I bet you’ve felt like this before. You’re looking at your bank account and a stack of bills that never seems to end. It’s easy to feel good about being a founder when you have a lot of cash in the bank, but then lean times come and we start to question everything.
Cash flow is probably the hardest thing to master as an entrepreneur, but I want you to know that you’re not alone in feeling this way. Especially when your business relies on something as potentially unpredictable as closing regular sales, as mine and so many others do, steady revenue can be a hard thing to bank on.
I realized early on in my entrepreneurial journey that I would live and die by the cash flow I produced each day, each week, and each month. I also learned that getting to a place of reliable cash flow is all about planning, and carrying out a rigorous routine for closing the sales I need.
Today I am going to share with you the exact sales process that I’ve developed to virtually ensure my revenue every single month, by investing two hours per day. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that it’s effortless, but I will say that it’s not as hard as you may think.
An important note up front, the strategy outlined below is tailored to my own type of sales revenue, which is from Business-to-Business outreach. There may be a way to use it for consumer outreach, I just haven’t explored that yet. Regardless, if your revenue involves making regular sales, you’ll find plenty of valuable advice below.
Are you ready to have predictable, stable revenue? Let’s dive right in so you can apply this strategy immediately.
Is Predictable Revenue a Myth?
I remember when I first heard about the concept of predictable revenue. Russell Brunson mentioned it in one of his Marketing Quickies shows, and he held up the book by Aaron Ross that he had just read. I was pretty skeptical at first, but one thing I have learned over the years is that if another successful leader recommends a book, I read it immediately. I’ve never lost out with that theory, so I read Ross’s book the next week.
The strategy I’m going to share with you here is a combination of what I’ve learned from that book, from speaking with Aaron Ross’s team, and also what I learned from Jeremiah Boehner, a good friend of mine who has implemented this strategy and built a multimillion-dollar company with it. Over the course of a year of practice, trial and error, and figuring out how to implement this approach for my own company, I have learned that predictable revenue is not a myth.
It is something that you can attain, scale up, and replicate to more folks on your team. I’ve seen an increase of over 30% in my own company’s revenue, just from using this as our core sales approach. I’ll share my step-by step process, and if you follow what I did, I guarantee you’ll find predictable revenue on a monthly basis.
Your Hypothetical Company: Big Data Inc.
To make this concept a little easier to apply, let’s imagine you own a data backup system that safely stores a company’s data. Your software application is reliable and has been proven to work well for small- to medium-sized businesses. Now all you need to do is sell it to more clients who could benefit.
Section 1: Build a Metric That Guarantees Your Revenue
The “secret” of what I am going to share with you today depends on a few key factors, the first of which is developing your outreach metrics. Let me explain to you what I mean by sharing a quick conversation I had earlier this week.
My little brother Andrew recently started a health and fitness coaching business. So when he came to me with a goal of reaching $15,000 in monthly revenue, the first thing I asked him was “What’s your appointment-to-sales metric?”
As is common for many of us who start out with passion and no plan, he hadn’t clearly defined the metrics necessary for him to reach this goal. So that’s what I helped him do. It’s very simple, so I’ll explain it and then show you the spreadsheet that I use when building a new sales metric plan.
Step 1: Write Down Your Target Monthly Revenue
Be sure to think big on this goal! I usually challenge the people I coach to double what they first tell me is their goal. To keep the math simple here, let’s say you want Big Data Inc. to do $10,000 in new revenue every month. You should aim higher as soon as you’re established, but we’ll start there so this example is easy to track.
Step 2: Estimate or Use Your Historical Close Ratio
For example, if you had 10 appointments last month and you sold 2 of them, then your close ratio would be 20%. If you are brand new and starting out and have no idea what your close ratio is, then I would recommend you build your metric with a middle-of-the-road close ratio of 10%. You need to adjust this once you get some actual numbers, but you have to start somewhere.
