S02 Episode 1: Automating Your Sales Funnel with Franz Sauerstein

By Brennan Dunn

What parts of your funnel should be automated?  How can you create urgency without building extensive “limited time offer” workflows?  Is it possible to give even better service with less person to person contact? In this first episode of DYF Podcast Season 2 on Automation, Franz Sauerstein addresses all of the various steps in his sales funnel and how he helps others automate theirs.  He shares tricks of the trade like how he gets clients to self-qualify before he even becomes involved. Franz and Brennan also discuss the next step in optimizing automation: Personalization. Go in depth with Franz as he walks us through his process from beginning to end.

Franz Sauerstein is a two-time DYFConf EU participant and was a Student Success Coach for the now retired, Double Your Freelancing Academy.  His consultancy, Xciting Webdesign, specializes in optimizing European e-commerce stores through automation. By employing tools like Drip (marketing) and Pipedrive (customer relationship manager), Franz’s company primarily takes businesses generating 5 figure revenues and turns them into businesses consistently generating 6 figure revenues.  In his own practice, Franz uses automation to find, qualify, transact, and follow up with clients. So how do Franz’s daily workflows break down? Let’s walk through his practices.


Drawing in Leads

In the past, Franz has had a very involved process for drawing in leads.  Although the steps of this process have not changed too much, the execution of each component has.  Franz’s funnel starts with well-centered blog posts which he pays to have appear on social media venues like Facebook.  These posts feature opt-ins with content upgrades including pdfs and ebooks that Franz says teach readers “how they can make their stores more successful and live the lives they want.”  Content upgrades Franz has used include things like a guide covering “23 Ways To Increase Conversion Rates.” Because the topics speak to his target clients’ needs and provide relevant, accurate information, Franz is able to draw his leads’ attention and foster their trust in his expertise.

Previously, when a lead would opt in, Franz would nurture it and after a few weeks or a few months he’d have them fill out a qualifying form and jump on a call.  In addition to automating several steps along the way, Franz has flipped the script on the qualification process. Franz now offers a self assessment to the client that will show them how much revenue they’re losing by not acting fast to employ his services.    Although there are great tried and true methods for creating urgency on the sales side of the equation (offer a limited sale, create limited availability, offer a bundle discount etc), Franz wanted to create a sense of urgency on the customer’s side.  He created an online form with Brevity, Zapier and Drip software. When a customer downloads the PDF, Drip logs the event and triggers a follow up for the following day. Although the assessment is standard, the response is tailored to what the reader’s shop needs.  The wording in the follow up message changes based on what else the customer has read and what info they’re pursuing, making this one area Franz has optimized for personalization.

The next step in this funnel is that Franz sends a suggestion of a 30 minute free consultation for qualified leads.  If the lead accepts, then the workflow is complete and the info is then shuffled over to his CRM. If they don’t take the phone call then he will continue sending automated messages to the lead for 9 weeks with content along the lines of what they’ve shown interest in.  These messages build trust with information-rich content and build urgency by asking if the customer has taken action yet. Franz says leads usually respond by the fourth or fifth email but if there is no response after 9 weeks, he will close the file. He says about 50% of the leads who are left by the time he sends the last email do actually respond at that point.


The Call

Brennan asks Franz how selling has changed for him now that he’s introduced so much automation into his business.  Franz says that for starters, sales calls were awful before he automated. Without the trust and the qualification that he has since built into his automation, Franz found it hard to sell clients on strategy.  He was also getting the wrong kinds of leads. Like most of us selling services, he doesn’t want clients who want to DIY. Instead, Franz needs clients who want to focus on other aspects of their businesses while he implements the strategy they’ve agreed to.  The self-qualifying questionnaire helps ensure Franz is getting the leads he wants and clients know want to expect from his services before getting on the first sales call.

One of the best changes Franz made was replacing the phone number on his website with an email form.  It may seem counter intuitive, but with the emails, Franz has been able to offer better, more personalized customer service.  How can service be more personalized when it doesn’t even involve direct interaction with a person? First, Franz’s email form asks for a quick description of the client’s project.  He has then set up an auto-reply for these incoming messages which reads, “That sounds interesting, I have a few more qualifying questions…” The tone of the auto-reply, coupled with the fact that it is sent within 5 minutes of the initial message means Franz is now able to engage with customers even if they are in another time zone, or just checking out his site at 3 am, or even if Franz is away from the computer.  Early engagement increases conversions so this can be a big help later down the road. Clients also have time to get the wording on their requests precise instead of struggling to articulate on a call, and Franz has a reference he can look to if there’s ever a risk of misunderstanding. Lastly, anyone who doesn’t want to fill in the second form, probably isn’t that committed to using Franz’s service. This process quickly weeds out those dead end leads, saving time in the long run.  Less wasted time means more time to spend on paying customer’s projects which naturally improves the client experience.

