How should you increase sales in the middle of a pandemic? By going back to the fundamentals. This ten-step checklist is a foolproof way to increase your sales no matter what the world outside is doing.
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
– Pablo Picasso
The world is changing more rapidly than ever. Most people will look at this situation and give up, throwing up their hands in frustration. Or they’ll stay stuck in paralysis, not sure where to go or what to do amid all the changes. They won’t be able to increase sales, and their businesses will stagnate—or worse.
If you’re reading this article, then you have started on the path to increasing your sales. That’s because to truly increase sales, you need to have a bias to action. Instead of becoming bewildered by change, you need to double down. You’ll do whatever it takes to increase sales, no matter the macro climate or the pace of change.
In fact, if you’re like us, you relish when things move quickly—that’s the moment when it’s actually easier to gain an edge over the competition and increase sales massively as a result. We are in one of those moments now.
To understand exactly how to increase sales predictably, no matter the macro environment, don’t look for one-off “hacks”. Go back to the fundamentals. Some things just don’t change—these are the ironclad principles that successful entrepreneurs exploit over and over again to increase sales and create successful growth machines.
Sales is not new. It’s as old as humanity itself. And even when the world changes, the core principles of sales do not change. That’s why you can take the sales checklist you’re about to read and use it to sell anything, from digital subscriptions to physical widgets to multi-million-dollar deals.
Here are the essentials: To increase sales, you need to identify the right buyer, understand what “jobs” your product or service does for them, and use that to define your value proposition. Then, map out their buying journey from beginning to end, build out your sales funnel and materials, then tweak and tweak some more. That’s the core of your sales process.
To improve it, you need to build trust by adding proof points, remove friction, address objections, and add urgency. Finally, once your sales process is turning prospects into happy customers efficiently, the only way left to grow is to increase the number of potential buyers you add to the top of your funnel.
If you follow this checklist, you will increase sales in 2020 and beyond. Whether you have an existing product or service or you’re launching a new one, use these time-proven principles to make the end of 2020 really count.
How to increase sales in 2020
- Define who the buyer is.
- Understand what “job” your service or product can do for them.
- Define your value proposition.
- Map out the buying journey.
- Create your sales funnel and materials.
- Build trust by adding proof points.
- Remove friction.
- Address objections.
- Add urgency.
- Increase your “top of funnel”.
That’s the checklist. Let’s get started.
1. Define who the buyer is.
Increasing sales always starts with the customer.
No matter whether you have an existing product or a new one, the most common cause of stagnant sales is not knowing precisely who the buyer is. Or if you know already, not taking action on that knowledge. The more precisely targeted you can get with your buyer persona the better, since the more you know about your buyers the easier it will be to predict their needs, buying journey, and objections and ultimately increase your sales.
Writing it down helps. Use this buyer persona template to create your buyer persona. Be as specific as possible, because the more targeted your messaging feels, the easier it will be to increase sales later. Why? It’s simple: You can’t sell to someone you don’t know anything about. Defining the persona is all about getting to know your ideal customer and guiding later decisions you’ll take about how to increase sales.
2. Understand what “job” your service or product can do for them.
What job is your customer hiring your product or service for?
The most effective framework we know for analyzing a product or service is the “jobs to be done” framework, first described by the iconic Harvard Business School professor and bestselling author Clayton Christensen. It is an approach to understanding sales that sets customer needs or desires as “jobs” that they are “hiring” different products and services to do for them.
For example, when you buy a bottle of water, its “job” is to quench your thirst. But what if it’s one of those expensive, cylindrical glass water bottles sold by VOSS? That is clearly a bit much for just quenching thirst. Well, what if you were having a dinner party and needed a bottle of water for the table and wanted to impress your guests? Then many people would rather have VOSS. So the “job” that is done by VOSS is not just quenching thirst—it’s that, plus impressing your guests. Customers “hire” products and services for many jobs every single day, from basic needs to social signaling.
What jobs does your product or service do for your customers? Write them down in a list and circle the jobs it does (or can do) better than anyone else on the market. The better you are at this job, and the stronger the pain the customer feels when it’s not done, the faster and easier you’ll be able to increase sales.
3. Define your value proposition.
The value proposition is a simple statement you make to your customer—one line that tells them the most important information they need. But a value proposition isn’t just a statement of value. In order to increase your sales in 2020, your value also needs to be unique.
In as few words as possible, you want your value proposition to tell your customer exactly what job you will do for them and why you’re better at it than anyone else. You should be able to fit this in under one sentence (run-ons don’t count). This is why it’s so important to do this after you’ve identified your buyer and run your business through a “jobs to be done” analysis. Once you identify which job your product or service does best, for exactly which customer, the value proposition will flow naturally. Your value proposition is the foundation from which you can increase sales later on, so it pays to get it right.
