Using the above list, identify how you can change your Audience generation to get fewer of the least promising Leads.
  28. Using the above list, identify how you can turn your least promising Leads into more promising ones.
  29. Ask to roll up your sleeves and work in your Leads’ or Prospects’ businesses for a day. (Yes, this can take up a lot of your time, so spend one day or even just a half a day in your most promising Lead’s or Prospect’s office.) You will notice such a difference in how your sales presentation goes!
  30. List something interesting about every Lead. If you can’t list anything, engage them in a conversation until you have something interesting. Then use that interesting thing in conversation with them to build rapport.
  31. Give your Evangelists an incentive to talk about you. This is not only a great way to encourage talking about you, it’s also a measurable way to know who is talking.
  32. Increase your number of buyers by adjusting payment plans to make your offering more accessible to those who might not be able to pay the way you’ve conventionally been charging.
  33. Make it easier for your Audience members to become Leads by reducing the information they need to give to become a Lead.
  34. List the parameters you are using to qualify your Prospects and evaluate whether you need all of them. Can you present to more potential buyers simply by broadening what you define as a good Prospect?
  35. Schedule time to periodically touch base with Customers to share additional ideas and recommend ways to improve their lives or businesses.
  36. Build some ancillary products or services that your Customers can buy once they have bought from you already.
  37. Make your Customer to Evangelist trigger easier than it already is.
  38. Make your Prospect to Customer trigger easier than it already is.
  39. Make your Lead to Prospect trigger easier than it already is.
  40. Make your Audience to Lead trigger easier than it already is.
  41. Turn a single product into 3 products — make your current product the silver level, add value for a gold level product and take away some value for a bronze level product.
  42. If you sell services, offer a free initial consultation.
  43. Extend your guarantee to the ridiculous.
  44. Do a sales blitz one weekend: Overwhelm the web with press releases, pay-per-click marketing, and incentives.
  45. Get a cool logo and have them printed on shirts and hats, with your website included on them. Turn people into Evangelists by giving away branded merchandise.
  46. Create a “center of excellence” for your industry and pull together information and resources from the great thinkers in your industry. Include yourself in that list.
  47. Find a few big names in your industry who offer non-competing products or services to your target market and ask them to review your product or service.
  48. Create a course and offer it at various virtual university sites, or offer it at a site like prfessor.com.
  49. If you don’t yet have an ebook, write one (or have one written).
  50. Hire a freelance sales person on a contingency basis to sell for you.
  51. Get in touch with trade organizations in your area that serve your target market. Find out when the next trade show is and set up a booth. Collect names, give out information and an incentive to buy from you.
  52. Get an affiliate account with a few carefully selected vendors that serve a similar market to yours. Offer these to your Customers.
  53. Write an ezine and offer it to people in exchange for their email address. Build a list of Prospects.
  54. Read Tom Hopkins’ book “How to Master the Art of Selling“. Then read it again.
  55. Publish a series of blogs and press releases with a “public service” flavor to the — offer helpful, timely advice on a problem that your market faces.
  56. Look at your buyers and figure out where they initially engaged you as an Audience member. Then temporarily increase your effort in that one channel while you temporarily reduce your efforts in other Audience channels.
  57. Segment your market into smaller, more granular segmentations (i.e. By demographic differences) and fine-tune your marketing to engage more effectively with your newly defined markets.
  58. Answer questions on Quora, LinkedIn, Answers.com, or wherever your market is asking questions.
  59. Start a daily digest on paper.li.
  60. If you have a physical location, get a presence on Foursquare and offer the mayor a promotional incentive.
  61. Extend your Foursquare reach by connecting with another Foursquare-savvy business (who serve a related market) and offer their mayor a promotional incentive of some kind.
  62. Offer seminars to local organizations.
  63. Package up some of your material (product excerpts or blog posts) into themed infopacks and give them to Customers with a commitment that they send it to their peers.
  64. Make sure your blog is mobile-friendly, allowing people on the go to read what you have to say.
  65. Get a toll-free number. Include some basic pre-recorded information for callers to hear, plus a regularly changing value-added recording. (Reuse podcast snippets but make them available for people who don’t listen to podcasts.
  66. Put a chatbox on your site so contacts can interact with you immediately. Hire a virtual assistant to cover it during the times that you cannot.
  67. Do a competitive analysis to see what your competitors are offering that you aren’t. Explore how you might offer similar benefits in a superior way.
  68. Find a keyword that matches a search your target market does. Buy a domain with that keyword and set up an optimized page with a single call to action — to become a Lead.
  69. Devote a series of articles and blog posts to specific problems your target market experiences — one problem per article and post. Attract people with the article and send them to your blog post where they will learn more.
  70. Offer a discount to those who buy early in the sales funnel.
  71. Find a forum where your target market likes to spend their time. Go there daily and just listen for the first couple of months.
  72. Write down their frustrations and challenges then figure out if and how your offering solves it. (You probably shouldn’t present your solution to the people in the forum, though).
  73. Write a magazine article targeted to your market and publish it in a magazine that your market reads.
  74. Seek out Audience members who have followed/friended you but have never interacted with you. Engage individually with them.
  75. Reconnect with old Leads by sending a series of follow-up emails, either enticing them with a special offer or asking them to confirm whether or not they want to be removed from your mailing list.
  76. Get in touch with Prospects who have said “no” to you in the past. Find out if anything has changed that would allow them to buy from you now.
  77. Contact past Customers who haven’t bought from you in a while. Offer them a product or service with some incentive to buy again.
  78. Offer something free earlier in your sales funnel that is made more valuable by a product or service that your contact can purchase. (I.e., the first chapter of your book).
  79. Hold an event (in person or via webinar) where your Customers or Evangelists can attend with a friend.
  80. Ask your Customer to suggest the name of someone they think would benefit from your service. Ask every time you talk to them.
  81. Double your Audience-generation efforts. (Your ratios should remain the same so the rest of your sales funnel should approximately double).
  82. Write a blog post about a Customer. Make it a glowing recommendation as well as a useful post for THEIR Customers.
  83. Connect with other businesses who serve the same target market as you (but who aren’t direct competitors). Set up an affiliate agreement with them and generously direct your Customers to those other businesses.
  84. List the top 5 objections that you hear from Propsects and create a brochure, blog post, or page on your site that addresses each one.
  85. Add structure to your sales funnel by implementing a CRM system. Sounds too complicated? Start with a simple spreadsheet.
  86. Add value to existing products by recording a series of videos and packaging those videos with your products.
  87. Try a new channel to reach your Evangelist stage contacts.
  88. Try a new channel to reach you Customer stage contacts.
  89. Try a new channel to reach your Prospects stage contacts.
  90. Try a new channel to reach your Leads stage contacts.
  91. Try a new channel to reach your Audience stage contacts.
  92. Look at the benefits offered by your product and consider who else (besides your target market) requires those same benefits.
  93. Identify the people in your sales funnel who have not purchased anything and create a different version of your product that might appeal to them. (Try something smaller for a lower price, or something more targeted).
  94. Interview someone famous in your market — either in print or in an audio or video format. Give them a copy of the interview and welcome them to post links to it wherever they want.
  95. Buy a related URL and post a long, keyword rich report on it. At the bottom, include “Subscribe to my ezine” as your call to action.
  96. Guest blog. In fact, hold a “guest blog challenge” with yourself to write 5 guest blogs next week.
  97. Identify a small, long-tail keyword or keyphrase. Write 2-3 blogs and 3-5 articles (pointing to those blogs).
  98. Write a free report, make it available to your contacts if they leave an email address, and promote it with keyword rich press releases.
  99. Once you have gone through the list, start over.