Sales Funnels. Qualifying Clients. Niche Markets.

This week has been another quiet one as far as client work goes. I have been able to continue my time working on my business which included outlining my sales funnel, setting up a system to qualify clients, and picking a niche market to focus on. 

Here’s an in-depth look at what I did. I hope it helps you in your business! Brace yourself, it’s a long one.

1. I outlined my sales funnel.

My sales funnel was super messy. I had no process on tracking new leads or seeing where most people dropped off in the sales cycle. How could I even know what I needed to change if I didn’t document what I was currently doing? So I made a list, a journey of sorts, of how clients come to me, and what stages they go through in the sales cycle all the way to closing the deal. I started using Hubspot after hearing great things about it. But then another friend showed me an even better CRM system (CRM= Customer Relationship Management) called Streak. Like Hubspot, there’s a free, limited version, but what’s even better is that it integrates inside your gmail.
I haven’t used all the features yet, but so far it’s working great. I can put emails in here which are all connected to a certain lead and email, make notes, and visually see where they are at in the sales funnel. Yay!

Back to the client’s journey I made. I listed out where leads come from, how they may contact me, and then what happens after that.

Here's a simplified version of what it now looks like: 

1. They fill out a form on my website / they email or call me to inquire. 
2. I contact them with an email to set up a meeting using Calendly
3. We either meet in person or on Zoom (I like to get face to face as fast if possible). 
4. If the client is qualified and it seems like a good match, I will be sending a proposal of what we already talked about (I take Blair Enn's advice from Win Without Pitching. I won’t be sending lengthy proposals. I will just put in writing what we agreed upon in person. Also check out Blair’s new book Pricing Creativity to learn more about proposals and pricing).
5. I will plan another meeting to go over the proposal and specifics. 
6. Once I get their approval, I will send the contract and invoice. 

This may change as I start implementing it, but at least I have a good start! 

Next I thought, how do I not waste time with unqualified leads? 

So here’s what I did: 

2. I set up a system to qualify clients. 

If you read last week’s email, you know how I got to the point of realizing I needed to qualify clients. As to avoid wasting time with leads that are not the right fit, I put in place some gates they must go through. First with budget, and second with requesting the decision makers in the meetings. 

1. They have to pick a budget option on the inquiry form.

And if they don’t come through the website form, I will make sure to bring up the subject of money quickly before scheduling any lengthy meeting. This way, I can get an idea if they will meet my minimum. 

2. In my response back to them (the one with the Calendly link to schedule a meeting), I also request that they have their key stakeholders (the decision makers) in the meeting.

Again, this is just a starting point. But now that I have it documented, I can test out which part I’m losing leads and adjust accordingly. 

3. I picked a niche market to focus on.

This one was very difficult for me accept, but I came to the conclusion that if I was going to be able to attract clients, I need to focus on one type of client. Sure, I specialize in branding, but that could be for any type of business. I help my clients develop ideal client personas, so why didn't I do the same for my business? I tell my clients, “master one market before expanding.” But I didn’t want to do that myself. 

I fought it hard. I didn’t want to limit myself. But by not limiting myself with a niche, I was limiting my potential clients and even revenue. 

Then when things started to slow down and I wish I would have niched down sooner. 

After looking at the clients I want more of, as well as the types of clients that are attracted to my work, I came to the conclusion that I will focus my marketing efforts towards the fashion and accessory industries. I have a lot of experience working with that type of client. Plus, I like it! Sure, I’ll take on clients that don’t fall exactly in that category, but I have also noticed that even the other types of clients that are attracted to Marks and Maker are fashionable themselves. So I will put my efforts into seeking out clients in the fashion industry (starting with accessory designers) and providing them with the most value I can. After all, if I end up being the go-to for that industry, I can master the process and be able to give my clients even better service than if I were to try and attract everyone. 

So there it is. My realizations, progress, and plans.

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About the author:

Melinda Livsey is a brand strategist, designer, and educator based in sunny Southern California. She’s the founder of Marks and Maker, co-founder of Pre-lance, and co-host on the Futur. Find her hanging out on Instagram and say hello!