Here are some of the best value propositions we’ve come across:
- Uber: Tap the app, get a ride.
- Unbounce: A/B testing without tech headaches.
You can even include your target demographic in your value proposition, like Stripe and Freshbooks do:
- Stripe: Web and mobile payments, built for developers.
- FreshBooks: Small business accounting for you, the non-accountant.
Or like Weebly, you can reference your customer’s goal directly.
- Weebly: The easiest way to make a website.
No matter what structure you adopt for your value proposition, in order to increase your sales it needs to be tight, focused, and emphasize the uniqueness of your product or service.
Use this free Value Proposition Template to get started on yours right now. And remember that your value proposition is never finished until you have made sales using it—and even then you need to keep tweaking it and getting feedback from buyers.
Without a great value proposition, your business is dead in the water. But once you have your proposition dialed in, the easier it will be to make smaller tweaks to other parts of the funnel that have compounding effects on sales down the road.
4. Map out the buying journey.
Many people make the mistake of jumping straight into sales once they feel like they’ve nailed the value proposition, and are surprised and alarmed when their sales are not increasing. That’s because they’ve missed a crucial step: Figuring out how and where to meet buyers. Cold pitching people doesn’t work for many products and services. When it does, it’s often a result of intricate knowledge of the buyer’s journey and context.
So in order to avoid a lot of pain and mistakes and increase sales faster, take a moment to imagine a buyer persona’s typical journey to purchasing a product or service like yours. Sketch it out on a piece of paper, beginning to end. If there are multiple journeys someone might take, sketch multiple different versions. If you want to add fancy smiley faces and variables like the example above, go for it.
I’m not going to give you a template here because customer journeys can be incredibly diverse, and in fact using a template can distract you. It’s important that your map comes from actual experience and knowledge of the customer, because inside this map you’ll find exactly the strategy you need to deliver your message to the customer and increase sales.
5. Create your sales funnel and materials.
Now that you know the customer’s journey, it becomes obvious how exactly you can increase sales: Engineer more encounters between the customer and your value proposition. This is where your sales funnel comes in.
Your sales funnel refers to the set of touch points you have with your customers leading to a sale. When your funnel is matched perfectly to your buyer’s journey and presents them with an irresistible proposition to do a job they need done at just the right moment, your sales will go through the roof.
The first stage of the sales funnel is generally discovery: When the buyer first encounters your offer, company, or brand. This can happen over social media, in the press, by word of mouth, through a Google search, or a number of other ways. The key is to put yourself in your customer’s way when they are looking for a solution to your problem, and creating a positive impression in their mind.
Once they have encountered you, you want to give them a way to signal that they’re interested in what you offer. Usually in online businesses this is what’s called a lead magnet: A valuable, free thing that you give them in return for their email address or phone number. When you have a really good lead magnet that converts well, it is much easier to increase sales by making changes further down the funnel.
Once you have their contact information, it’s all about nurturing them along the path to purchase. Your goal is to increase the conversion rate as much as possible from one step to another: From discovery to visiting your site, from visiting your site to giving their email address, from giving their email to making a purchase. The general rule of thumb is that for low-ticket purchases an all-online, automated funnel works best because you need to scale the business’s core economics. For high-ticket purchases, your funnel will likely include a phone call with a member of your team because the customer will expect a higher level of service for their money.
And don’t forget: The sales funnel includes the post-purchase experience as well. This is where the best separate from the rest. If your post-sale is just as great as your pre-sale, then guess what? You will have very happy customers. And what do happy customers do? They write great reviews and tell their friends. It starts a viral loop that can turn your funnel into a flywheel—instead of a simple “pour more in, get more out” equation, you start to create a funnel that re-fills itself. If this sounds like the holy grail of business, that’s because it is.
Map out your sales funnel on a piece of paper, including every unique page or interaction buyers will have with your brand. Now we are getting into the nitty-gritty of increasing sales: Changes you make to this funnel can have a drastic effect on your overall sales increase.
Once you’ve built out your entire sales engine, you are ready to go increase sales. The rest of the steps in the checklist are designed to take your existing funnel and turbocharge it so your sales will increase consistently over time.
6. Build trust by adding proof points.
The goal of each step in your sales funnel is to bring the customer to the next step in the funnel. Often, one of the first barriers that keeps customers from moving forward is trust: They’ve never seen or heard of you before, and they’re not sure why they would take advice from you, let alone give you their money—even IF you say you solve their problem. To increase sales, you need to increase trust.
