Welcome to the fourth blog in our 6-blog series all about systems in your creative business. Each week we’ll dig into a different system and the specific software and SOPs you can implement to bring efficiency and consistency into all aspects of your business. We’ve already explored how a financial system can support the money side of your business, and how to kick your marketing up a notch. Here you’ll learn how to create a streamlined, sustainable sales system that actually feels good. In the next 2 posts, I’ll also help you create systems for your project management as well as your file and asset management & organization. This is a sister series that goes hand-in-hand with my previous Rhythms Series.
Quick Disclosure: Several links within this blog are affiliate links, which means when you click the link and make a purchase, it won’t cost you more, but I may receive a commission for sharing this with you. I promise I only ever share what I use and love, so I’d be sharing these with you anyway
If you don’t sell your offers, you don’t have money. And if you don’t have money, you don’t really have a business, do you?
So, if it’s that obvious, why do so many entrepreneurs fail to sell or struggle to sell successfully?
It’s because creative entrepreneurs who struggle to sell tend to fall into two buckets:
Either they’re sales-phobic and avoid selling like the plague or they’re out of touch and sell without any real strategy behind their actions.
Even if it’s a made-up word, sales-phobia is real my friend, and it means that even if you have a value-packed offer or have your messaging dialed-in to perfection, no one is going to buy because you aren’t selling and they don’t know your offer exists (or how they can purchase it).
On the other hand, you could be selling, selling, selling all day, every day. Pitching in IG stories, reaching out in the DMs, and booking back-to-back discovery calls. But at the end of the day, if you’re “out of touch” and not dialed in to WHO you are selling to and when your message is reaching them, you’re probably left scratching your head wondering why ALL of your efforts (and leads) are still leading to CRICKETS instead of CONVERSIONS.
And to do this well you’re going to have to get crystal clear on your ideal client. Then, you’ll want to go a step further and map out their customer journey so that you can support them every step of the way. Lastly, you need to put the right software and SOPs in place to make this process as streamlined and efficient as possible.
It may sound like a lot, but I’m going to distill it all down for you in this blog to make it as actionable and effective for your creative business as possible.
Your SALES SYSTEM is a system for selling your offers whether they be products or services.
It should include both:
The customer journey is the process that someone goes through as they shift from being unfamiliar with your brand to becoming aware, learning more, engaging with, and then buying from you.
The customer journey is how THEY experience it and the process you lead them through.
The sales process, on the other hand, is the process YOU go through.
It’s 2 sides of the same coin. And though related and linked, they are distinctly different.
Ultimately, you need to consider BOTH to have a solid sales system.
With a strong sales system, you actively guide your customers through that journey and put things in place to ensure they have the most positive, effective experience possible–one that is in line with both your brand and your core values.
It should also include key details to help you with your process such as:
Essentially, you will document all parts of your sales process from initial contact through to payment and beyond. As you establish or update your sales system, you’ll be looking for opportunities to streamline, optimize, and clarify each part of the buying process for your customer.
Ok, so now that you’re clear on what exactly a sales system is, let’s address the elephant in the room (or in this case on the blog) for just a moment.
You NEED a sales system.
Well, the obvious reason is so that you can make money! Sales are the lifeblood of your business and they drive your finances. But beyond that a sales system offers a ton of other benefits…
A solid sales system is key to the longevity of your business!
When created intentionally, your sales system will allow you to know where your next customers are coming from, better project your sales and therefore your finances, and increase repeat customers.
A sales system ALSO makes you better at selling! If you’re one of those people who think they’re just not cut out for sales, having the right system in place can make all the difference and help you see yourself and your abilities in a whole new light.
But the most impactful reason you need a solid sales system is…
So that you can feel good about selling!
Most people HATE sales.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Having a solid system in place makes sales a lot less scary, stressful, sleazy, and overwhelming.
I 1,000% hated sales when I first started out.
In fact, believe it or not, I almost didn’t start my business because of it.
That’s because I had made up a story that I wasn’t “good” at sales and the perfectionist in me dragged my feet until I felt “ready.”
Hint: I never felt ready, but I finally took the leap anyway and in the process learned that sales didn’t have to feel gross– it could actually feel fun!
While perfectionism was part of the problem, my lack of confidence also tainted my view of sales and I looked at selling as “wrong” simply because I wasn’t familiar with it (hello, money mindset issues!) and used this as a cop-out for far too long instead of confronting my fears.
