Welcome back to Part 2 of the Freelance Marketing Series. I hope you’re finding benefit in the series so far! If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.
Today we’re going to be talking about how to organize your sales funnel. As with most things in freelancing, there are about a million and a half ways to do this. I’m going to show you the way I do it, because I haven’t found an easier way to manage my contacts yet. (At least not digitally. If you’re interested in the way I do it manually, check out my book A Freelance Writer’s Guide to Marketing where I discuss it more in-depth.)
If you don’t have a way to organize your sales funnel and create a prospect list, you’re going to feel scattered. You might get responses from people that you sent emails to and not be able to remember who they are or what you contacted them about specifically.
I’ve always loved spreadsheets as a way to organize information, but with this free tool I’m going to show you, you’ll be able to easily input your information and create a spreadsheet that you can update as you add new prospects without messing up your current data set.
So what’s this magical free tool?
Why Google Forms?
There are plenty of programs that make it efficient and easy to manage your sales cyccle. However, most of them cost a pretty penny. SalesForce comes to mind. I love SalesForce. I used it when I worked in corporate sales for an insurance company. But the problem with it, other than being a little pricey, is that it’s really designed for a large company. There are many features that I find simply useless for independent freelancers like you and I. So, I tried to figure a way to create a spreadsheet that I could easily update without having to go cell by cell.
My answer? Google Forms. With Google Forms, you can create a customized form that has as many or as few questions as you’d like. You can track whatever it is you think is important as it relates to your prospecting.
You fill out the form for each prospect you acquire, and once you send the response (which you’ll set up so that it sends to your own Gmail account), it will be added to your responses. With one click, you can update the spreadsheet, and voila.
I have several forms. The form that correlates with prospect gathering is one that I call my Prospect Card. In my manual system, it’s a literal index card. With my Google Drive system, it’s a questionnaire.
Other forms in my arsenal of tools log prospect interaction, referrals, clients who found me and where they first encountered my name (so I know which marketing tools are working), and so on.
Each of these forms populates its own spreadsheet, which I can then consult, change, edit, color coordinate, and otherwise go all Type A on. It’s free, it works, and it’s easy.
What to Put On Your Form
Before we get around to creating the form, you might want to have a think about what to put on your form in the first place. My form has basic information, as follows.
- Company name
- Point of contact
- Their title
- Their contact information
- When I first contacted them
- Where I found them
- A summary of the company
- Any personal links I can use to make it a warm pitch (if I worked at a place my POC did, if we both like running, whatever it is)
- If there’s nothing personal I can add, I try to find something I can compliment the company on in general. Recent accolades are a good one for this.
It’s a simple form, and it takes me only a minute or two to fill it out once I have the information. You might have to dig for the contact information or something you can use to warm up the email, but that research is well worth it.
Researching clients does take time, though, and that’s another reason why I like to pursue large-ticket assignments. Since I only have to land a few clients a month to be comfortable financially, I can take that time and narrow my prospect list. For instance, I only contact prospects who make above a certain amount per year. That ensures that they’re profitable enough to be able to afford established industry rates for the work I’m after.
As you can see, this is an area where understanding your goals, like we talked about last time, comes in really handy.
Take a moment and figure out what you’d like to include on your form. If you want to, you can include annual revenue, a link to news articles, or even a space for social accounts. Those things aren’t crucial to me because I usually know my clients make a decent amount before I add them to the list, and any extra information like articles or account info I put in the company summary spot. But this is your form, and you can make it however you like.
Once you’ve jotted down some of the things you’d like to know about your prospects (and things you want to remember when they contact you), you can go ahead and move to the next section.
Creating Your Custom Form
Creating a custom form on Google Forms is really easy. I mean super easy. However, it’s much easier to show than it is to tell. Take a look at this video I created to discover just how easy it is to use Google Forms.
Creating Your Spreadsheet
Creating your spreadsheet is ridiculously easy. All you have to do is hit the green spreadsheet button at the top of the page on the Responses section and you’re good to go. Every time I add prospects, I hit the button and it updates that spreadsheet. The first time you do this, it’ll ask you if you want to add on to a current spreadsheet or create a new one. The first time, you’ll create a new one. From there on out, it will just add to the spreadsheet you already have going.
From here, all you have to do is work your pipeline. A pipeline, for those who aren’t familiar with the term, is just a word that means the process a prospect goes through from the second you enter them onto your sheet and contact them to when you either remove them or land the deal.
I use a maroon color to indicate that I’ve contacted a prospect but haven’t heard back. Pumpkin orange is used to indicate that I’ve gotten a response, but I haven’t replied. And green means that the prospect has been moved onto my “clients” sheet. In other words, I landed the deal.
These colors aren’t static. If I hear from a prospect and haven’t responded, then I write back but haven’t heard anything, and then they respond and say let’s do it, their row on the spreadsheet will go from maroon to pumpkin to maroon to green. So it’s a very fluid system that allows you to keep track of your contact.
Pro tip: Once you start hearing back from prospects and you’re communicating back and forth, keep a communication log in a document with their name on it. That way, you don’t have to muddy up your spreadsheet with rows and rows of communication info. You can just have the most recent status, and then look up their Google Doc for the communication log.
That’s it for today! Tomorrow we’re going to talk about where to find prospects. You know, so you can actually, like, use your form.
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below! Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss out on any part of the series.