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The Entire Freelance Sales Process From Beginning To End | The Sales Series

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If you're a freelancer who's ever felt like sales is a foreign language, prepare to have your mind changed.
First, it starts with understanding what sales really is. Sales is not just about persuasion… it's a process.
In this new podcast series, I'm going to give you a comprehensive guide to the entire sales process for freelancers.
Here's what's in store for this new Sales Series:
  • Lead qualification (because let's face it, not every lead is a good fit)
  • The all-important CRM setup
  • How to do the discovery call (i.e. your first real dance with a potential client)
  • The proposal process
  • The art of follow-up (Yes, it's an art that balances persistence with respect)
  • Closing the deal
  • Cross-selling and upselling.
  • And so much more…
My goal with this series is to go deep into each topic, making sure you come out the other side not just understanding sales, but loving it.
Because mastering sales is not just about closing deals… it's about opening doors – to better projects, higher pay, and greater confidence in pricing your services.
If you've ever felt like sales is your Achilles' heel, this might be your time to turn it into a secret weapon.
In this episode you’ll discover:
  • Why you're missing out on clients – and you don't know it
  • Sales leads vs marketing leads
  • Why a leaky funnel is detrimental for your business
  • Avoiding burnout by rejecting leads who are a bad fit
  • Setting up your systems for success
  • The important features to look for in a CRM
  • Why business owners need to wear many hats
  • Moving projects through stages in your CRM
  • Opportunities and tracking pipeline value

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[00:00:00] Brian: Hello and welcome to the Six Figure Creative Podcast. I'm your host, Brian Hood. If this is your first time listening to the show, first of all, hi, hello, welcome.

[00:00:06] Brian: Glad to have you here. This podcast is for you. If you are a creative freelancer, you offer freelance services, and you want to make more money from your creative skills without selling your soul, that sounds like you. You are in the right place. This is episode 285, which is kind of awesome because I did the math on this and I realized This podcast has been around for over five years.

[00:00:23] Brian: That's crazy to me. This episode is nothing special It's not like exact five year anniversary. I think that was actually a couple weeks ago But I just when I saw the number I was like, wow, this is crazy five years of podcasting It doesn't feel like that. And also it feels like way longer than that probably because of that weird covid time bubble in 2020 2021 where it just felt like The shortest and longest two years of your life. but yeah, let's get into what we're gonna talk about today. The show today, we are starting a brand new series. I've just found that I really like series for some reason. They're fun to plan out. They're fun to go like really in depth in a subject and you can kind of pick and choose the areas that you think you need the most help in.

[00:00:57] Brian: This series is the new sales series. We're going to talk [00:01:00] through basically the entire sales process from beginning to end that a lead would go through when they're working with you. We're going everything from first, what is even considered sales the lead qualification process, CRM setup, what to look for in a CRM, the discovery call, overcoming objections proposal process, follow up process, short term follow up, long term follow up, the closing process.

[00:01:20] Brian: cross selling upselling like that's what just what I have planned for the series right now and I'll probably add to it As we go through this. I don't know how many episodes it's going to be as usual Typically these series run from two to three up to four episodes could be as many as five episodes Who knows but I will spend as long as I need to in each of these areas And maybe it's just a couple episodes who knows but I love the topic of sales.

[00:01:39] Brian: This is something that i've Grown to love over the years, something that I used to hate. And honestly, I think most freelancers hate this subject. So this is probably something that a lot of you, if you hate sales, you need to listen to this episode because when you get good at sales, it becomes really, really fun.

[00:01:51] Brian: And this is a big hang up for many freelancers. And it's the reason you're leaving money on the table, missing out on projects you should have won, getting paid less than you should be getting paid because you don't have the [00:02:00] confidence to price yourself where you should be because you don't understand how sales should work. and beyond the actual skill of sales, you're probably missing out on a lot of clients because you don't have the sales process dialed in, including a CRM and making sure leads and projects don't slip through the cracks.

[00:02:13] Brian: So there's a lot to get into this episode. Before I dive in, I have to talk about the fact that I just got back from Peru. a couple days ago, we actually flew home on Thanksgiving day. If you don't care about any of this, you can skip ahead like three, four, maybe five minutes and I'll, get through this whole spiel of my trip,

[00:02:26] Brian: So some quick updates from that trip, because I'm not going to go like super into details on this. If you follow me on Instagram, you might've seen some of my stories about a few things that happened here and there, but I definitely didn't go into details with anything, but I talked about it so much on the episodes leading up to this.

[00:02:37] Brian: And I bashed a bunch of episodes so that I didn't have to record episodes while we were traveling. And I never ended up actually recording while we were on the road for whatever reason. I just didn't work out some of the hotels or places we stayed. This wasn't great for doing content. but here's the highlights of our three week trip to Peru for what we call like a workation if it's your first episode we do these like once twice a year we go out for an extended amount of time we work while we travel we started in Lima [00:03:00] Peru Peru Where we got to experience one of the top 50 restaurants in the world.

[00:03:03] Brian: It's called Mido. I would assume it's a Michelin star restaurant if they're a top 50 restaurant in the world. But it was one of the best meals we've ever had, if not the best meal we've ever had. And it was also the second most expensive meal we've ever had.

[00:03:14] Brian: The first most expensive being the one we had on our honeymoon in Paris at a place called Epicure, which is a three star Michelin restaurant. That was over a grand. This was not quite that much, but it was still the second most expensive meal ever had. Second highlight was the second city we went to on the trip, which was Cusco.

[00:03:27] Brian: Couple things from that city. First of all, if you ever watch Infer's New Groove, there you go.

[00:03:31] Brian: Fun fact, I had seen that for the first time like last year, one of my wife's favorite. Disney movies and second fun fact from Cusco, other than it being a beautiful city and being really cool, a lot of history it was probably one of our favorite cities on the entire trip, but it had the most terrifying approach in an airplane that I've ever been a part of when coming into an airport.

