From our experience as a marketing automation agency, many service-based businesses struggle with marketing automation. It’s crucial that these businesses treat their clients like people, but that personal touch is easily lost when automating sales and marketing processes.

The good news is, service-based businesses can do marketing automation well, and this article will show you how to create a world-class automated sales process in 5 simple steps without sacrificing that personal touch.

1. Focus on one thing at a time

Service providers usually go straight into the hard sell, talking about their solution before understanding if and how they can actually help the potential client. The more we work with service-based businesses, the more we find that companies are happy to talk about their service and what they can offer, but rarely do they spend time listening.

When talking with a potential client, you need to understand what their ultimate goal is and why they need you to achieve it. This process is what we call a Discovery Session. During this first consultation, you simply want to know if you are a fit to work together and if there’s a clear opportunity where you could help. If there is, start working on a solution. If not, move on.

This first conversation is the foot in the door and the beginning of your sales process. The rest of your sales process should be standardized as well (of course you have to be flexible, as not every sale will perfectly fit your process). Determine how many standard conversations you want to have with a client and create a process around it. For example, you might want a maximum of three conversations for a process that looks like this:

  • First consultation
  • Follow Up
  • Solution Presentation
  • Sale

Once you have this designed, you are on the right track to support their decision by nurturing them.

2. Nurture them and plan your follow-ups

Before you even have your first consultation, your sales process should have begun. Your first conversation will go much smoother if they’re not going in blind and have some idea of who you are and what you do.

Here’s where your Nurturing process should come in. Give them some love, send them an introduction to you and the business, a success story and help them understand exactly what you do and how you do it. This is all stuff that can be automated, so anytime a prospect enters your pipeline, you can automatically begin nurturing.

By the time you have that first consultation, they’ll have a good understanding of what you do, and you’ll have a better chance at conversion and driving them into the following step. Remember, always be selling for the next step in your process, not the final one.

3. Create boundaries (availability)

Something critical for any service business is to create time boundaries. As we all know a conversation can go too long when you connect with someone and are genuinely interested in solving their problem.

Keep this first conversation and any other conversation short and to the point, respect your time and theirs. It might seem like a good idea to keep a conversation going interminably, but in reality, if you’re not purposeful, you’ll end up wasting both of your time.

4. Use a CRM

Organize yourself and your pipeline in a CRM. I strongly suggest not to keep post-it notes around your computer for when you need to make the next call—this is not a recipe for success. Use a system and use it to track your sales progress.

This also makes all opportunities visual and can show you exactly how big or little your pipeline is. This is critical to know when you need to make a decision about marketing or hiring more staff.

If you know your pipeline conversion is high and your team is struggling with delivery, then you can use that info to make informed business decisions on resource allocation. On the other hand, if your pipeline is drying out, then is the time to work more in your marketing and generate more leads.

5. Automate it

Once you have the process, the follow-ups planned, your boundaries, and a CRM, automation is one step closer. It’ll be all about putting all the above efforts into a system that sends the emails for you, creates tasks for you and help you stay organized.

In reality, you only need 3 systems:

  • An online scheduler system
  • A CRM
  • A Marketing automation system

Make sure they all talk to each other. You need your systems that connect to your CRM to be reliable and send communications effectively.

Following the 5 steps above will not only be a boon to your pipeline, but it will also up your conversion rate, so you can close more deals. As you know, sales and marketing are the livelihoods of any business. No sales, no customers—no customers, no business.

This is an adaptation of an article Three Steps Business contributed to as a blog for ActiveCampaign.

System Webmaster