Time is money when you’re a small business owner.
The more time you spend juggling administrative tasks like scheduling appointments or qualifying leads, the less time you can dedicate to working directly with clients.
Twenty-four hours just isn’t enough time.
And when you’re focusing so much time on the behind-the-scenes tasks that keep your business running, it’s impossible to expand your business.
The solution: Sales automation.
When you automate your sales funnel, you’re using the tech-savvy method of turning hot leads into paying clients with a more hands-off approach.
No more phone tag or back-and-forth emails with clients who aren’t serious.
Work smarter, not harder!
So, let’s talk about how to automate your sales funnel so that the first time a client reaches out to you, they’re ready to make a deal.
The Stages of a Sales Funnel
Let’s say that 1,000 people visit your business website every day.
If you were able to convert all 1,000 of your daily visitors into paying customers, you’d probably be a billionaire by now.
As of 2020, the average website conversion rate ranges between 2.63% and 4.31%. Even with a 2.63% conversion rate, more than 974 of those daily visitors exit your site empty-handed.
The purpose of the sales funnel is to guide the remaining 26 visitors—those most likely to convert into customers—toward making a deal or buying your products.
The sales funnel has four stages:
Like a real-world funnel, the top of your sales funnel is the widest part. That’s where you’ll reach the highest number of people.
Stage one of the sales process is known as the “awareness” stage.
This is where potential clients learn about your business, brand, or products. They may have seen your social media ads or heard about your business from a friend.
As your leads work through your sales funnel, a few get squeezed out along the way.
This is where your clients enter the “interest” or “evaluation” stage.
Those who end up in this more-constrained portion of your funnel may have had their ears perk up when they saw your ad or heard your sales pitch.
They may not be ready to buy right now, but they’re interested enough that they may sign up for your email newsletter.
The third section of your funnel is even more narrow, but clients who end up in this portion are far more serious.
In the “decision” stage, your warm leads are now hot.
They may be weighing the pros and cons of hiring you or comparing your pricing and services to your competitors’.
Email campaigns, free samples, or a direct call to those in this section may be all it takes to push them through to the last stage of the funnel.
The final stage of your sales funnel is the most condensed.
Anyone in the “action” stage has decided to hire you, book services, or buy products.
Though this is where you want all of your clients to be (and stay), how they feel at this stage will determine whether they come back for repeat business.
How to Automate Your Sales Funnel
Setting up a sales funnel is straightforward, albeit quite time-consuming.
If you individually guided all 1,000 of your daily website visitors down to the spout of your funnel, you’d have no time left in the day to do anything else!
Marketing automation tools and strategies are absolutely necessary.
1. Start With the Repetitive Manual Tasks
Why spend your precious time handling tedious tasks like data entry and lead generation when automation is an option?
All it takes is some sales automation software.
Let’s take a glimpse at the best sales automation tools for handing off those tedious tasks while prioritizing functionality:
A Workflow Automation Tool
When sales leads are coming at you from all angles and platforms, keeping them organized is crucial for productivity.
A CRM like Bloom or Salesforce will help you organize your leads in one central location. Once they become customers, you can move them to a separate section of your CRM and organize your meetings and messages there.
Everything you need will be on one platform!
Hire a Virtual Assistant
The risk of automating your entire sales process is this:
Sounding too robotic can be a roadblock for building authentic client relationships.
You can hire a virtual assistant through Upwork or another freelance platform. They can take the lead on client outreach, answering phone calls, or scheduling meetings.
2. Identify Your Ideal Client or Customer
In the business world, more is better when it comes to generating revenue and positive online reviews.
But that’s not always the case.
You don’t want 10,000 random people at the top of your sales funnel—you want 1,000 carbon copies of your ideal client or customer.
Who is your ideal client?
Well, get ready to brainstorm.
Build a Client Avatar
A client avatar (also known as a buyer persona) describes the key characteristics of the person most likely to book your services or buy your products.
It’s time to put yourself in your ideal customers’ shoes and figure out how to reach them.
Start by reaching out to your current client base.
- City and state
- Hobbies and interests
- Favorite social media sites
- Feedback on your services
Let’s say you run a local health store. After getting 200 survey results back, you find out that 87% of your client base is males aged 20-40 who spend most of their time on Twitter.
3. Create Content That Draws Traffic
Welcome to the “awareness” stage of the sales funnel.
Now that you know who to target, you need to figure out how to reach them and begin prospecting.
The goal here is to ditch the excessive self-promotion and create informative or entertaining content that drives organic traffic to your website.
All without a high-pressure sales pitch.
Here are some tips:
Blog About Your Field
Write engaging blog posts within the confines of your industry, like “7 Tips for Getting Fit This Summer” if you’re in the fitness world. According to HubSpot, blogging can multiply your ROI 13-fold.
Post Visual Content on Social Media
Sharing photos, infographics, or educational videos can help you catch the attention of people who won’t read your blogs.
Photos make great content, too, especially if you’re a fine artist or photographer. Use social media to show off your portfolio to potential customers!
Keep It Consistent
Whether you blog on your website, post on social media, or do both, make sure to do it regularly.