[00:03:49] Brian: And here's why. Cusco is in or near the Sacred Valley is what they call it. And it just means there's a lot of mountains around and it's built into a valley, and that means the plane is approaching the city in a valley, so you literally have [00:04:00] mountains on your left and your right, the are above you, and you're like weaving through this valley in a 747 it's, it's trippy, if you have a window seat and you're looking out and you see how close you are to each side, it's terrifying, but as an airplane lover and airplane nerd who plays like Microsoft Fight Sim 2020, it was pretty cool.

[00:04:18] Brian: From there, we went to Machu Picchu, which was by far one of the coolest experiences my wife and I have ever had. You've seen photos of Machu Picchu. You've probably seen maybe even video of it. None of it does it justice. You have to be there to experience the awe of Machu Picchu. It was like the perfect day when we were there.

[00:04:33] Brian: It was slightly cloudy. We had peaks of sun throughout the day. Some full sunny moments. and that was perfect for shots above the ruins where you're looking down the classic shot of Machu Picchu, but as we got down and into the ruins, it started sprinkling rain.

[00:04:45] Brian: It was actually kind of nice. It was like perfect day in Machu Picchu. And then we did a bunch of other stuff, but the, one of the other highlights of the entire trip was we took a train from. Cusco down to Lake Titicaca and it was like a 12 hour luxury train ride. My wife got it for me for my birthday and it was so amazing.

[00:04:59] Brian: [00:05:00] There was like a dining cart. They had a bar cart with live music. They had a full like observation cart at the very back where the cabooses where it's like windows all around and open air at the very end where. We can look out through the mountains and the valleys that we're taking the train through throughout this 10 12 hour trip.

[00:05:15] Brian: And I got to see flamingos, which I didn't know Peru had. At the very end of the trip, we got this beautiful sunset with a rainbow and a lightning storm in the distance. It was absolutely amazing. Great food, great experience.

[00:05:26] Brian: And shout out to Peru Rail. They didn't sponsor this or anything, but it was just an awesome experience. so those are some of the highlights of the trip. Again, that was not the entire thing. It was three weeks of travel. But that was some of the cool stuff that we got to experience while we were traveling.

[00:05:36] Brian: Again, as much as I talked about it leading up to the trip, I feel like I had to do some sort of debrief. If. People are interested, I'll just do a photo dump on the show notes page for this episode. If you go to SixFigureCreative. com slash 285, along with all the other show notes that we have on this page, any links I mentioned during this episode to other past episodes or any resources we have, it'll all be on that page along with like a photo, maybe in a video dump.

[00:05:56] Brian: From our travels, again, that's sixfigurecreative. com slash 285. So [00:06:00] let's get into the sales stuff here. If you skipped ahead, this is where you need to come back. We're getting the sales stuff. The first thing I want to talk about when it comes to this series and, this topic in general is what is even sales considered?

[00:06:09] Brian: I look at it as two separate things. There is the skill of sales, and that's mostly the discovery call and how you run that, and the questions you ask, and how you frame things, and All that stuff. We'll talk about that. But the bigger picture is like the overall sales process. What does someone go through from the very beginning to the very end?

[00:06:24] Brian: So I consider sales, the topic of sales in the series to be everything from the inquiry. Someone asking for pricing or race or availability or showing actual genuine interest in hiring you. So that's first point to the very end work. Money is collected. The client is closed. Everything between those two points is what I consider sales.

[00:06:40] Brian: and the goal is to get as many qualified people through the process and to the close. And the secondary goal, if you didn't catch that, is to weed out all the bad fit people who should never make it to the end.

[00:06:51] Brian: And we'll talk about, again, qualifying and filtering out bad leads throughout this series.

[00:06:55] Brian: So let me talk about my experience with sales really quick. There's a reason I love sales and there's a reason that I feel [00:07:00] like this is one of the topics that I can talk about. All day. This and probably lead generation. I ran some numbers.

[00:07:05] Brian: I wanted to come to you with some like stats or some facts. In the past 30 days, I've generated 235 sales leads. And this is by far the best month of business of all time for anything I've ever done.

[00:07:16] Brian: This was while traveling in Peru, which is crazy to think about. And during Black Friday and Cyber Monday and all that stuff, I did absolutely nothing. I had zero deals for any of my businesses. This was just a stock standard, normal November for us. we generated 110, 000 in new revenue and then that's on top of 40, in recurring revenue for the businesses.

[00:07:37] Brian: that's just the service business. It's not counting my software companies or my digital product stuff.

[00:07:41] Brian: So that's all in a 30 day span. So I feel like because I've done this much, it sells in just in the month and that's not including the rest of the year and my previous years, all the way back for the last. God, what year is it? 2023.

[00:07:53] Brian: I just had to count by my fingers. The last 16 years of me being an entrepreneur, I started in 2009 in my parents basement,[00:08:00]

[00:08:00] Brian: and I had my first six figure year in 2014. I have learned a lot over the years, and I have a lot to say on this subject.

[00:08:07] Brian: So the first thing I want to talk about When it comes to the sales series, it's something I call the transition point. And I've had a bunch of different names for these over the years. But the best way to think about it is just the transition point.

[00:08:15] Brian: When does someone become a sales lead? And really quick, it's important distinction, a marketing lead versus a sales lead. Those are two different things. A marketing lead is someone who signed up for something or they followed you on Instagram that you could consider that a marketing lead. It's somebody who's.

[00:08:29] Brian: Who you can contact, but they have not directly expressed interest in hiring you. So they downloaded a lead magnet, they signed up to a newsletter,

[00:08:37] Brian: They gave you their business card, et cetera, et cetera. Any sort of person that could be a good client for you, but they have not expressed interest. That's the marketing lead. A sales lead is when they have directly expressed interest in working with you.

