Every so often a new idea or concept comes along that's better than the one that precedes it. Just as technology advances through society, so do systems and processes.
Selling products and services online has always been an attractive prospect since the beginning of the world wide web. I recall a time when it was much easier said than done.
Today it's simpler than ever to reach the people who want the thing that we're trying to sell, but as certain spaces start to crowd and markets reach saturation points, it's important to alter our approach in order to achieve the same or better results - especially when you consider algorithm and policy changes on the platforms that we have come to depend upon.
That newer updated system for selling online is called a sales stream. If you haven't yet heard of it don't be surprised. It will take some time before everyone does, but rest assured they will. After all, it took much of 20 years for people to catch on to the idea of the recently popularized sales funnel . . . and that's probably a good place to start.
If you're familiar with the idea of a sales funnel, then the concept of the sales stream will probably make sense to you right away. If you're not yet familiar with a sales funnel then I will offer a brief explanation.
A sales funnel is a sales process usually centering around a web page that is specifically crafted for the purposes of what is commonly referred to as a conversion.
While the sales funnel has entered into mainstream popularity over the course of the last 5 years, it's actually quite old. I was using sales funnels online to collect email addresses and sell products 20 years ago. Back then the methods that we used were predominantly safeguarded as something somewhat secretive. Online marketers like myself, didn't disclose our methods for 2 reasons. The first being that we didn't want our marketplace to over saturate. The second was because it made us valuable. We could charge a lot of money in consulting fees to people who wanted to learn. We knew that if everybody knew how to do it we would become much less valuable.
The same is true today that I can charge a high dollar to consult or advise using the methods that I currently use because they are lesser known and more powerful than anything else available today.
While there are some people who still make the claim that the sales funnel is a secretive concept that few know about, it's not a secret anymore and the reason that it's not is simply because . . . it's outdated.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that you can't make money using a sales funnel. You could actually make tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars using a conventional sales funnel. In some rare instances you could make over a million dollars on just one single sales funnel.
Now you might think to yourself, “If that's true that you could make that much money using a sales funnel then how is it outdated? Why would it need to be replaced?” Well what I mean is, that it's lost its impact and just isn't as effective as the more modern method of the sales stream. That is to say that if you were using a sales funnel as opposed to a sales stream you are leaving a lot of sales behind.
Currently I estimate that the process of a stream could result in up to a staggering 100 times more profit than a successful sales funnel. That's a broad estimate, as it does vary based upon industry and some other things which we'll get into later on. I should also preface that estimate is based on experience and data, not just opinion, hypothesis, and bias.
Although as the developer of the concept that is known as the sales stream, of course I am at least somewhat biased however - but it's difficult for anyone to argue its effectiveness or at least ignore the concept, regardless of how committed they are to the old model.
The fact is, there are very basic flaws in the model of a sales funnel.
The first happens in the very beginning of the sale. It pertains to control - which is a concept that the outdated sales funnel does not address.
That is the question of, “Where does our so-called traffic come from?” First of all, "traffic" Is an outdated misnomer in the world of the modern sales process. Don't most people associate the word traffic with crowded roadways and traffic jams? Just faceless passersby that cause congestion on freeways? In the beginning days of the world wide web it made sense to use the word traffic to describe the amount of bandwidth that was available to support loads on systems. - But tell me what customer wants to be referred to as traffic. You might as well just assign them a number and completely dehumanize the process.
People want to be people. They want to be addressed as individuals. They want to feel as if you're speaking directly to them and are able to fulfill their very specific need that they often times think is unique to them.
You've heard it said that people buy from those that they know like and trust. I would take it a step further and say that people buy from those that know them and their desires.
Back in the early two-thousands that wasn't the case. People were not looking for a personalized shopping experience. They wanted it cheaper and faster both online and off. It was that mentality that popularized the Walmarts, Targets, Best Buys, and the big-box membership shopping clubs in the US and then eventually the rest of the developed world. In the early two-thousands we became a very heavy fast-food society. Nobody cared about the name of the person that sold it to them. They just wanted it fast and cheap.
Today that has all changed.
So if you are still "driving traffic" to a “landing page”, you might want to reconsider your perspective, because you're already losing sales before you've even made your first mouse click.
Now back to the concept of control.
There are people all over that want exactly what you are offering. Your job is to strategically position your offer in front of them, where they are. To do that, you first need to know them. Understand them. Their pains. Their desires. That’s what effective marketing looks like in this day.
