In your sales funnel, you ultimately turn leads into customers through the following process:
- generate leads
- qualify them into prospects
- convert those prospects into customers
The upper half of the sales funnel tends to be thought of as marketing and the bottom half tends to be thought of as sales (although truth be told, it’s more complex than that).
While many businesses allow their sales funnels to be built by default, the most successful businesses invest time and effort into intentionally creating, understanding, and optimizing their sales funnel and carefully running people through it.
So, it makes sense to dig into your sales funnel and break it apart piece by piece to understand what happens at each stage. After you generate a lead, qualify them into prospects, and then work to convert them into customers… what actually happens at this point? What is the “work” you do convert your prospects into customers? What are the tools you use to convert?
In this blog post, I want to look closely at the “sales stage” of your sales funnel and discover what the actual activities are. Think of this as the sales process deconstructed.
#1. Capture attention (and recapture it) over and over. Your prospects are busy, distracted, and perhaps not entirely convinced that they have an immediate problem that needs solving. You need to capture their attention so you can remind them of it. Shock them out of their zombie lives with something that breaks the pattern of their expectations; do something totally zany and the opposite of what they expect.
#2. Engage in an entertaining way. There are a lot of distractions in your prospects’ lives—from family to work to entertainment, and even your competitors. Each of these vies for the limited attention and time of your prospects so you need to engage your prospects in an entertaining way to ensure that they listen to you. The more interesting you are, the more they’ll stick with you. As copywriter John Carlton says, “Be the most interesting thing they encounter all day.” Use compelling copy and stories to entertain.
#3. Agitate: Remind them of their problem and its cost. If you’ve ever hurt yourself and then learned to just deal with it while continuing your life then you know what your prospects are dealing with right now. Everyone has problems, challenges, and pain in their lives and many people just learn to tolerate it. Only when they think about it will they consider taking action. Your job as the salesperson is to remind them of their pain and the cost of it… of course in a professional and empathetic way that empowers them to solve it.
#4. Build a relationship. The selling process should not be a one-way street of you telling them what to think and feel and act. Selling occurs best in a relationship (which allows for an emotional connection and more valuable communication). Invite the person into your world and build a relationship with them. Yes, this is still possible in a sales letter and seemingly “one-way” copy; you can build a relationship by telling people about yourself and asking them (rhetorical) questions that they’ll answer in their own minds.
#5. Present/show the value. Keep revisiting the value of the solution against the cost of the problem. If you agitate the problem enough, and if you show how the solution is effective but also cheaper than the cost of the problem, you’ll massively increase sales. Unfortunately, where a lot of businesses fall short is: they only talk in terms of dollars so that prospects only ever think about the money they’re giving up; but when you focus on the broader value—of money, time, effort, pain-elimination, pleasure, social status, etc.—you are able to show how the painful cost of their current problem (i.e. of pain, time, and effort) is much costlier than the relatively cheap solution you’re offering. But you have to reinforce that value over and over.
#6. Add value. Too many businesses wait until the sale is closed before they add value to their customers. But if you start early and add value during the selling process, you set yourself apart from competitors who refuse to add value before the sale is made; you win customers over to you and create a sense of reciprocity that makes more people want to buy from you.
#7. Demonstrate their importance. The customer may not always be right (in spite of what the experts say) but they are always important. Tell prospects that they are important to you… and then act on it. (Ugh. Too many businesses say that the customer is important but don’t act like it. How often have you heard, “your call is important to us and will be answered within 30 minutes.” haha!) Show prospects that they are important by making them feel important.
#8. Advise. Prospects don’t always know what to do—when to use your services, how to use your services etc. Advise them during the selling process. This positions you as the expert and creates a relationship where they learn to rely on your guidance.
#9. Ask questions. Questions are the secret sauce of every sales interaction. Questions demonstrate your interest while also eliciting information from prospects that will help you understand their needs and create a solution that is perfect for them. Ask a lot of questions… and then ask even more questions after that. (Be sure to check out these 61 questions to strengthen client relationships and build loyalty).
#10. Listen. Good communication is a two-way street: talking and listening. This is especially true in the selling process when you are asking questions and seeking to understand your prospect. Listen actively and repeat back what you heard; seek to understand what your prospect is saying and dig deeper into the things they say so you can help them further.
#11. Follow-up. Chances are, your lead-nurturing, prospect-qualifying, customer-converting selling process is spread out over more than one interaction. If so, then you need to follow-up diligently. The numbers vary depending on who you ask but expect to follow-up NUMEROUS times (more often for larger or less-pressing problems). Have a system in place to follow-up regularly for a year or more.
#12. Educate. Demonstrate your expertise and authority, and add value to your prospects’ lives, by educating them. You can educate your prospect on how to deal with the pain of the problem, ways to further benefit from the product once they own it, or how to solve other related problems in their lives.