[00:08:48] Brian: And that, and for most freelancers, is when an inquiry happens. When someone asks for rates. Pricing, availability,

[00:08:54] Brian: and that's what we call the transition point. thIs is the beginning of sales and this is where I, push everybody [00:09:00] all my businesses to the very beginning. When I learned this the hard way, I found that this transition point was a very important part of my sales process to make sure everything was in one place.

[00:09:09] Brian: I would send everyone to an inquiry form and the inquiry form gets me all the information that I need in order to know whether or not I can work with somebody. Can I help them? are they a good fit for me? Am I a good fit for them?

[00:09:20] Brian: And when they fill that form out, they get added to my CRM. We'll talk about CRMs later in the series,

[00:09:25] Brian: but that is the official beginning of the sales process. If somebody hits me up in person for pricing, they call me, they text me, they're talking to me in person. I'm going to politely send them to my, inquiry form if somebody sends me a DMM on Instagram. I'm going to politely link them to my inquiry form.

[00:09:40] Brian: The reason this is important is because the second someone raises their hand and says they're interested in working with you You have to treat those people like gold Because in some sense they are if you're a good fit for them If they're a good fit for you and the project moves forward that is money in the bank And as freelancers who are trying to earn more money from our creative skills, this is a very important thing.

[00:09:58] Brian: Money in the bank. This is how we [00:10:00] live.

[00:10:00] Brian: So when someone gets added to a CRM, now we can actually keep track of that entire client journey. We can keep track of follow ups, what was said, what wasn't said. When the last time we talked to somebody was, and it's all in one central place, and this is very important. Sales leads are treated different than everyone else. they are separated from your main, just your normal inbox for emails. And there's different ways to do that, whether it's a dedicated email address or CRM, this dedicated inbox for just your sales leads, they're treated different than your texts or your DMs.

[00:10:30] Brian: Because if you have sales leads, AKA people that are interested in hiring you in a bunch of different places, at some point. One, two, three projects a year, even slipping through the cracks can be thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, again, depending on your average client value.

[00:10:44] Brian: So the start of a great sales process is what we call the transition point. And that's the second someone raises a hand, shows interest politely, but firmly send them to the inquiry form where they fill that out and they officially become a sales lead.

[00:10:56] Brian: we get into the CRM setup and all the things that go along with that, because [00:11:00] this is a huge part of a good sales process. I want to talk about. Qualifying leads, because this is another big part about having a great sales process.

[00:11:06] Brian: Do not fall into what I call the desperation trap. This is where you get so few inquiries that you have to get paid. You need to get paid. You say yes to anything that comes your way, meaning you will take whatever budget they have, meaning you will still take it on even if it's not a good fit for you. And accepting a lead is a very important process in the sales process, because once you've accepted a lead, that in my mind is when it becomes a valid sales lead. when I talked about having 235 sales leads in the past 30 days, that's not.

[00:11:36] Brian: All accepted leads, we actually accept a relatively small percentage of the overall leads that we get because of some of the questions about to ask here for you to consider for your leads, but we're also not desperate. We have capacity issues. We only have so many clients we can take on. So when your roster of clients is already full, you get really selective and you can start cherry picking the clients that you want.

[00:11:56] Brian: So if you are not there yet, go back to the lead generation series, because a lot [00:12:00] of it starts there so that you have a full sales pipeline. Because what you do now for lead generation will be your sales pipeline 30, 60, 90 days from now.

[00:12:08] Brian: in the same for the lead nurture series, the last two series I did, just look on our podcast backlog. The leads generation series is about bringing new leads in the door and the lead nurture series is about staying top of mind and building credibility and building know like, and trust factor over a long period of time so that those people get off the fence, fill out your inquiry form and become a sales lead for you.

[00:12:26] Brian: So when it comes to qualifying leads, the question is this, who's a good fit for you?

[00:12:30] Brian: So questions to ask yourself, can you actually help this person? Anytime somebody fills out an inquiry form for your services, they're either, they have a problem they need you to solve, or they have a goal they want you to help them work towards.

[00:12:41] Brian: all leads, all clients are either going towards pleasure or away from pain, usually both in some capacity.

[00:12:48] Brian: So you have to first ask, can you actually help them reach their goal? Or get away from the pain that they're trying to avoid. Or both. Does this person match your skill sets and talents? It can be so easy get an inquiry in, and[00:13:00] want to work with them, but you just know in your gut that they would be a better fit somewhere else.

[00:13:05] Brian: It just doesn't match your skill set. An example is in my music production business is when I would get a client that would come in that would be a different genre than why I typically work with is heavy metal producer. And if I got a client that came in that was like pop or sometimes even rock, it's just such a different skill set to do those types of music well that I couldn't in good conscience take those clients on.

[00:13:23] Brian: Now, truth be told, I would still do it sometimes when I'm in desperation mode because we still didn't always have a full sales pipeline. I did not always have the. Privilege of cherry picking the best clients. So occasionally I would take those kinds of projects on, but they almost always sometimes clients weren't as happy as they should have been if I just stayed my lane with my skill set, my talents and they would just take longer.

[00:13:43] Brian: So making sure that there's a good match between your skill sets and what the client needs is a huge part of making sure you're qualifying leads or what's called disqualifying meaning. You kick them out of the pipeline, you reject the lead and you can be very nice about it. You can say, listen, thank you so much for your interest in working with me. I just don't think this is going to be a good fit [00:14:00] because of X, Y, and Z. You're a rock band or you're a country band. I'm a heavy metal producer. It seems like a fun project, but it's just not in my wheelhouse. See how that doesn't feel mean or harsh? Next question is, will you enjoy it?

[00:14:12] Brian: This is another big part. A lot of times when we are in desperation mode, we start taking on what we call bill paying work of projects that we don't really like doing, we're not enjoying. And this is the stuff that if you do that long enough, it'll slowly eat away at your soul and you'll get burnt out.

[00:14:24] Brian: And you'll start resenting your clients, you will start hating showing up and doing your, your job every day as a freelancer. This is also a dangerous place to be for obvious reasons. As creatives, when we start doing projects that we don't enjoy and we do that for too long just because we have to pay the bills, that is as close as we can come to selling our soul to make more money.