Once all of the sorting and qualifying has happened and the lead requests a call with Franz, a Drip follow up is sent with instructions for working out the logistics.  Brennan advises tracking call statuses and clients via a CRM like Close.io. Unlike Pipedrive which has a mostly linear funnel, Close allows Brennan to have a “Booked Calls” section in which he can rate the call and Drip will respond accordingly.  After a call, Brennan will go into Close and select “good fit,” “bad fit,” or “no show.” That status prompts Drip to move the leads to next step which might be a roadmapping session promo for good fit, the newsletter for bad fit, or calendly for re-booking if the person is a no show.


What Not to Automate

Some parts of the sales funnel should not be automated –often, namely, the sale.  While some products like online courses can run on sales automation, most consulting and service products like Roadmapping sessions, development, and even full audits must be done manually There are some things that can make these processes easier though like ready-made templates.  Brennan mentions an SEO audit he recently hired an expert to conduct on DoubleYourFreelancing.com. The auditors clearly had a template they use for every gig that includes best practices and suggestions for each area they grade. The gig-specific information is then added so that the nuances of each recommendation are most apparent without having to re-write the guiding principles for every deliverable.  Nusii proposal software has a reporting system with a similar guiding process that allows users to load in a report which they will use to build a template. That document will include standard next steps and best practices but allows room for users to fill in the blanks with project-specific suggestions. All of that can then be used as a template for a roadmapping deliverable.

Franz uses Pipedrive and Drip to remind him to follow up with people after roadmapping to send them an invoice or reach out.  The first two projects (roadmapping and whatever comes out of that) are usually low margin or low revenue so Franz knows the value of automating these processes.  Return customers are more profitable so getting hands-on at this later stage is more financially worth his time.


What’s Next?

Brennan asks Franz what is left that he’d like to do in his business that he hasn’t yet.  Franz is certain that more can be done with the amount of data he has on his leads and visitors.  In the future he plans to optimize conversion rates and plug the few leaky spots in his funnel. Franz is looking towards more personalization in the vein of Right Message and is planning to test Right Message with a client first (since their need is more urgent than his own).  Franz notes that personalization is built on account-based marketing strategies that have existed for decades and are now being merged with and facilitated by technology. He intends to start adding information about leads he meets in person to the data set he’s gathered about leads who have found him online.  Franz believes that short of Amazon, personalization is still a pretty under-used practice in Europe and he’d love to break this new ground in his market.

Franz’s funnel follows a classic and effective trajectory.  It starts with paid ads featuring content upgrades and opt-ins.  Next, leads complete a self qualifying form. Leads who are on Franz’s page can email him and receive a near-instant response asking for more info.  Leads then book a sales call or receive follow up emails until they do at which point roadmapping can begin and follow up is again handled by automation.  Although Franz needs to be present for certain parts of his sales process, automation has allowed him to take more time focusing on existing, paid clients rather than chasing down new leads.  He is able to connect with leads quicker, build trust more organically, qualify clients more accurately, and deliver a stronger product, all thanks to the introduction of automation into his business.  As his business grows, Franz will seek to build on the traditional idea of account-based marketing through automated personalization. For now, he is enjoying the streamlined experience of having an optimized sales funnel and sharing his knowledge with others.



Franz Sauerstein’s site (in German)

If you don’t speak German, email Franz at info@franzsauerstein.de

The CRM Franz uses

The CRM Brennan uses

RightMessage (Brennan’s Personalization Tool)

Brevity Development Software

Zapier Automation Software

Nusii Proposal Software

Drip Marketing Software

Franz Sauerstein is the founder of Germany-based Xciting Webdesign which specializes in turning businesses that generate 5 figure revenues into businesses that generate 6 figure revenues through automation and webdesign.  He is a two-time DYFConf EU participant and Student Success Coach for the, now retired, Double Your Freelancing Academy.