Creating a profitable business online is a process, just like creating any other business. Regardless of what it is that you’re offering, your cash flow is based on your sales.
Once you know and implement the online business sales cycle (which anyone can follow), you’ll be able to create consistent cash flow for your business, too.
Here are the six basic steps in the online business sales cycle:
Step 1. Choose Your Prospects
“Prospects” is basically business-speak for potential clients and/or customers. So, who is the person who is ideally suited for your product, program or service? Who’s your ideal client or customer? Who makes up your target market? Is it parents, health professionals, copywriters, dancers, artists, entrepreneurs, boat owners?
It’s critical for the success of any business to choose a group of people to work with, even if that group is very broad at first. As you become more and more aware of what kind of client or customer shows up for you, you’ll be able to more narrowly target that portion of the market, which will make your marketing a lot easier and bring you cash flow a lot quicker.
Step 2. Invite Them into Your HourGlass
Once you know who your prospects are, you’ll want to invite them into your sales flow – in the business model I teach, I call it your HourGlass – by giving them a free taste of what it is that you offer in exchange for their email address.
There are many ways to do this – using your email signature, offering free introductory teleseminars, speaking, co-registration programs, Google Adwords, writing and submitting articles, listing with directories, participating in discussion lists, etc.
Step 3. Keep in Touch
Once your prospects are in your sales flow, you’ll want to keep in touch with them on a consistent basis. Common marketing knowledge tells us that it takes a minimum of 5-12 times for your prospects to see your message before it even registers. That’s why so many direct marketers will send you postcard after postcard with the same offer. They know that the only way to get you to take action on their offer is to expose you to the same or similar message over and over until you’re ready to hear it.
A very effective way to keep in touch with your prospects then is via an ezine. Because following up with your prospects is vital to making sales from them, publishing an ezine on a consistent basis does this work for you. The bonus is that you can follow up with all of your prospects at once, instead of one by one, which leverages your time – something you should always be striving for.
Step 4. Make Offers
And because we want to leverage our time, if we’re putting in the work to write and publish an ezine regularly, then we want to make sure that we are getting a return on that investment. To do so, you want to make at least one offer in your ezine that can result in sales for you.
You want to be sure to provide valuable content, but you also want to make sure that you invite people to take advantage of one or more of your offerings in each issue. If you don’t make the ask, you won’t make the money. So, if you’re uncomfortable asking for the sale, my best suggestion is to get over it fast if you want to stay in business for the long haul.
Step 5. Master the Upsell
It takes most new small business owners awhile to grasp the concept of an upsell, but once they do, it takes their business to a whole new level.
Once you have one offering to make to your prospects, start putting together your next offering. You always want to have a place for them to go to next, always have something else to invite them to or to take advantage of. Find out what else they want from you, then create and offer it to them.
The more products you have to offer, the more sales you’ll make because, instead of having to find new people all the time to buy your one product, you can upsell your current clients and customers into your other offerings. And selling to people who have already bought from you is much easier than converting new prospects all the time.
Step 6. Repeat the Process
The online business sales cycle is pretty simple really. Once you’ve done it once, it’s very easy to repeat. As you’re creating your own sales cycle, I suggest documenting what you do as you go along to make it that much easier to duplicate the next time around. Each time you repeat the process, your list of prospects will grow and so will your income!
“You either have excuses or you have results. Which one do you have today?”
This was a tweet posted by a former Platinum client of mine, Liz Dennery Marks, owner of SheBrand.com and Dennery Marks Inc., a very successful brick-and-mortar branding and celebrity outreach firm in Beverly Hills.
And it really struck a chord with me. Why? Because I’ve been having that conversation more often than ever lately, with both clients and colleagues.
So let’s see if I can help you figure out which is true for you:
Think of *one thing* in your business right now that is frustrating you.
Once you have that ‘one thing’ in mind, what was the next thought that popped into your head?