[00:14:42] Brian: Again, I'm realistic. I understand that this has to happen sometimes in some seasons where we're in a famine season.

[00:14:47] Brian: But if you're honest with yourself. And you reject those leads that you won't enjoy working with, it's a wonderful place to be. I acknowledge and understand that you have to have the lead flow and a full pipeline and a full roster of clients to get the place where you can simply [00:15:00] reject somebody because you won't enjoy working with them.

[00:15:02] Brian: But in a full, perfect, efficient sales system, you reject those leads a hundred percent of the time. Unfortunately, we don't live in a black or white world. It's very gray. So I understand sometimes we might say, yes, we need to take this one on this month. Next question to yourself is, will this add to your portfolio?

[00:15:16] Brian: Sometimes if you're like early in your career and you're trying to build your portfolio, you might say yes to some projects you might, have to reject for budget reasons or some other reason, but you know, it'll add to your portfolio or be a great case study for you. We're a great testimonial.

[00:15:28] Brian: They're a popular client in your niche. So that's obviously a consideration on whether to accept or reject.

[00:15:33] Brian: Kind of an aside to that, one other kind of factor for qualifying leads is budget. Sometimes in some niches you can ask for budget upfront. You can give budget ranges, and that can be a factor of whether or not you accept or reject a lead as well. And finally, asking the question, will this bring referrals or repeat business to me?

[00:15:50] Brian: Again, if we're talking about the perfect ideal freelance sales pipeline, and we have, let's just say by number 235 sales leads in the last 30 days, if you had that many sales leads inquiries [00:16:00] coming in every single month, you would really analyze each and every one and just cherry pick the ones you want.

[00:16:04] Brian: And one of those questions to ask yourself is, will this client refer other people to me? Or will this client be a repeat client to me over and over again? Will it lead to future work and all other things being equal. If you're working with more of the clients, they're going to bring future repeat business, more clients.

[00:16:21] Brian: That means your life as a freelancer gets easier because now this client is going to come back to you again and again and again, whether it's a recurring retainer project or reoccurring, meaning they come back to you once, twice a year at an intermittent schedule and or they're well connected in the niche and they're going to refer a bunch of people to you.

[00:16:37] Brian: These are awesome clients to get. I call them VIP clients.

[00:16:39] Brian: So those are some of the questions to ask yourself when you have a list of sales leads in front of you that have inquired to work with you and you're asking yourself whether to accept or reject the lead. Sales qualification is a huge step in the right direction for having a really good sales process.

[00:16:54] Brian: Assuming you have these sales volume. To get there so I fully acknowledge if you were just saying except [00:17:00] on every single lead that comes in the door

[00:17:01] Brian: All right, that's the lead qualification process. Now we're going to talk about crm setup for those who don't know what a crm is I don't know where you've been, customer relationship management or client relationship management in our terms. I don't really say customers. I refer to them as clients.

[00:17:13] Brian: Customers to me sounds like e commerce where I'm buying a device. Clients feels more personal. So that's the terminology I use. So when I see CRM, I think client relationship management.

[00:17:22] Brian: Another phrase is called sales enablement tools.

[00:17:25] Brian: Some of the biggest ones you hear out there are. Salesforce is like probably the biggest HubSpot is another big one. Pipedrive is one that I used before, Close. com. There's a bunch of them out there. I'll talk about recommendations later. But pretty much most of them do what you need them to do. I would stay away from HubSpot in most cases because of the limited nature, the high cost to get the things that you need to get.

[00:17:45] Brian: But let's talk about features to look for really quick when it comes to CRM. This is something I really haven't talked about on the show very often I've always planned for the YouTube channel, a really in depth look at CRMs because it's such a visual thing. And most people listen to the show.

[00:17:57] Brian: I think like less than 10 percent of people actually watch this on [00:18:00] YouTube as far as the amount of downloads we get. probably less than 5 percent actually, but I've, I've separated this list of features to look out for between must have features, things that you absolutely have to have at any CRM you use. And then. Nice to have things that are great to have if they're available. once I get to this list of like features of nice to have and must have, I'm going to talk through pipeline stages and start talking about something called opportunities. This is kind of the core of what a CRM does.

[00:18:23] Brian: So first, what are the must haves for any CRM that you use? The first is you need an inbox that contains only your sales leads and maybe past clients, but definitely sales leads, and this needs to sync with Gmail or whatever email system that you use. Most people either use Gmail or I think maybe Outlook.

[00:18:40] Brian: I don't know what else is big these days, but in almost all cases, I just recommend getting a Gmail account, setting up with your domain. So it's your name at your domain. com and then almost every CRM that's worth a damn will sync with that inbox And what's important is that your general emails all the Black Friday deals that you saw and you know upcoming Christmas deals that you're gonna get software or [00:19:00] hardware all the people that are clamoring for your attention Random cold pitch emails from people trying to sell you something All of those can just go to your normal inbox in your gmail account for you to deal with whenever. But your CRM should only contain the sales leads. And so the way this works for a good CRM is it'll only sync the emails. from somebody who is in the CRM system as a contact or a lead And the way this happens is when someone fills out your inquiry form now that pushes that lead and that contact information into the CRM and now depending on the CRM Some will pull out all your past contact you've ever had without lead some will only pull the information in from the point that they fill out the form and I'd love to have the backlog of history of the conversation, but not every CRM offers that.

[00:19:43] Brian: And that's not the big thing here. The big thing is it'll only have the conversations of the people who have filled out your inquiry form. Now it can be somewhat technical to set this up depending on the CRM you use. Some CRMs have form builders that you can put on your website and that'll automatically bring people in.

[00:19:57] Brian: Some CRMs don't have that and you need to be able to [00:20:00] send a zap using Zapier or Zapier is what some people call it. I call it Zapier because they zap things. You can send a zap from your form. Or your website to your CRM. It's not that complicated. Just look up any YouTube tutorial and you can figure it out.