Step 3: Estimate Your Average Sale
If you look back at your average sales amounts, what do you see? Is it $1,000 or $5,000 per sale? Look at your historical data or estimate conservatively on what you think an average sale will be if you’re a new startup. For our example, we’ll say the average sale amount for Big Data Inc. to back up a new client’s data is $5,000.
Step 4: Figure out How Much You Need to Quote to Close Your Monthly Revenue Goal
I usually just make a quick spreadsheet like this one and play with the numbers until I have a reasonable estimate of what I need to quote to hit my goals:
Step 5: Estimate the Number of Outreaches Necessary
I start all my cold outreach campaigns with the same response rate estimate of 1%. It can be adjusted later on, but this is what I have found is the most reasonable estimate when you’re first starting out. This means that if your average sale is $5,000 and you want to make $10,000 in new revenue a month, then you’ll need to do 2,000 outreaches for 20 appointments to reach a 10% close rate of two deals.
2,000 outreaches → 20 appointments → 2 closes → $10,000 in sales
If you want to work out this metric for yourself, you can download a free copy of my Google Sheet here and edit the green cells. Now you have the info you need to move onto the next section, so let’s get to the exciting work of reaching out to your ideal customer.
Section 2: Setting Up Your Sales Process
Now that you know how many outreaches you’ll need to close the amount of new revenue you want, it’s time to start reaching the right prospects.
For starters, if you haven’t already defined your ideal customer avatar, you’ll want to do so straightaway. This is basically building a profile of the person you’re trying to sell to. It will guide you when deciding who to contact and shape your communications with them.
Here are a few great resources for that:
Step 1: The Tools You Need for the Job
Once you have your ideal customer avatar in hand, it’s time to set up your toolkit. Let’s cover some basic tools:
• Install Rapportive, a tool that displays LinkedIn profiles of your contacts inside Gmail.
• Install Streak, software that lets you manage your customer lists in Gmail. Start with the free version, but the paid version is well worth $19 a month.
• Set up Google Voice so you can call from your desktop or through your cell phone (I find copying and pasting a number or using the Google Voice extension saves a lot of time, plus I can call internationally for cheap when I need too).
• Make sure you open Google Hangouts so you can send text messages to prospects.
• Install Clearbit Connect, a tool to find business email addresses. I use the free plan, but the paid plan is good for a ton of searches.
Step 2: Get the Prospects You Need
Now let’s decide which option is best for collecting lists of data on your sales prospects. Either route can be successful, it just depends on how much time you want to spend gathering data yourself versus paying for it and saving time. I still do both depending on the niche I’m targeting and the time I have available.
Option 1: Pay for data
If you want to pay for prospect data, then I recommend Book Your Data. It has high-quality information for very affordable prices. Start with at least 3,000 records. Be sure to chat with them before buying if you have any questions. I’ve had outstanding customer service and 98%+ deliverability with all the lists I’ve gotten from Book Your Data. You should be able to get records for around 10 cents a piece, so 3,000 records will cost you around $300.
Before you worry about the old stereotypical advice that says “don’t buy a list,” I promise you that this is the best investment to make if you don’t have time to build your own. I’ll explain how to use it correctly, so don’t think that it’s a good idea to just blast this list all at once. That spammy approach won’t work well. The strategy I’m going to show you does work extremely well, so be sure to follow it step by step.
Option 2: Gather your own data
If you’re on a budget and you have the time, I have good news for you! You don’t have to spend any money to get started with your data. Here’s what you can do:
For our example company Big Data Inc., you’d search for “top e-discovery firms (or companies)” to find companies that might need your data storage services. As an example, when I market to SEO firms, I search for “top seo companies” and this is what I get:
You can see in the results above that these are paid ads. These will work fine as well as the organic results:
Kindness Note: If you’re going to prospect on the results that are paid ads, be a pal to your fellow entrepreneurs and don’t click the ads. Take the time to type the URL into a new tab. You don’t need the service and you’re spending their money when you click those ads.