– I’m waiting for so-and-so to get back to me first.
– I don’t have the time, money, resources.
– I don’t know what to do next.
– I’m not sure this is right for me.
– I’m feeling lost, confused, unsupported.
– Anything thought that has ‘yeah, but…’ in it
All of these thoughts and feelings are absolutely valid. And they are all excuses. Choose a different word than ‘excuses’, if you’d like, but if you’re not moving forward and getting results, then I’m going to suggest that the issue isn’t truly any of the above.
By the way, I worded it that way – ‘what’s one thing’ – on purpose, because how we do anything is how we do everything.
And that’s my intention here – to shine the light on the fact that as long as you focus externally as the ‘reason’ something isn’t working for you, you’ll continue to be frustrated and stuck.
I had a client who was frustrated by what she considered to be my lack of support of her and her business. When she shared this frustration with me, I didn’t get defensive or take on her frustration. What I did do was ask her a series of simple questions that drilled down to the real issue.
In this case, it was that she wasn’t taking any action, including asking her coach (me) for the support she needed. Once she realized that she had everything she needed to move forward, including the very help she was paying for, everything shifted for her. She began asking for direction and implementing the information she already had, and her business started flowing immediately.
But more than that, she realized that she was doing the same thing in her personal life with her husband. She was frustrated by his lack of support, and yet as soon as she asked for it, he immediately sought out ways to help her.
Are you working too hard in your business? If you’re an entrepreneur, you probably are, especially if you’re in the early stages of your business building. And you’re not alone.
Here’s an example from my own client files:
I was recently working with a client who was a real go-getter, very serious about being in business for herself, and marketing only to a more affluent clientele. She wanted to increase her reach into that market online. And she was considering adding article marketing to her mix.
At this stage in her business, she was already doing quite well. She was close to making 6 figures and charging 5 times as much as her counterparts – and getting it easily. But she wasn’t satisfied. She really wanted to break the $100k mark before the third anniversary of her business, which was coming up in just a few months.
When she asked me, “What is the quickest, most cost-effective way to regularly market articles?” and then told me she planned to do this work herself, I stopped her.
“You know, just because you can do this task, doesn’t mean you should…”
She was quiet for a moment before asking me to elaborate.
“I know your writing is high quality and of high value to your market, and I definitely think you should be getting that content out there, to the appropriate places that will bring you the highest return-on-investment for your efforts. But I don’t think you should be doing this yourself. It’s not a good use of your time or your energy. What do you think?”
After a bit more discussion, she agreed to hire someone to do this for her.
As you read this, did you think of perhaps one task that you routinely do (or that falls by the wayside because you can never just get to it) that you know is ‘below your pay grade’ and yet you continue to waste time and energy on it (even if that time and energy is just thinking about how you’re NOT getting it done?)?
This concept was (still is, from time to time) difficult for me to grasp when my own coach shone a light on it for me. But since I’ve tried to be aware of how much effort I really need to put into a task to get the result I want, it’s opened up space for things to flow more effortlessly and more quickly than ever.
Do you spend more time than necessary responding to emails? Do you write two paragraphs when a two-sentence response would suffice? Do you respond to emails that actually don’t require a response? Do you check email every 5 minutes (come on, fess up!)? What if you didn’t do any of these things and still had a handle on your inbox? You can – just follow Tina’s system to Escape from Email Hell (see Alicia Recommends).
Are you writing blog posts that are long? Maybe it even feels cumbersome to try to write a post the length of an article. Don’t – keep them short and pithy. Make sure your keywords are in the content and it doesn’t matter how long your posts are to the search engines – and your readers will probably appreciate shorter posts as well. Better yet, turn your weekly ezine articles into blog posts to save even more time and energy.
Are you constantly updating your website? Does it really need to be revamped so often? More to the point, is this something you have to do yourself? No. Most virtual assistants can make website updates for you at a much lower cost to your time and energy than you doing it yourself.