[00:20:13] Brian: But that's the first requirement is the inbox has all your conversations from your sales leads. And there are no other cluttering your inbox in that CRM. This is what I consider like a sacred holy ground. I don't want anything cluttering this up when I open my CRM. I just want to see my sales leads and the conversations and where I left off.

[00:20:33] Brian: That's it. The second must have is something called opportunities. Everyone calls these different things, but opportunities, deals, whatever you want. These are Extra things that are a layer on top of the contacts or the leads and let me kind of explain the concept here Someone fills out an inquiry form and I'll use my passage example as a recording studio Someone fills out a form wanted me to record their EP of their album, right?

[00:20:53] Brian: They fill out my form it's sent to my CRM Now I have the lead or the contact with their name email address sometimes phone number[00:21:00] any extra details and then I have what is called the opportunity and this is The specific project details for that album

[00:21:07] Brian: and an opportunity contains a few things. The first is just any details you need as far as like the number of songs, in my case, the overall budget or the value of the opportunity, that's a huge part of this.

[00:21:16] Brian: And then the ability to mark that opportunity as one. Or lost or pending in some cases.

[00:21:21] Brian: Now here's the big thing when it comes to must haves for a CRM. You need to be able to have multiple leads on a single opportunity. Meaning, in my case again, when I would have an opportunity for an album, there would sometimes be multiple decision makers that I need to contact and be involved with that specific opportunity.

[00:21:38] Brian: So maybe it's the manager for the band. Maybe it's the drummer, the guitarist, the bass player. Maybe it's the label. every incoming email. About that project or that specific opportunity would be in the same exact inbox and related to that same exact opportunity You see how important this is when you have multiple people emailing you about a single project You can look as opportunities is the same thing [00:22:00] as projects It's just one project where all the communication about that project is in the CRM.

[00:22:03] Brian: This is really important to have On the flip side, you also want multiple opportunities for a single lead. Meaning if I have that same band or that same solo artist hit me up for an EP this month, a year from now, they're probably going to do another EP or an album or a single. That's a separate opportunity.

[00:22:20] Brian: So when they hit me up for an inquiry or price for that specific project, that's a now a new opportunity attached to that same exact lead. the EP from this year and the EP from next year or album from next year, all with different values.

[00:22:33] Brian: And maybe I lose that one and I win this one, or maybe I lost this one and I get the next one. Again, each opportunity is a separate entity with a win or lose objective. again, that's one of the core features of most CRMs. And it's very important depending on your niche and your needs. those two things may or may not be relevant for some people.

[00:22:50] Brian: I would imagine like here for a wedding photographer, having multiple opportunities for the same lead is not that important because most people are not going to hire the same wedding photographer more than one [00:23:00] time.

[00:23:00] Brian: On the flip side, if you're working with solo individuals with only one decision maker or one contact, having multiple leads on a single opportunity is not that important because you're not going to have multiple people you're talking to about the same project. So a lot of this varies from person to person, but hopefully this makes sense when it comes to the requirement here is having some sort of opportunity that is attached to a lead.

[00:23:20] Brian: The next must have, and this is another huge component of a good CRM, is follow ups or task reminders. For example, someone sends me an inquiry. It's for an album next month.

[00:23:31] Brian: I respond back. I'm trying to get a call booked. They don't book a call because there's some, something they're waiting on. Maybe they're waiting on the songs to be finished. I don't know. But something's delaying the next step to move them further down my funnel. This is where follow ups and reminders are a huge part of making sure nothing slips through the cracks.

[00:23:47] Brian: Because one of my number one rules for any CRM is every project Or every opportunity always has a next step. And the next step needs to be either a task or a calendar event. So for example, if someone books a call, I don't need a [00:24:00] task to remind me about that call. It's on my calendar. part of my routine is checking my calendar every day.

[00:24:04] Brian: So I see if there's any calls my calendar. However, if there's not a call my calendar, then there always needs to be a next step. Task so I can assign a task in the CRM to follow up about this project follow up about songs being finished follow up about The budget coming together follow up about the divorce being finalized People have all sorts of crazy reasons for a project to be delayed Which is why it's so important for your CRM to have tasks and reminders within it tied to opportunities so that every opportunity has a next step attached to it.

[00:24:34] Brian: Very important. The next required or must have thing for your CRM is lead activity or lead history. this can vary from CRM to CRM and from business to business, what you actually need in this, but you need these things, email or SMS history. Some people have SMS built into the CRM.

[00:24:48] Brian: We'll talk about that later. aka text messaging, but seeing the history of your conversation, as long as the opportunity has been alive, being able to quickly catch yourself up because sometimes something can fall through. I've had leads I've followed up with [00:25:00] for 18 months and they finally come back to me.

[00:25:02] Brian: They're ready to start. I'm getting paid. I need to just quickly review the conversation. So that's an important thing. The next thing is any past deals won or lost. Again, that's in our conversation history or our lead activity. I can see that they filled out my inquiry form a year ago. They filled it out again.

[00:25:16] Brian: That last one was lost. This one, I'm going to try to win, right? Where I see that I've closed three projects with this client over the last five years, last 10 years. Again, the longer you're in business, the more this stuff really adds up to have valuable data. So you want to see that one client is worth 15, 000, 25, 000, 50, 000 to you over their lifetime.

[00:25:34] Brian: tHe next kind of activity or history you need when it comes to contacts or leads in the CRM is being able to see previous notes or previous calls. Some even if they have a call feature where you can actually call your leads through the web app and you can talk to this nice microphone like I have here,

[00:25:48] Brian: they'll have call recording built into the CRM and that'll be in your conversation history and you can see the past calls you've had and you can replay them back at you at two X speed.