Don’t forget to respond to your audience, too. Follow people back, like their posts, and comment back when they comment on your page.
Share Your Content Across Platforms
Be sure to spread your new and creative content far and wide.
For instance, you can automate your Facebook page to share your blog posts whenever you have a new one, and you can share your infographics on LinkedIn.
4. Develop a Lead Magnet
By now, you have a decent stream of organic traffic flowing to your website and social media accounts.
With a blossoming online reputation, you can shift your attention toward guiding your ideal clients down to the “interest” section of your sales funnel.
Enter the concept of a lead magnet.
A lead magnet is an incentive of sorts.
You offer something useful to a potential client, like a free sample or a piece of gated content. In return, they give you their email address.
Take the example of a landing page:
- A potential client searches for a keyword related to your business (ex: “Massage therapist in Houston”).
- They wind up on your Houston landing page and are greeted with an offer they can’t turn down (ex: Sign-up now for a 10% off coupon).
- The lead provides their name and email address.
- You automatically add their email to your customer relationship management (CRM) tool to deliver their coupon to them.
It’s a win-win situation for you and the recipient!
Types of Lead Magnets
Depending on your specialty or industry, some lead magnets will make more sense than others.
Some examples of incentives include:
- White papers, studies, or other gated content
- Access to webinars, how-to-videos, or information guides
- Discounts, promo codes, or free samples
5. Add Contacts to Your CRM
Let’s face it. Having client contact information (like their phone numbers or email addresses) means nothing until you use it to your benefit.
By now, you should know that only a handful of clients who say, “I’ll call you this week,” actually fulfill their promise.
How about you take the reins by organizing your contacts into a CRM tool?
Your CRM’s Role in Your Sales Funnel
A CRM (customer relationship management) tool isn’t only for managing a client once you sign them on—it’s also the perfect hub for automating your sales process.
In a way, it acts as your digital address book (with a few extra bells and whistles, of course).
You can add their contact information into your database, keep track of when they last visited your website, and monitor your client contact schedule to keep those hot leads…hot.
A CRM can also help you with pipeline management tasks like:Automatic invoicing
- Kicking off drip campaigns
- Scheduling meetings
- Lead scoring (put a monetary value on how much each lead is worth)
In other words, a CRM can help you streamline most of your business.
Looking for a good CRM system? Try Bloom free for 14 days!
6. Generate Email Marketing Campaigns
Your email lists are growing every day, and so is the number of potential clients hovering just above the “decision” portion of your sales funnel.
Just a slight push may be all it takes.
One of the best ways to keep your business top of mind and increase your chances of closing deals is by getting all leads into an email drip campaign.
Here’s how to pull it off while saving yourself time:
Use Email Templates
Check out the email templates included in your CRM (no need to write them from scratch!).
Welcome Your New Subscribers
Ensure that all new leads receive a personalized welcome email thanking them for signing up and letting them know what’s in store.
Add a Call-to-Action
Conclude every sales email with a call-to-action to either:
- Direct them to a new section of your website
- Tell them about your latest promotion
- Get them to call you
Create Different Campaigns for Different Leads
Put all new registrees on a drip campaign related to what they originally signed up for (i.e., a certain product, type of content, or topic).
Edit, Edit, Edit
Ensure that every email you send has a purpose, is well-written, and doesn’t come off as overly self-promoting or spammy.
Your two goals are to encourage leads to become clients and keep your unsubscriptions at a minimum.
7. Close the Deal
You now have several qualified leads that are barely toeing the line and about to take the plunge.
All there’s left to do is to lure those hovering in the “decision” stage of your funnel into the “action stage.”
It’s time to ditch the hands-off approach and make your final pitch.
Whether by email, phone call, or mailer, close the deal by offering an incentive they can’t pass up, like:
- An add-on (One free [something] with your order)
- A deadline (Sign up in the next 24 hours and get free access to [tool, resource, discount])
Be sure not to make your final (and most important pitch) with a “Book our services now or else” type of tone. There’s nothing clients dislike more than high-pressure sales being forceful about an expensive purchase decision.
Is Acuity right for your business? Learn more in our Acuity Scheduling Review for Freelancers and Contractors
8. After That, Work on Building Your Referral Business!
Congratulations on successfully pushing prospects through your sales pipeline and converting them into customers.
Now, don’t let these clients out of your sight.
All clients should be added to your loyal customer campaign, receive a “Thank You” email, and get exclusive offers and perks (like discounts or a referral system).
The happier your clients are, the more likely they are to encourage their friends and family to give you a try. People trust recommendations from family and friends 83% more than they trust company ads, so this may be the best marketing strategy available.
And now, you return to the beginning of the sales cycle.
It’d be nice if you could have a sales team to turn potential customers into paying clients for you, but most of us aren’t that lucky. However, you can enlist the help of sales automation platforms and prospecting tools to handle some sales process steps.
Automating your sales funnel will take time, money, and brainstorming.
But here’s the bottom line:
The more sales tasks you hand over to artificial intelligence and automation solutions, the more you can focus on your customers.
All you have to worry about is providing excellent service.
Also, check out our reviews of some popular scheduling tools: