Use a CRM to Get More Business

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Stop the leaks with a CRM

As a client-based small business it’s very important to keep track of clients and prospective clients and the communication between them. Emails, phone calls, in-person meetings, tasks, follow ups, introductions, handshakes, and games of charades – losing track can mean losing business.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) apps are designed to help wrangle all this information in easy to update and easy to digest ways. Finding the best one depends on your needs and your workflow.

Why use a CRM?

For anyone who deals with more than just a handful of clients on a daily basis, the question of why use a CRM is obvious. There’s simply too much information flying around to remember it all. Before I began using a CRM, here’s how the interaction with a prospective client could (and probably often did) transpire:

  1. Prospective client calls on the phone about a website project. A meeting gets scheduled.
  2. Meet with the client and discuss project. Leave feeling good about the prospect.
  3. Proposal is created and sent.
  4. Two weeks go by without hearing from client.
  5. Prospective client gets forgotten.
  6. Weeks later a vague recollection of a prospective client haunts me. What have I forgotten?
  7. Prospective client is lost to the ether.

With only a few clients a prospect or two here or there this probably doesn’t happen. But once two, three, four new prospects a week start calling, it soon becomes impossible to stay on top of who said what without a little help.

CRM Software to the Rescue

Sure you could write it all down on sticky notes or in a notebook, but with the way our devices are synced these days with calendars, voicemail and apps, finding a good CRM application makes the most sense. Using a CRM and taking the above scenario, my interaction with a prospective client now transpires like this:

  1. Prospective client calls on the phone about a website project. A meeting gets scheduled.
  2. New contact get entered into CRM with as much detail as I currently have. Client is tagged as ‘prospect.’
  3. Meet with client and discuss project. Leave feeling good about the prospect.
  4. Project details are entered into CRM, task to send proposal on specific date is created.
  5. Proposal is created and sent. Task created to follow up in one week created.
  6. A week goes by without hearing from client. CRM sends reminder to follow up.
  7. Follow up email is sent. New task is set to follow up again in one week.
  8. If two weeks go by and client still hasn’t contacted me, a final follow up task gets created.
  9. If client still has not contacted me after final follow up, client gets tagged as ‘dead prospect.’
  10. More likely however, client has gotten busy, and by the second follow up has contacted me and the project begins. Client is then tagged ‘client.’

Finding the CRM that fits your needs

Finding the right software is a matter of your needs. I’ll be writing a comparison of the two that I’ve used extensively in a future post. For me though, a good CRM should be able to do the following:

  1. Easy entry of a new contacts, including up/downloading in the standard vCard format – both single and multiple contacts.
  2. Tagging or grouping of contacts for easy sorting.
  3. Notes – there should be plenty of room for keeping date based notes.
  4. Email/file attachments.
  5. Date and Time based task lists.
  6. iCalendar subscriptions to task lists.
  7. iPhone/mobile application

I don’t claim to have used most of the CRM software out there, but of the ones I have, they all easily fit the above criteria.

Output = Input – or – You Reap What You Sow

Once you’ve found your software solution, it’s time to start entering. Every correspondence you get should immediately go into the CRM. If you take good paper notes of phone calls or networking encounters, you could also set aside time each day dedicated to keeping your CRM up to date. For some, this might seem like a waste of time. Yes, I  spend what seems like an inordinate amount of time looking at, updating and referring to my CRM – but since I’ve started using CRM software I’ve landed more jobs simply because I’ve been able to stay in front of my prospects minds, with timely follow ups and gentle reminders.

What do you think?

Do you use CRM software? Do you have a solution that works better for you? I’m famous for spending an hour to save 5 minutes, so I’d love to hear what you’ve been doing to stay on top of your prospects and client tasks.

4 Comments


\”grouping of contacts for easy sorting.\” Segmenting is the ABC of marketing. Surprisingly, it\’s rarely implemented, and most of the time wrongly.

It\’s hard to understand why smartlists are not a common feature. In addition, most of the CRM on the market implements too many different objects (lead, project, case, opportunity, campaign) and (event, appointment, task, activity) , each with an exclusive set of fields.

Search capabilities have no cross-object (meta fields) capability. Objects can not be linked to each other. In the end, you have multiple information silos within a single application.

One CRM only implement a few objects –an contact object, an activity object (which can start as a lead and morph into campaign, opportunity or project by changing its type field) and a event object with global fields.

Finally, CRM are not going where everybody else is. Social web teach a simple lesson: you have to go where everybody else is. There is a self-updating network called Linkedin. Integration is a no brainer. Our digital life is email/twitter-centric. Few CRM are. Only Solve360 tries to implement custom filters unique to an object.

Frustrating….

Reply

    Charles – I\’ve found LinkedIn to be too social to be of use as a CRM. There\’s too much chatter going on to keep separate from the tasks I have for each contact I need to stay up to date with.

    I\’ve been using Highrise (http://highrisehq.com/) for quite a while now and I\’m able to easily \’tag\’ a contact for the grouping feature I need. Seems to be as close to a smarlist as possible.

    Reply

Agree about Linkedin–social network are just that, social. You may however be interested in monitoring your interactions with such network. I found the chatter a great place to find affinity and demonstrate expertise. It\’s easier to write a short piece for a linkedin discussion than an article for a local paper.

Linkedin self-updating professional profiles are also a gold mine for any CRM system. What can be better than having someone else do your job? Bibliographic research apps are capable to search multiple online libraries, export and populate bibliographic fields and more:

\”RefGrab-It does more than simply capture the bibliographic data on a web site, it also searches the web for additional information relating to the web page ( ISBN numbers, DOIs, PubMed IDs and COins (ContextObjects in Spans)), working behind the scenes to get the most complete bibliographic information for the user. Of course, any information captured through RefGrab-It can be seamlessly imported into a RefWorks account.\” http://www.refworks.com/content/products/refgrabit/content.asp

So, you can seamlessly populate a bibliographic online database such as Refworks with one click. On the other hand, no CRM can automatically populate a contact record based on the contact information pasted at the bottom of an email.

The CRM paradigm as currently implemented by most CRM pre-date digital communication–manual data entry, flat list of contacts and mass-mailing of form letters and product catalogues. Email marketing apps are per-se the brain child of digital communications and web 2.0–long tail segmenting/marketing, automated data capture (forms), integration with wordpress, websites; online polls, etc.

Marketers are picking up on the trend. There is some movement in the CRM industry. Relenta is build around some email marketing functions. Bantam is being built around a communication hub. Solve360 has a dedicated email filter for projects.

However, this is still stone age stuff. My iphone records all my calls with my contacts — how come there is no API that automatically create a call object and push it in the cloud to my CRM?

As CRMs finally become relationship (interaction)-centric, the line between CRM and email marketing will further blur. The CRM 2.0 will be interaction hub. There will still be a place for specialized digital marketing tools, but as an extension of the CRM contact hub.

Or maybe an email marketing will lead the charge. They have the technology, expertise and customer base. iContact integrates with Salesforce, On the other hand, Salesforce is at the same time under- and over-whelming for most iContact customers.

Marketers will lead the change. Check http://marketingwhitepapers.s3.amazonaws.com/SocialMediaMarketingReport2010.pdf

It will interesting to see which platform will become the first digital marketing hub and how such move impact the CRM landscape.

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