[00:25:55] Brian: But at the very least, after every call, you take notes, you have your conversation notes that you can save [00:26:00] in the history with the client and they're all in a linear order. Again, this is really important stuff when it comes to sales enablement. I don't love that term, but you, you understand what I'm saying.

[00:26:08] Brian: It's enabling you to be better at your job of sales you may not feel like you have the job of sales, but as a business owner. The second you start your freelance business, you've created a bunch of jobs for yourself. You've got the marketer job. You've got the finance job. You've got the sales job, the fulfillment job.

[00:26:25] Brian: You got the operations

[00:26:26] Brian: and software management job. There's so many jobs you've created, and this is one of those jobs. So if you want to get better at the sales job part of your business Sales enablement is a huge part of this if you can hear some in the background the people are just coming out with some leaf blowers and they're just going ham on my yard, so. Hopefully you can't hear that. Alright, so the final thing on the must haves is Any good CRM will have analytics built into it to show you a few things, things like pipeline conversion numbers. If you set up your pipeline correctly, you can see how many people, what percentage moves to the next stage. It's an important part of being able to forecast how much [00:27:00] money worth of clients you have in your pipeline.

[00:27:02] Brian: We'll talk about this later

[00:27:03] Brian: and then pipeline value. Again, if every opportunity has a money monetary amount attached to it, then you can see that. There are 10 accepted leads this month, and each client's worth roughly 5, 000. So that's 50, 000 of pipeline value this month for me.

[00:27:18] Brian: There's a few other things that are nice to have as far as analytics when it comes to email opens and response rates. Obviously your overall sales conversion rates from like, Booked call or completed call to client close. These are important metrics to have, but if it has any sort of analytics, it'll usually have those. Alright, let's talk about nice to have things for your CRM.

[00:27:36] Brian: These are features that are, again, nice to have, and in some cases they might even be required depending on your niche, but these are the ones I think are more nice to have. The first is SMS capabilities, so being able to send texts through the CRM. This is important because, all sales conversation needs to be in one unified inbox, right? if in your niche there's a lot of texting involved with your clients, you don't want to do it from your phone. Because your phone is a jumbled mess. In most cases, you're not going to have [00:28:00] a dedicated business phone to keep all business conversations in there. So you're going to have friends and family and group texts that are vying for attention.

[00:28:06] Brian: It's really easy to lose a text you're not going to set reminders efficiently. But if you have SMS enabled, All those text conversations you're having in your CRM that you're typing up on, on your desktop or your laptop, a lot of CRMs even have a mobile app.

[00:28:18] Brian: That all gets kept in that same unified inbox with other emails, with any other people that are chiming in on the project. So again, that can be a must have for some of you and nice to have for others. Next is automation. This is nice to have, especially for higher volume sales. Again, when you hear that I had 235 sales leads in the last 30 days obviously automation is a big part of our entire pipeline.

[00:28:39] Brian: From moving deals through the stages automatically, to sending SMS and follow ups automatically, and emails and confirmations reminders for appointments. All these things are automated in my sales process, but in most cases for most people, unless you're really high volume like me, You most likely don't need this much automation.

[00:28:57] Brian: So that's why I have this as nice to have.

[00:28:59] Brian: So one [00:29:00] example of using automation in a CRM is in our pipeline stages, which I'll talk about in a second, but basically just the stages someone has inquired to work with you is stage one. Stage two is you've accepted that lead. Well, an automation example would be if I move a deal from the inquiry stage to the accepted stage, It'll automatically send an email to the client, letting them know that we looked over everything, excited to work together.

[00:29:22] Brian: Next steps are this, which is usually book a call. So we can talk more about the project. Another example of this is if it's in the inquiry line and we mark it as lost in the inquiry column or the inquiry stage, then it automatically sends the nice, polite rejection email.

[00:29:35] Brian: So sorry, it doesn't seem like it's going to be a good fit. Thanks for considering me. Here's some other options. Whatever kind of messaging you want to have in there. You don't have to automate these things. Obviously, you, in many cases, you want to personalize as much as you can, especially at lower volumes.

[00:29:46] Brian: But when you're dealing with hundreds and hundreds of leads a month, you have to automate as much as possible.

[00:29:51] Brian: Next, nice to have is something called attribution. Most of the bigger CRMs and fancier CRMs will have this, but attribution basically just says, where did this lead come [00:30:00] from? Now, there's a lot of setup. There's a lot of technical things. This is much more complicated than just sending a zap somewhere.

[00:30:05] Brian: But generally speaking, if you use things like UTM parameters, Or any sort of URL parameters that get pulled into forms. You have something called attribution attached to the lead. You can say that this lead came from my podcast. This lead came from a Facebook ad. This one came from an Instagram ad. This one came from a TikTok ad.

[00:30:20] Brian: This one came from a YouTube ad. This one came from a referral partner. This one came from just a basic organic inquiry on my website. All of these different sources. are important for tracking so that you know what's working, what's not working. So that if I see that I spent 10, 000 on paid advertising this month, and that generated 50, 000 worth of clients this month, I'll know this because in the attribution reports, it'll show me that 10 of my clients or 50, 000 of my clients came from this specific source being able to track people back to the source that they came from is Important as you get to a bigger and bigger scale It's not as important when you're getting a couple leads a month, and it's mostly crickets in your CRM It's not this is not an important feature, [00:31:00] but as you get bigger and bigger We're doing six figures a year, or in my case, six figures a month, then attribution is a huge part of this.

[00:31:06] Brian: Next nice to have is payments and invoicing. Again, most people have some sort of payments or invoicing solution that they're already into. separate from their CRM, so this isn't a big deal. But it can be nice to have if your CRM has it, because that means that Any payments you get, any money that you collect will be automatically tied to the opportunity or the client in the CRM.

[00:31:24] Brian: And it's just nice for reporting features and that's especially if you're doing recurring payments, where you're getting paid a lot over a long amount of time or a little bit over time that adds up to a lot. You want that all reported back to the original project or opportunity with attribution and everything. Again stuff gets a little bit more complex, the bigger you get.