While you don’t have to be a natural-born salesperson to succeed at selling, I won’t sugar coat it…
…your sales system will require a little work and some trial and error, but when you find a system that works for you, it’s absolutely worth the upfront investment of time and energy.
To get started, your intentions need to be clear. Why exactly are you creating a sales system? What is the end goal for your unique business (besides earning more money)?
This may sound like a daunting question, but in reality, your purpose in creating a sales system is simple:
You are developing a system that answers these 2 questions:
Your sales system will essentially be built around your customer journey from start to finish. No matter if you sell a service, a program, or a product, your customers will most likely flow through these stages:
Let’s explore how your sales system can support each of these stages so that you are not only in touch with your ideal client, but you also understand their unique and specific needs at different points along their path.
Early on in the customer journey, you are in the process of earning your customer’s trust and interest. At this stage, they are considering if they would like to buy your product or invest in your services.
In the world of dating, the “getting to know you” stage is the pre-date text messages back and forth. The other person isn’t sure if they’re ready to meet up for a first date just yet, and they’re still testing the waters.
Some of these answers may be obvious to you right away, while others may require digging deep, going through some trial and error, and conducting a bit of market research.
COO Tip: I highly recommend journaling on these questions to help you gain clarity!
When you can get clear on the answers to these questions, you can use the insight they provide to create a system that builds likability, trust, interest, and intrigue moving your clients from the “getting to know you stage” to the “captive audience stage.”
At this point, you’ve earned the “know/like/trust” factor through your marketing and sales systems, and your leads are primed to buy.
In the dating world, it’s the equivalent of having gone on 2 or 3 successful dates. The two of you have gotten to know each other a bit and some trust and connection have been established. You’re not ready to skip ahead to relationship status just yet, but things are warming up!
This stage of the customer journey will look different depending on the type of business you run: service-based or product-based. You’ll also want to think about how you run it; selling virtually is often different from selling in real life.
Here you’ll want to ask yourself, “how do I get prospects to take the FIRST STEP in buying from me and then follow through to the actual sale?”
To get started, consider that essential first step.
At the end of the day, your main goal is to make the first step of the buying process extraordinarily obvious. Don’t make it hard to buy from you!!!
Then, you will clearly map out every next step that ultimately leads them to the sale.
You’ll want to include every touchpoint along the way and how one leads to another. The point here is to clearly lay out how one action or conversation leads to the next as you usher your prospective client through the customer journey, so include all the pieces including things like meetings, phone calls, emails, proposals, and when and how you present things like upsell and down-sell opportunities.
In our dating analogy, you may eventually find yourself in a committed relationship with this partner. Once you’re in a relationship, you don’t stop nurturing it!
Same goes for your business. The sale doesn’t end when you sign the contract, when your customer clicks “buy”, or when your project comes to a close! Sales should be an ongoing, continuous process that extends beyond the “sale” itself.
Too many entrepreneurs fail to keep the conversation going with their clients past the purchase or the deliverable. When you do this, you miss out on opportunities to sell more in the future, build a portfolio of strong testimonials, and seek out referrals for future projects.
To support your clients even after the initial work is done or the product is purchased you’ll think or journal on:
Once you have a clear vision of how you can serve your audience in each stage of your business, it’s time to document your current sales system so that you have a full picture of the current state of your sales system and a plan to improve it moving forward.
Ask yourself questions like:
This will set you up to further streamline your sales system by adopting software.
Once you have your sales process updated you can continue to streamline and refine it with SOFTWARE to help you work smarter not harder!
You may start with a simple spreadsheet to track leads or even identify where a customer is in their customer journey, or you can use basic software to support and track things like leads, communication, payments, and follow-ups within your sales system.
When in doubt, a well-crafted spreadsheet in Google Docs or Excel can work wonders!
However, there will come a point when you will want to look into a CRM.
CRM stands for Client Relationship Management software. CRMs make tracking and managing all of your client relationships so much easier!
A CRM is an upgrade and the obvious next step from those initial spreadsheets.
If you’ve already chosen a CRM for your business, you’re off to a great start! If you’re still deciding, this is a gentle nudge that it may be time to explore your options.
