How To Build A Sales Funnel

Does the thought of selling your services give you the heebie-jeebies?

Selling has a bad rap, and often for good reason. People don't like to feel cajoled into buying something they don't really need.

If you – like many freelancers – are afraid of selling, what can you do? Here's what I recommend: take an alternative perspective on selling.

Think of it this way: few of us like to be sold. But we all buy things, pretty much every day. Most of what we buy, we choose to buy. It's our active choice.

How can you put yourself in a position where clients actively choose to buy your services?

The answer is to build a sales funnel.

What Is a Sales Funnel?

A sales funnel collects a flood of potential clients and directs them your way. To use more technical language, it's a process you use to find people who need your services and turn them into clients.

A sales funnel is wide at the top – so you can pull in as many prospects as possible. It's narrow at the bottom – to represent the small number of prospects who turn into clients.

Do You Really Need a Sales Funnel?

Creating a sales funnels is great when you're starting out as a freelancer. Set up a sales funnel, and you'll have a steady stream of clients coming in.

But what if you're already running a profitable business? Do you really need a sales funnel?

The truth is, if you're turning a profit, you've probably got some kind of sales funnel in place, even if you never consciously built it. Becoming aware that you've got a sales funnel and seeing how sales funnels work can help you optimize your funnel. You can tweak your funnel to bring in more lucrative work or connect with clients you'd love to work with.

How to Build a Sales Funnel

A sales funnel is made up of four processes:

  • Generating leads
  • Nurturing and qualifying prospects
  • Transforming prospects into opportunities
  • Making opportunities into clients

Let's look at each of these in turn.

Generating Leads

A sales funnel starts with generating leads. This is the wide mouth of your funnel where you pull in as many leads as possible.

This part of your funnel is vital. Fail to generate leads, and you'll have an empty funnel.

A lead is anyone who…

  • needs your services and
  • knows about your business

You need both of these elements for a person or business to be a lead.

So how can you get your business in front of people who need your services? Here are some of the usual methods for generating leads:

  • Writing articles or blog posts
  • Using social media
  • Public speaking
  • Attending networking events
  • Referrals from current or past clients
  • Optimizing your website for search engines

As you can see, none of these involve behaving in a salesy way. What's more, this list just scratches the surface of what's possible for generating leads. Effective lead generation is about finding what works for your business. The important thing is to connect with people where they already are – so you're the one making the first move.

Nurture and Qualify Prospects

Once a lead makes contact, he or she becomes a prospect. How does this happen? Someone might:

  • Give you his or her card at a networking event
  • Follow you on social media
  • Drop you an email
  • Comment on an article you published online
  • Chat with you after you've given a presentation

They made the first move. Your job now is to keep the conversation going. The easiest way to do this is to ask great questions. By asking questions, you show an interest in your prospects and their business. You find out more about what they need, and you keep the conversation flowing.

Good questions to ask include

  • What projects are you working on at the moment?
  • What are some of the challenges you face in your business?
  • What do you most enjoy about your work?

As the conversation continues, you'll develop a relationship. You'll also have an opportunity to qualify prospects. By engaging in conversation, you'll find out which prospects you can help and who you'd be better to refer elsewhere.

Turn Prospects into Opportunities

An opportunity is a chance to present your services to potential clients.

Often, you'll find that prospects naturally turn into opportunities. You'll notice this happening when clients:

  • Ask about what you do;
  • Mention that they think you could help them;
  • Ask about your prices.

Sometimes, you'll need to make the first move here. If a client has explained a problem he's having in his business, you can put yourself forward by saying, "I can help with that."

Turn Opportunities into Clients

When a prospect turns into an opportunity, then they're about to hit the end of your sales funnel. Great job! All you've got to do is close the sale.

Again, you don't have to behave like a salesperson – even to close to sale.

Here's what you should do. When a prospect expresses interest in your services, the next step is to ask if you can send a proposal. You should know what's needed from the questions you've asked. If not, ask the relevant questions, then put together your proposal.

By the time prospects have reached this stage, you've built relationships with them. Most of your prospects will love your approach, and they'll want to do everything they can to secure your services. You've done all your selling without being overbearing. Your prospects will choose you.

Sounds good, right? So start building your sales funnel today.

Your Turn

Do you have a sales funnel for your business? What are the strongest aspects of your funnel? What parts of your funnel need work? What are your top tips for building an effective sales funnel?

Written by David Masters

David Masters helps businesses find their sweet spot of creativity, productivity and making money. He's been earning his bread as an online business writer since 2008.

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