[00:31:42] Brian: But you just learn each feature one step at a time. This isn't something you're going to just all do all these things at the same time. That's why these are in the nice to have category. Next is kind of a calendar or booking or appointment system. the very least, it syncs to the one that you specifically that you use. but if the CRM you use has built in appointments and calendar [00:32:00] system, this can be really helpful because it'll show. All past and present and future appointments with the contact record in the CRM, which is just nice to see and nice to have that record automatically.

[00:32:09] Brian: But also, a lot of times, automations can be tied to it. For example, in our CRM, we have it set up so that if someone doesn't show up to a call, it's a no show. this can be very common as you get to colder and colder audiences or strangers that are hiring you, which is what you really need to do if you want to grow.

[00:32:23] Brian: Well, If there's a no show, we can mark that appointment as no showed in our CRM, and it'll automatically put them in the follow up process to get them rebooked on the calendar. And so they actually show.

[00:32:32] Brian: There's also things like automated reminders that go out. if our CRM knows that there's an appointment at this certain date in this certain time, it can automatically send out reminders ahead of time. Now, a lot of things like Calendly will automatically do that for you.

[00:32:44] Brian: That's again, why this is a nice to have, not must have. And then the final kind of nice to have, I mentioned this earlier, but it's built in calling or call recordings. It's nice for some people, depending on your sales process. But in a lot of cases, especially for Remote sales, if you're using Zoom, something like that, that's pretty common.

[00:32:59] Brian: Or if you [00:33:00] do things in person, where you're meeting at a coffee shop, which is also common for a lot of freelancers. This is not at all important. All right. So we talked about the must have features and the nice to have features for a CRM. I talked about one of those must have features is opportunities. and opportunities, basically a project.

[00:33:13] Brian: And you either win or lose that project. Very important. But let's talk about your CRM pipeline stages. Your sales pipeline. If you think about it it's like a I think is what it's called, Trello board is essentially what these are. If you've ever moved a card between a Trello board, you understand the concept of CRM pipeline stages. common thing for like a Trello board is like, to do, doing, done. And things move forward in the progress. That's the same thing for CRM stages. Now, generally speaking, there's a bunch of ways to set up your CRM stages and most people do it wrong, in my opinion. I think there's very much a right way to do this and a wrong way to do this.

[00:33:49] Brian: There's not a lot of places in sales where I'm like, this is the one and only way. But this is pretty close to the one and only way, in my opinion, to set up sales pipeline stages. And here's the big thing [00:34:00] that I think people mess up is stages should be one way. You can move forward, there is no moving back.

[00:34:05] Brian: For example...

[00:34:06] Brian: Once someone has booked a call with you, there is no unbooking a call. They can't take that back. Once they've booked a call, they move to the next stage, to the booked call column, and they may not show up to the call, but they can never be taken back, booking of the call. Does that make sense? So let me talk about the stages that I have in my pipeline, and that I recommend most people have something similar to this.

[00:34:25] Brian: The first stage is an inquiry. Someone has expressed interest in working with you specifically, The next stage is accepted. You've accepted that lead, meaning it's a good lead for you work with. The third stage is they have booked a call with you. And sometimes someone can inquire and immediately book a call, or the booked call is the inquiry.

[00:34:42] Brian: You might just change a couple things up a little bit, but it's the same kind of thing. Someone has inquired to work with you. and then you have accepted them, and then they have booked a call. So you might do it where there's an inquiry, then there's a call booked, and then only once they've booked a call do you bother accepting or rejecting the lead.

[00:34:55] Brian: Again this stuff can vary a little bit from person to person, but hopefully you understand. [00:35:00] Inquiry, now the lead is accepted. Now they've booked a call. The next stage is they have showed up on the call.

[00:35:05] Brian: The next stage is you have made an offer of some sort. Again, an offer just means that you have said, yes, this project makes sense. Here's what it would look like to work together. in our world, I almost always push all our clients, unless you have a really low project value, Push you to get on a call with a prospective client before the project.

[00:35:22] Brian: The reason is you can get a lot of information in an inquiry, but until you have a real conversation, there's no real way you can know if it's a good fit. Many people look like a good fit. You get on a call and there's some sort of circumstance or situation that means they're not a good fit and you shouldn't work together.

[00:35:36] Brian: Or some sort of series of red flags pop up and you get that gut feeling that yes, this looks good on paper, but it's not a good client. Okay. The soul. alleviate a lot of potential heartache if you just get on the phone with people. So that's why we have a column for showed. a column for offered.

[00:35:49] Brian: And then, depending on the CRM, you can either have a column for closed clients or most CRMs you just mark it as closed and you don't have to have a specific column for this. It doesn't really matter either way. these are all one way stages. You don't necessarily [00:36:00] take it back And the first stage is inquiry.

[00:36:02] Brian: The second stage is accepted lead. The third stage is booked call. The fourth stage is... They showed up on the call. The fifth stage is You made an offer. And the sixth stage is you've closed them.

[00:36:11] Brian: Now, I think I'm going to save the next kind of big thing next week's episode, where we're going to talk through How do you deal with stagnant leads? The leads are piling up in one area meaning you're getting a bunch of inquiries that you can't accept because they're bad leads or Those leads are accepted but they're not booking calls with you or they're booking but they're not showing up on the call or they're showing and not making Offers or in a big case you're making offers and none of them are closing I think we're gonna start on that next week of what to do for each of these stages because if you have a big pile Up on each of these stages.

[00:36:38] Brian: There's something Or a series of things that needs to be fixed in your overall sales or marketing process. So we'll talk about that. But I think I'm going to wrap up on one more kind of like education point when it comes to sales. And that is opportunities and pipeline value. A big part of a CRM in tracking all this stuff is making sure.