Step 3: Use Clearbit Connect
Clearbit Connect is a tool that will allow you to quickly research the prospects that are associated with the website domain you are prospecting on. It helps you find the emails for nearly any team member on a domain.
You can see from this simple silent video that it’s very easy to find most email addresses. I hid the example one so he doesn’t get spammed, but the results show up very quickly. Just click Clearbit and type in the domain.
Take the name and email and add them to a Google sheet like this. It’s worth taking the time to split the names into first and last name, and I’ll show you why later. Gathering your own list takes time, but if you dedicate an hour each day, or if you take a day and do it all at once, you can just focus on prospecting going forward. Another option is hiring a virtual assistant to do this. Just make sure you do it yourself first to provide crystal clear instructions on what kind of businesses you target. If you need help in this area, check out Virtual Assistant Assistant. The company has dozens of options and they are all rated.
Step 4: Craft a Short Message
One of the most important parts of this process is writing the right message for the email. Here are some keys to make your email copy successful:
- Keep it short.
- Give some detail, but not too much. Curiosity helps response rates.
- Be sure to include all your contact information and a professional photo.
- Include your LinkedIn profile.
Below is a copy of one of my campaigns:
I’ve found that this approach works wonders. Here are just a few of the responses I’ve gotten with this method.
A lot of kind no thank you responses which are great. This means I can move onto the interested leads:
The occasional idiot who thinks this is a good way to talk to other people:
One important thing to remember is that you will get people who are pissed off that you decided to send them one email. Don’t take it to heart. The success of this method is based on consistent outreach. Don’t let one asshole out of thousands upset you. Just mark these contacts as lost and move on.
Then you’ll strike gold with the 1%:
Remember the metrics from section one? It’s important to constantly reach out so that you can get to the 1% who do need your help.
Step 5: Send Using Streak
Now that you see the type of message and the example responses you’ll get, I can show you how to send with Streak. Streak is a simple CRM that plugs directly into Gmail and allows you to track your sales activities and helps automate sales follow up work. It’s very easy to use. In this example, I use a purchased data list, but you can follow the exact same steps with the list you curated using Clearbit. Download 50-100 contacts and follow the silent video example here:
Be sure to follow these best practices for sending mail merges:
- Start by sending to 50-100 contacts per day. After you do this for a few weeks, you can get to 200-300 per day. Going higher ruins your email sender reputation, which is not worth it. Google will shut you down if you email too aggressively and too soon.
- Create Streak “boxes” for those who reply with interest. Follow up consistently until you speak to someone on the phone.
- Call any interested contact who replies with a phone number.
- It’s best to reply and call within 5 minutes, when possible. This increases your odds of speaking to them directly. A consistent follow-up method will make you more money than you realize.
Streak has excellent how-to guides and a welcome tour when you install it, so be sure to view those completely. I may create a tutorial for that someday, but I wanted you to get the basics for now.
Section 3: Becoming a Rockstar Closer
All the steps and effort above won’t do anything for you if you aren’t consistent about follow up and if you’re not a great closer. In this section, I’ll share with you how I have closed millions of dollars of business over the past decade. Stick to these basics and you’ll be able to grow your business for years to come.
Step 1: Email Follow up and Qualification
Email is, by far, the best way to get into people’s minds and calendars. When you start with the initial message, you’ll get interested responders. Then you can reply with basic information about your services, or you can ask for the best time to call.
More often than not, you may not hear back right away and you’ll need to keep following up via email and phone. Inside Streak, it’s easy to “snooze” a message and have it come back to the top of your inbox at time you need to follow up.
Streak also allows you to schedule drafts. I could write a message today and have it send out anytime in the future. This is a huge time saver when someone says “check back in a month.” I just draft the message right then.
When you start to get more than a dozen positive interest replies each day, I’d recommend qualifying the prospect via email. This is the message I use:
Then if they reply with interest, move to a phone call. If someone has no budget or no interest in your offering details, you can move on more quickly.