#13. Connect in various places/channels. Be everywhere! Your prospect is busy and has a lot of distractions vying for their attention. You should connect with them often and in engaging ways… and you should connect with them in many different places so that they don’t develop a blindness to the one channel that you communicate with them.
#14. Show them other people who have been successful. This is one of the most powerful, hidden ways to get people to buy! When you show to your prospects all the other customers who have been successful with your products or services, you’ll tip the scales in your favor: you’ll solidify your position as the expert, your prospects will develop a sense of tribal belonging and desire to be among the special group of your customers, and they’ll gain the confidence that their problems can be solved successfully. Use case studies and testimonials often!
#15. Communicate excitement. Yes, I said earlier that you need to be engaging and this is related but I want to mention it separately: you need to be enthusiastic. You need to be excited that they could become your customer. Customers have busy lives and we are often inundated with pessimism and difficulty but when you show them authentic (not silly) excitement and enthusiasm, you bring a bright and optimistic light to their world.
#16. Assure. Assure your prospects that they are making the right decision. Yes, it might seem biased because it’s coming from you and you are trying to sell them something. However, if you’ve built rapport with them and you legitimately have their best interests in mind, they’ll see your authenticity and appreciate the assurance. (Of course, you have to believe it yourself!)
#17. Assure (part 2). You should also remove all worries and second-guessing by assuring your prospects in this way: assure them with warranties, guarantees, service promises, support procedures, return policies, etc. Have a strong guarantee with teeth! Take away all worries that they will lose out if they make a mistake.
#18. Position yourself as the best. Without being egotistical and self-centered, seed your own expertise (and the supremacy of your product or service) into every conversation. Help prospects see that you are the very best choice for them. (That last part is key; it’s a simpler route to tell prospects that you are the best in the world, and it’s okay to do that if it’s true, but it’s much more effective to show prospects that you are the best choice for them.)
#19. Share ideas and resources. Earlier in this list I suggested that you add value during the selling process to be proactive and to create a sense of reciprocity. But I’m also suggesting that you share ideas and resources, not only to add value and create reciprocity but also to expand your prospect’s mind about what is possible with the product or service they are going to buy. Show them ways that they could benefit further, or give them resources that will become even more beneficial when they buy. It’s like saying: “You want to buy a car? Here’s the winter tires you’ll need… as well as an instruction manual to become an Uber driver.”
#20. Confirm fit (and reconfirm it) over and over. One of the reasons that people don’t buy is because they are not entirely convinced that your solution will address their problem. Many people live under the notion that “my situation is different” or “my business is unique” and they fail to see that their problems are the same as everyone else’s problems. They don’t want to waste their money on something that turns out not to be right. Yes, you should set their mind at ease with an amazing guarantee
#21. Update the prospect about changes. Depending on how long your sales process is, there may be changes that occur in availability. Plan to update your prospect regularly to mention the scarcity of the product, changes in price, or other adjustments that might be different than when they first contacted you. Some of the changes could help close the sale (such as if the product is becoming scarcer or the price is going up) but others are simply a good reason to stay in touch.
#22. Set expectations. In nearly every purchase, there will be a process—a transaction, a delivery of the product or service, and perhaps the activation or execution of that purchase toward solving the problem. You should let your prospect know before the purchase what they should expect after the purchase; walk them through screenshots of the transaction process, let them know exactly how long until delivery, explain to them what is required to actually activate/execute the product or service to get the solution they want.
#23. Empathy. Empathize with the prospect as you interact with them. Seek constantly to understand what they are going through and to connect with them emotionally. Feel their pain with them and give them the support and hope they need. (Of course be authentic and legitimate about it!) In this way, you’ll build a strong connection with them that will help you make the sale (because you are providing a great solution to a pressing problem) and you’ll build a relationship that will last beyond this one transaction.
#24. Ask for the order. Of course all that relationship building and empathy will have not value or purpose to you if you don’t also ask for the order. Invite your prospect to make the purchase right now and give them a reason to do so. You may need to ask for the order more than once.
This is not a perfect list; no list could ever be completely comprehensive. Some of the items on this list are related (i.e. you could make the argument that asking questions and listening are components of empathy) but I’m trying to deconstruct them down into discrete parts so I think those could be understood separately. And in other cases, I skipped over some things (like “handle objections”) because I feel it’s covered with the points I mentioned. No list could ever be completely comprehensive but this is a solid start to understand the deconstructed sales process.
Want to become better at selling? Rather than just trying to “sell” to a prospect, break the sales process down into individual parts and focus on improving these individual parts; in doing so, you’ll improve your ability to close prospects and convert them into customers.
Want to dig into the sales funnel further? Download my Sales Funnel Quick Reference Sheet (PDF) and my Sales Funnel Worksheet (PDF). You might also want to pick up my book, Click here to learn more about The Sales Funnel Bible and find out where to buy it..