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 Funnel

Once you know who your prospects are, you'll want to invite them into your Marketing & Product Funnel 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 funnel, 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!

(c) 2009 Alicia Forest

About the author:  Alicia M Forest, MBA, 6-Figure Business Breakthrough Mentor, teaches self-employed professionals how to attract more clients, create profit-making products and services, make more sales, and ultimately live the life they desire and deserve. For FREE tips on how to create wild abundance in your business, visit