How to tackle the biggest problem facing solopreneurs, consultants and other small business owners

automate sales funnel

A friend of mine and his wife once started a weekly newspaper in a very rural area. She was a graphics professional and he was a former newspaper reporter, so it was a natural fit.

Before their launch date, the wife hit the back roads and visited all the local businesses selling ads and setting up places to sell the newspaper. Once they started publishing, she spent her time putting the paper together and he spent his time filling it with articles.

I should also mention that they had another business and a growing family, so they were quite busy in general.

The point I want to make is that beyond that first foray into ad sales and newspaper distribution, they never revisited those essential duties again; they became tied up with the work of putting out the newspaper week after week.

This is exactly the same problem solopreneurs, consultants and other small business owners face. Usually the cycle goes like this:

  1. Drum up clients.
  2. Service clients.
  3. Finish client projects.
  4. Start looking for more clients.

It becomes much like the instructions on the side of a shampoo bottle: Lather – Rinse – Repeat. This puts these small businesses into a feast or famine mode in terms of cash flow and more than anything else, small business is all about cash flow management.

The importance of planning for sales

We often talk about the importance of working on your business, not in your business and the topic I’m covering here illustrates this perfectly. My friends with the newspaper ended up working in their business and never took a step back to work on their business so they would be able keep the ad sales activity continuing.

If you’re in that situation right now, or you will soon be starting a small business, you need to do this kind of planning. Also, I should mention that what I’m talking about is especially crucial for solopreneurs, consultants and other small businesses where the service being provided depends greatly on the founder…at least in the beginning.

You need to devise systems that automatically keep prospects coming into your sales funnel. My friends, for example, should have hired a sales person to go around and sell additional ads and find ways to increase subscriptions. Don’t kid yourself and think that you’ll be able to easily do client work and client acquisition simultaneously; deadlines associated with servicing your clients will “elbow out” the activities you need to perform to find new clients or additional projects from existing clients.

Automating the sales funnel

There are essentially three ways to automate the sales funnel: teams, technology and a combination of teams and technology.

I’ve used the words “automatically” and “automate” here on purpose because it’s vitally important that you set up systems that keep this flow of prospects coming into your business. You will tweak it and improve it with experience, but its single most important attribute is that it provides a steady – and hopefully increasing – number of prospects being introduced to what you offer.

To feel good about your automated system of feeding the funnel, you have to be able to count on it delivering a given amount of prospects for a given amount of investment. If you can’t do that math and end up with a known cost-per-prospect, which should convert into a cost-per-customer-acquisition, you’ll never really understand the strength or weakness of your business.

This is the foundation for understanding and solving the biggest problem that faces solopreneurs and other small business owners. In following articles, I will break down the two ways to automate:

(Check out all three parts of this series.)

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