This is where proof points come in. Good, believable proof points can make the difference between increasing abandonment versus increasing sales. So what is a proof point? There are different kinds, such as:
- Case studies
- Logos of past customers
- Money-back guarantees
- Reviews and Ratings (from Trustpilot, for example)
- Press coverage
- Metrics showing success, like how Basecamp shows how many accounts have been created
- High numbers of social media followers
And more. The key here is to look at what your competitors are doing and one-up them. Do they have a bunch of client testimonials written on their site? Get more client testimonials, and have them in video form. This will instantly impress your prospective customers and solve the trust equation right then and there.
You will likely have to experiment with adding different proof points at different stages in the journey before you find the perfect sequence. For instance, many companies have increased sales by adding a set of customer testimonials to the checkout page. Right in that moment when someone whips out their credit card, they might have second thoughts—and the sight of happy customers help to answer those thoughts immediately.
7. Remove friction.
Go back through your sales funnel. Which parts take your customer the most time and energy to complete? That’s where you want to find ways to smooth out their buying journey. When you do, you will be surprised at the results.
The classic example of this in online sales is when you’re about to buy something in an eCommerce store and they force you to create an account before purchase. Really, I need to create a password to buy a bag of coffee (or whatever)? Online retailers found that when they removed this step from the checkout process, purchases skyrocketed. That step might seem inconsequential, but when there are so many options to buy stuff online and in person, even the smallest improvements to the user experience can make a massive impact.
So here’s your next way to increase sales: Go through your sales funnel and identify every point where there is friction. Rate them on a scale of 1-10, and start with the highest friction point. Then figure out ways to make it smoother. Rinse and repeat.
8. Address objections.
When you are trying to increase sales, you are in the business of reading minds. Not literally, but when you have talked to customers of a product or service long enough, you will start to be able to predict their doubts, fears, and questions. You will know at which points those doubts are best addressed. Those are objections, and you need to handle them.
How do you address objections? It’s really simple: You imagine yourself in your customer’s shoes and try to think of all the reasons they might not buy from you. Then you answer each of those reasons one by one, with the goal of overcoming them. Generally, this is where the FAQ section comes in at the bottom of a page. It’s also one of the best reasons to actually get on the phone with customers: You can probe for objections and address them.
Your goal isn’t to avoid objections, you should invite them. When you bring them up before the customer has even had a chance to think of them, and you answer them effectively, then you have neutralized them.
9. Add urgency.
You might have a group of customers who are interested in your business. But if people don’t feel like they particularly need you right now, the sale can drag on for weeks, months… and maybe never happen. In order to increase sales today, you need to add some urgency to the situation.
The best way to add urgency that truly increases sales is to make it seem real. People will jump to buy something they might need if it is going out of stock, or if a promotion only lasts until midnight. You can do the same with big clients by creating windows by quarter or by month, or even by playing different clients off each other (“I have room for only one client right now”).
If you can up the urgency, you will see sales increase. It’s that simple.
10. Increase your “top of funnel”.
Finally, if your sales funnel is perfect, your value proposition is on point, and you’re targeting the right customer… Then the only thing left that can increase sales is to increase your reach. There are many ways you can increase sales this way, most of which involve advertising through every conceivable channel: Facebook, Google, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., but also maybe even newsletters, display, heck even billboards, subway ads, or whatever else.
The main thing you need to focus on at this stage is keeping your cost per acquisition (CPA) as low as you can. If you ignore this, you run the risk of that increase in sales turning into a massive increase in costs. If your sales funnel is converting visitors into customers at a healthy rate, then you will be able to calculate how much (on average) each visitor is worth to you. Then, diving into paid channels is just a matter of ensuring that your cost of acquiring a customer is lower than the revenue you make from them over a reasonable time horizon. That way, you can increase sales like wild without worrying about a thing.
Well, there you have it – that’s your 10-step checklist. Are you ready to go increase sales or what?
One thing we’ve found to be useful in the early stages of the sales funnel—discovery, lead generation, and lead nurturing—is having a constant drip of content into your customers’ minds. You need to stay top of mind, or else your competition will swoop into the space you leave. With 200 million Alexa devices out there, in everyone’s living room, you need to be available to answer your customers’ questions and provide them with inspiration and key information. This used to be expensive, but with Shoutworks it’s not.
Shoutworks is a no-code Alexa skill builder that hooks right up to your WordPress site. It lets you engage your customers through Alexa in the click of a button. And there’s a risk-free 14-day free trial. We’d love for you to give it a try.