CRM capabilities can give you better insights into your sales pipeline and process. For example, depending on the one you choose and how you set it up they can tell you:
For reference, Dubsado is what I use, and I’ve also used Honeybook in the past. They are the 2 most popular CRMs for creatives in my experience.
COO Tip: Need help choosing between Dubsado and Honeybook? Click here to check out my free guide that includes 10 ways to decide what’s right for you.
But there’s also these CRM options…
→ and Hubspot
The most common Payment Processing options include:
Some CRMs (like Dubsado) require you to hook your own payment processor up, so you may need these in the short and long term. I personally use Stripe but I also know people who have run creative businesses for years using PayPal for invoices (I’m not recommending this, in fact, I caution against it, but it’s definitely possible).
Lastly, if you have a product-based business, you’ll want an online storefront at some point.
These are the most common for online Product Sales:
Now, I just gave you a whole bunch of software options to help support your sales system. But please note, as always, this list is not exhaustive!
There are a whole lot of other options out there and you’ll want to find what fits you and your unique business best! These suggestions are simply software options that have worked most often for me and my clients. But there is no one-size-fits-all, so feel empowered to explore more and find the right fit for you.
All of these tools will set you and your sales system up for success!
By mapping out your sales system, you’ve done the hard work! Now let’s capture it in SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). SOPs are clear, detailed instructions on how to carry out your systems. Often they are found in the form of a checklist.
Use your map as a jumping-off point. Get granular and make sure to include every single touchpoint!
“What are the exact steps of my sales system and how do I want them to be done each and every time?”
The most common SOPs creative businesses need to fuel their SALES SYSTEM include:
→ Responding to Inquiries. What happens when a prospect reaches out?
→ Proposal Creation. If proposals are part of your sales process, can you systematize how you approach them every time?
→ Contract Negotiation. Do you negotiate the terms of your contract such as the scope, timeline, delivery method, or any other standards you’ve set?
→ Abandoned Cart Follow-Ups. This is especially useful for product-based businesses! What software or tools will you use to automate an abandoned cart email?
→ Payment Reminders. Can you put automations in place proactively to ensure your clients get timely reminders BEFORE their payment is late?
These suggestions may not all apply to you, and you may not need all of these immediately, so don’t panic. But keep them in mind as you begin building out your sales system.
Finally, to make sure your system is not only running, but running WELL, you’ll want to determine how you will track and organize your sales with Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs.
KPIs typically refer to numbers that tell you how successful your business is in a specific area of your work. KPIs will help you set, track, and assess your progress toward specific sales goals in a measurable and subjective way!
You can get started by keeping track of your leads and what stage they are at within an organized spreadsheet or software (such as Google Docs or Excel) or in your CRM if you have one. This is where you will get your KPIs from.
When deciding what to look at to better understand how effective your sales system is, ask yourself:
Tracking this kind of information will make it easier for you to measure your progress and make adjustments as needed to continually optimize your sales system so it works for you now and in the future.
After all, “what gets measured, gets managed.”
Finally, you will want to put daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and/or annual rhythms in place to support your sales system, including any software and SOPs.
While your sales system tells you what you do and how you do it, your rhythms will dictate WHEN you tend to the different aspects of your system.
Sales Rhythms are the regular outreach and follow-ups with leads necessary to keep your sales flowing.
Sales Rhythms can also include pitching, checking in with your sales system and customer journey, reviewing the numbers, and identifying changes you can make to improve your sales process and results on a regular basis.
WEEKLY rhythms might look like using a SALES call to action (CTA) once per week on your social posts.
You might establish a rhythm to send a targeted promotional email each MONTH.
Each QUARTER your sales rhythms may include running a seasonal promotion to boost your sales numbers.
And finally, you may establish an ANNUAL rhythm to announce things like, “how you can work with me this year” or strategically plan promotions to boost sales during the slower seasons of your business to even out your cash flow.
Be sure to read all about sales rhythms here.
Make sure you get all the BUSINESS SYSTEMS info each week of this blog series by joining my email list.
It’s like having your own personal Business Coach in your back pocket guiding you as you create an impactful, passion-led, creative business you can’t wait to dive into day after day, year after year.
Not only will you be the first to know when a new blog drops to the top of each week, but I also like to shower my email subscribers with additional tips, resources, and encouragement. I strive to add value to your email inbox every single time!