[00:36:55] Brian: Opportunities have a value attached to them. The first thing is, when do you assign a value to an opportunity? And [00:37:00] the second thing is, how much value do you assign? Now, this is an area for a lot of. gray thinking, there's no black or white here, but in my business, the way I do it is only when we've accept the lead, do we add any sort of value to it.

[00:37:13] Brian: And my reasoning for this is anyone can fill out my form, an inquiry form to work with me. Anyone can. But that doesn't mean that they're a good fit and that it's even a legitimate lead. Sometimes you just get spam leads. So I want to be able to track in my CRM. What percentage of overall pipeline value do I actually close?

[00:37:29] Brian: So if I get 10 sales leads, they're each worth potentially 10, 000. That's 100, 000 of pipeline value. How much can I expect to close in the next 30 days? That gives me a really good way of understanding. Projecting how much money I'll earn in the next 30 60 days. The only way to realistically get that is base it off of accepted leads.

[00:37:47] Brian: Only once I've accepted a lead, do we attach a value to it. Again, you can do it however you want, but that's my recommendation is only accepted leads get a value attached in the CRM because I don't want lost pipeline value. [00:38:00] Meaning this is a 10, 000 project I lost. I don't want that on my CRM.

[00:38:03] Brian: If it was just a spam lead or if there's a lead, there's a really bad fit. So we only attach value to leads that we've accepted. Now for how much value do you assign? There's different ways to do this. most people are going to do deal specific, meaning like if a client came to me, they want a 10 song album done.

[00:38:17] Brian: I charge a thousand a song. That's 10, 000 project right there. So that project is clearly going to be about a 10, 000 project. There can be some variants, but that's what I put in the CRM. This is usually good for like single projects. Especially when they vary in size, and you have a pretty good indicator of how big it's going to be.

[00:38:33] Brian: Another way to do this is base your deal sizes on AACV, Average Annual Client Value. If you've been around here long enough, you know what that stands for. And you've heard me say that all the time, AACV, it's like one of the golden metrics here at Six Figure Creative. Average annual client value. What is one client worth to you over a 12 month period on average?

[00:38:50] Brian: So if you set up your pipeline for this, it can be a little less accurate on the short term, but it's still accurate on the longterm. And this is really helpful for those of you who have [00:39:00] recurring retainer services, where there's a monthly element involved to it, and you don't really have a great way of estimating.

[00:39:06] Brian: For a specific project, how long they're going to stick around, right? So if you have a retainer that's a thousand dollars a month, you don't know if this specific client is going to cancel after two months or if they're going to stick with you for two years. So what you do is you find your average annual client value, you look at what is on average a client worth to you over the year.

[00:39:21] Brian: If you want to do that, just. Look at your last 12 months. How many clients did you have last 12 months? How much money did you earn? And that's enough to figure out your average annual client value. If you earn 100, 000 from 10 clients, that's a 10, 000 average annual client value. Just do the math. In these cases, every opportunity would just be set the exact same average annual client value in the CRM. I still recommend you only set that. When you've accepted the lead for the same reasons I talked about earlier. So those are two main ways to do it. You can make a deal specific or you can do it with your average annual client value. Each has its merits and drawbacks, but that is it. So we still have a ton to cover in this series sales is one of my favorite subjects.

[00:39:57] Brian: I nerd out about it. There's so many cool elements [00:40:00] and fun tools and ways to do things. And we haven't even gotten to the psychological stuff. We're just talking like knickknack, ones and zeros, CRMs and. pipeline stages and all the like technical process oriented stuff. Again, I still love this stuff, that's why I have this podcast.

[00:40:13] Brian: And apologies still, if you still hear all this noise outside, these guys are going ham on all the leaves in my yard with their loud ass leaf blowers. But we got a lot left in this series. I'm excited for it. For those of you who hear all this stuff, your eyes glaze over and you somehow made it to the end, congratulations, kudos to you.

[00:40:28] Brian: I mean, this is something we can help you with, sales is something that I do a lot. I have a lot of experience with it. If you want direct help, one to one help, setting all this up, implementing it for yourself, You can hire us to help you with this. This is what our entire coaching program is built around.

[00:40:41] Brian: It's lead generation, lead nurture, sales, monetization, the four big pillars of client acquisition. This is a huge part of it. So if you need our help, just go to sixfigurecreative. com slash coaching. To and here's the big thing. It's early December right now. Most people wait. till January, which is a natural thing to do.

[00:40:58] Brian: There's a couple reasons why you shouldn't wait [00:41:00] until January to do this. The first is. There's a bit of a leeway between when you join and when you actually start because we have to get a lot of things. We have to build a whole plan for you and pitch it to you, have you accept that plan, So if you want to start in January, this is probably a good time to actually get started. There's three reasons actually. The second reason is there will most likely be a waiting list because January will be a huge month everyone wants to like start the year strong, right?

[00:41:21] Brian: Just a natural thing. And unless you want to get added to the end of the line, don't wait until January to apply. And then the third thing is tax write offs. So coaching is not free, obviously, just like any other service. We provide a value for our clients and that value is directly attributed to clients that you're going to generate, right?

[00:41:36] Brian: So any investment you make in working with us for coaching by the end of this year, in the US at least, is a tax write off for 2023. Meaning you'll feel that relief in your April tax return because you can write it off in your business expenses in 2023.

[00:41:52] Brian: If you wait till January, you're not going to feel that relief on your taxes from the tax write off until 2025. I'm about to work with a new coach for myself to work on some stuff that I need help [00:42:00] with in my businesses. I still have tons of stuff to work on so I hire coaches for things that I need to work on. And I'm looking to get that coach hired and started and paid for before the end of the year so I can have that tax for health for 2023's taxes when I pay them in 2024. Those are three good reasons to not wait if you are on the fence and you're just waiting till January.

[00:42:16] Brian: to apply. But again, you can get to that application by going to sixfigurecreative. com slash coaching. Get more information there on how we can help, hopefully you enjoyed this first part in the multi part series on sales. That is it for this episode. Thank you so much for listening to the six figure creative podcast.

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