4. Customer/Client Relations
Who responds to questions and comments from your clients and customers? Are you processing refunds, working out payment glitches, resending download links, answering the same questions about your programs over and over, or any other task that could easily be passed off to a capable assistant? You can quickly and easily train someone to respond to these inquiries in your voice by having them shadow you via blind-copying them on each email you send out. Then reverse the process and voila – another time and energy drain has been removed from your shoulders.
If you’ve been a client of mine, it’s very likely you’ve heard one of my mantras, “Done is better than perfect.” I usually follow that with, “And it’s never going to be all done.” So choose to cause yourself less stress and DO LESS. Experiment with this and see how much more productive you’ll actually be. Think of just one thing that you could do the easy way instead of the hard way, or delegate to an assistant, or better yet, take off your ‘must-do’ list altogether.
Basically, there are two things that must be in place before any of your offerings can be successful (read: profitable). One is that it must be designed for a niche. So, there must be a group of people who you are targeting to offer your product/program/service toward.
The other is that is must solve a problem that your niche wants solved. Sounds obvious, yes? But many times, we create what we think our niche NEEDS instead of what it WANTS. It’s critical to know the difference and to use that knowledge to create your offerings.
There are many ways you can find out what it is that your niche wants most so you can create it and offer it to them. One of those ways is to hold a teleseminar that both delivers value to your participants as well as provides you with market research to use to inform your product line.
The best thing is that these types of teleseminars can be easy to fill and fun to host. Here are the 4 steps:
1. Decide on the topic
Your best best is to choose a topic that’s broad in scope, meaning that it discusses a problem that the majority of your niche struggles with and would like help in solving. This will get you more people on the call as well as give you a more diverse group from which to learn from for your own market research purposes.
2. Use a mini-application
When people register for your teleseminar, ask them to fill out a short questionnaire. This really begins your market research because you’ll be asking them what it is that they are struggling with specifically in relation to the bigger topic.
For example, if your topic is “How to Balance My Business and My Family and Still Have Time for a Great Life”, one question you may ask in your questionnaire is, “What’s the ONE thing you struggle with most when it comes to balancing your business and your family? Please be as specific as possible so I can give you some specific strategies to help!”
You could also ask the question in another way: “What two questions do you have that I must answer on this teleseminar for you to feel it was of value to you?” You may also want to ask where your participant is at present with regard to your topic and where they’d like to be.
Tell them you’ll be answering as many questions as you can on the teleseminar itself, to engage people right from the start when they are registering for the call, as well as encourage them to show up in the first place (this is particularly helpful if this is a fre*e call).
Also, don’t be shy about telling your participants that you’ll be using their comments and feedback as part of growing your own business. For example, if you’re writing a book and you need some more content for a certain section, hold a teleseminar on that topic and share with your teleseminar participants that they may be featured in the book if their comments, suggestions or examples are used. People will jump to sign up for your call!
3. Ask questions
At this point, you have an outline for the call itself, and now you’ve filled it in with more content with the answers to the questions that were submitted when people registered.
The next step is to weave those questions and answers into the conversation on the call itself, and ask if there are MORE questions or comments around them. This will give you more in-depth and insightful information for your purposes, as well as be valuable to those on the call. This is when you really want to give the space and the time for your participants to talk (count 5 Mississippi’s if you have to to stop yourself from filling any silence while people are thinking).
Be sure to record the call so you can listen carefully to the conversation again and take notes about what you hear that your participants are looking for in terms of solutions to their problems.
4. Send a follow-up email
As soon as possible after the call, send a follow-up email thanking your attendees for their time and participation. Include notes from the call that you’ve cleaned up and converted to a neat PDF file for them as well for added value.
What you’ve done with this is type of ‘Open House’ teleseminar is invited your attendees to ask you anything they want about your area of expertise. With the information you glean, you can easily tailor your next product around the things they most want, which equals a successful offering for you!