Step 2: Phone Follow Up and Qualification
When someone expresses positive interest in your offering, call right away because your odds of closing go up dramatically. If you don’t reach them, leave a clear voicemail with your phone number at the beginning and end of the message. Like this:
“Hi John, this is Gabe Arnold with Big Data Inc. We’ve been exchanging emails so I wanted to give you a call. My number is 312-857-8373. I just wanted to take a few minutes to see if we can help you meet your needs with data backups. Again this is Gabe Arnold, give me a ring at 312-857-8373, have a wonderful day!”
Once I get them on the phone, I like to use something called the magic wand script. You can read the whole script here and feel free to make a copy. The core of the script asks this question:
“What if you could wave a magic wand and solve one thing in your business today, what would it be?”
There are two key strategies to this script:
- Asking them to say yes at least 4-5 times, ideally 7-10 times in natural conversation. These are called micro-commitments and they make a HUGE difference.
- Using the element of imagination to open their mind to new possibilities. Asking the magic wand question helps you and your prospect think creatively.
Your job as the salesperson is to creatively position your solution in a successful manner. Listen intently, take notes, and discover their existing pain. If your product or service can actually solve the issue, explore how that can happen.
If you don’t have a good solution, be upfront right away and refer them to someone who does. It never pays to try and force a solution just to make the sale. That ends in money lost, bad feelings, and a poor reputation for you in the long run.
Don’t avoid talking about price on the first call either. It’s important that you talk price ranges so you don’t waste your time or the prospect’s time. Here’s what I like to do when I can’t quote a fixed price on the first call:
“John, I think our company has some great solutions for you. I want to share a rough idea of what that looks like so we can get on the same page. I can’t give you an exact quote today, but I can put it together for you by Friday.
To give you an idea of some of the projects we’ve done in the past, we did an installation for customer example A and this cost them $15,000 a month. We also did a project for customer example B at $8,000 per month, and we also do smaller projects at around $3,000 per month.
Do you have an idea of the budget you’re working with for this project?”
Using this top-down example script, you find that over 75% of the time people will give you a figure that they can spend or give you some other indication of their budget. In the worst case, they’ll tell you they have no budget, and you can kindly wrap up the call.
Obviously you need to insert your own top to bottom price examples. The reason that you want to start at the top and work down is that it makes the prospect much more comfortable. Trying to sell uphill positions you incorrectly. This is called price anchoring, and it’s very effective.
Step 3: Provide a Quote the Same Day and Follow up the Next Day
One of the biggest failures that I see with inexperienced salespeople is that they don’t provide sales quotes the same day. When a prospect is interested, you should quote the same day and then follow up the day after to answer any further questions.
Deals go cold and don’t get sold because of lack of follow up. I can say this honestly, because even though I work hard to be very good at follow up, one or two leads can fall through the cracks on me each month, and these are very difficult to revive. When someone is interested in buying, it’s your job to help them do that as quickly as possible.
Once you provide a quote, put a task or reminder email in Streak so that you follow up every few days or every week at most until you get a yes or a no. Getting a “no” is good news because it means you can cross them off your list and focus on other warm leads. Don’t ever be afraid to be slightly more aggressive (in a professional way), so that you can get answers faster.
A sales strategy that guarantees your monthly revenue doesn’t have to be a myth. It takes a little bit of hard work and a lot of consistency to make it happen, but it’s completely possible! Over the past year of implementing this, I’ve found that I am most successful when I invest two hours early in the day to reach out to new leads and follow up with existing prospects.
The great thing about this process is that once you figure out your prospecting metrics and process, it’s not that hard to replicate with a second sales rep. I just took that step myself last month, and it’s been very successful so far. Be sure to document your process and sales scripts, and set targets for your new sales rep.
So what do you think? Are you going to try implementing this process in your business? Share your ideas and comments below and I’ll answer everything that I can for you, or I can point you to the right resources.