It’s what many refer to as “targeting”. Again, nobody wants to be thought of as a target either, but I’ll save that rant for another time. No matter what you call it, it is imperative that you are delivering your message to the right people. No matter how good your product or service is, you won’t sell anything if you are telling people who don’t care. . . and the location of your ideal prospect will be somewhat unique to your business. It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, like many business managers (and marketers alike) make it out to be.
That is the beginning of the sales stream.
KNOWING our ideal customer
POSITIONING our brands in front of them where they are
The next part of the sales stream is "experience". That is the customer's experience throughout the buying cycle.
Imagine this scenario for a moment.
You are a guide - A tour guide, leading people through a guided expedition down the stream in your private raft. Your first tour is a group of young guys looking for some excitement. . . and you're equally excited to share your knowledge of your local waterways with them, and guide them through the thrill of their life.
You offer them a beverage from your cooler before getting started on your journey. They opt to take the beer as opposed to the water and soda. You share a cold one and a few laughs while making small talk before heading to the falls.
The water starts getting rough as you go over some last minute safety instructions, which you have to shout out loudly to be heard over the sound of the water hitting the rocks.
It ends with a boat full of soaking wet high-fives and gleeful belly laughs.
They thank you for a great experience and go on their way ensuring you that not only will they be back, but they'll also tell all their friends back home that you are the one to see when they come to town.
Time to dry the boat up and get ready for your next tour - a young couple with a toddler.
You offer them a beverage from your cooler. They opt for the water as opposed to the juice and soda options. You didn't offer them the beer because it didn't seem like a good fit within the family context.
Before you get started they ask if there's any risk of their child getting wet. This seems important to them because the child would be upset if it did. You ensure them that you will be as careful as you can.
They ask if it might be possible to see any wildlife throughout their voyage which their child would really love. You explain that you know the perfect stream to observe exotic birds and deer.
You make small talk along the way. Your voice is calm and soothing. You build report and trust, and their kid likes you. That's important to you because you know that dynamic is going to encourage the best experience.
The excursion ends with smiles, a handshake, and even a hug from the little one. They thank you for a great time and ensure you that not only will they come back the next time they're in town but they'll also tell everybody they know to come see you when they are in the area as well.
Consider this for a moment
It was the same boat in both trips and the tour guide was the same person - and yet the experience was so completely different for each group. Why is that? How could that be?
In one word I would probably call it empathy.
It's about caring more for the customer then you care for yourself or your own bottom line. You see people want to be individuals. They want to be treated like people, not targets or audience, or traffic, or sales - or a mathematical equation that factors in to someone else's profits. They have needs and desires, and want to know that you know them well enough to first know what they want, and second, to care enough to address their needs and fulfill those desires.
Sure they will be more inclined to buy from you as long as they know you, like you, and trust you, but they also need to know that you know them and care about their needs.
In short, a sale stream is all about the customer's voyage through the experience, including what happens after the sale, like customer service which is an integral part of the experience, and so often neglected.
Do you support your product? You do if you care about the people who are using it. Businesses who focus solely on the sale and care more about the profit are often the companies that usually offer lackluster support, at best.
If you've read some book about how to create a sales funnel, there's a good possibility that the idea of offering stellar customer service was missed from the process, and if you're not fully supporting your product then you are losing money.
Too often a distinction is made between sales and service, but those two elements can work together synergistically if you know how to leverage it.
Your easiest sale is somebody who already knows you, likes you, trusts you, and trusts that you know them and have their best interests in mind. Beyond that, they have already done business with you and had a great experience throughout the process.
That is your ideal customer.
Unfortunately more often than not, business owners neglect their current customers because they're always chasing the next dollar - But if you focus on doing the best you possibly can in providing the best product, service, and support imaginable, then you likely won't have to chase sales anymore.
The empathetic customized customer voyage, including post sale support, is the essence of what a properly crafted sale stream consists of at its core, but it doesn't end there.
In both of the above examples the joyful guest was excited to share their experience with their family, friends, colleagues, and co-workers. Loyal customers are often dedicated fans who tell others of your greatness.
The key is found in striving to be great.
The concept of a sales stream not only takes referrals into account but relies on them to fulfill the process of the flow.
Remember, unlike a sales funnel, the sales stream does not end at the sale, but rather focuses on the further development of customized experiences - not just for a single customer but also for those people who that customer knows.
To summarize, we could say a sales stream is a customized empathetic customer experience that starts at positioning, includes customer service and referrals, then continues ongoing.