WordPress CRM Tips

Pimp Your Workflow: CRM Tips for Developers

Everybody give a big welcome to Heather Steele, owner of Blue Steel Solutions, and the next contributor in the Project Workflow series. You can follow her on Twitter or check out her blog here.

Ok, so let’s be honest – how many of us independent or small team folks use our CRM systems to their fullest potential (or even use a proper CRM solution at all)? I mean, come on, it takes some time to set up, you have to remember to log all your interactions, and you’d rather spend that time working on paid project work, right? In truth, when used with a plan and a purpose, your CRM can both save you a ton of time and help you win more work with little increased effort.

There are exactly 236,157 different CRM solutions on the market right now (I counted) – some of them even marketed directly at web designers and developers – so I won’t go into specific solutions or promote my favorite products here. As long as your solution meets this basic list of requirements you can make it work hard for you. Even a well-configured Excel spreadsheet can meet your needs until you’re ready to step into a paid solution.

Must-Have CRM Abilities

  • Add custom fields (preferably different types like text, dropdown, checkboxes etc)
  • Run reports and filter by more than one field
  • Export to a clean CSV file, because eventually you may need to pick up and move to a new solution

The more you can do to automate, integrate, and personalize your system the better, but those features can come in down the road when budget and implementation time allow.

Lead Generation

CRM systems are probably most famous for tracking leads and potential sales. Get your leads entered early on in the sale and take the time to track a few key items.

Lead Source-

Which efforts are generating the most leads? (And which efforts generate leads that close?) Knowing where your leads come from and where you get the best leads will help guide your marketing activities as your business grows. Get just granular enough to make use of this field in reports (I suggest running a lead report at least monthly). Track which forum, social media network, ad, or type of referral the lead came from.

*pro tip – If you choose to use a text field for this just make sure you’re naming strategy is consistent. The last thing you want to do is spend time picking through a lead report to lump Client Referrals and Customer Referrals together.

Estimated Close Date & Value-

early on in the sale you should be able to estimate when the sale will likely close (date/year) and how much it should be worth. With this bit of information you can get an idea of how much work and income you’ll have throughout the upcoming months and you’ll be able to better manage your workload.

*pro tip – If you want to get really fancy you can associate a percentage of likelihood the deal will close (be sure to update this field as you move the lead closer to a sale). Calculate a better forecast by multiplying the likelihood of closing by the value of the project, add up the adjusted value of all projects closing in a particular month or quarter and bam! Now you have an adjusted idea of income to use for budgeting or even requesting a business loan.

Never Forget to Follow Up-

When was the last time you “touched” a lead? Are you automating this process or manually warming them up? How many times have you completely forgotten to get back to someone and lost a sale because of it?

Some people do have amazing memories but for us mere mortals scheduling follow-ups is vital. You may end up doing this in your calendar or CRM depending on what you use and the level of integration to your other tools, just remember to always schedule a follow-up until either you win the project or you determine it to be lost.

*pro-tip – Try to outline a sales process you can follow consistently. This will let you automate some of your process with warm-up emails and preset your follow-up dates. I also recommend setting a follow-up for lost deals. If it went to another developer or just died on the client side wait a while and check in. You may be able to revive the project or be a saving grace if they hired the bargain bin developer you bid against.

Proposal/Contract Management

Who LOVES putting together proposals? Oh, oh or writing a really great contract?! …… Anyone? Anyone? I’m sure that breed of masochist exists in the world, but for most of us proposals and contracts can be a real time suck. Here’s some simple ways to speed up the process and maybe even automate parts of it.

Boiler Plates-

If you don’t already have boiler plate documents, get on it. Create the shell of your proposal, contract, and any other document you use regularly. Look at past versions and find the common threads. If you have several areas of business you may need multiple versions of each document, but try to get it down to as few as possible. Now, make a list of the holes in your boiler plate. What is the minimum amount of data you need to create it each time?

*pro tip – Feeling stuck with how to create these boiler plate documents? Start here with a list of free legal documents curated by Smashing Magazine.

More Fields, Fewer Notes-

Now here comes a little work to get started. Take that list of required data and turn it into fields in your CRM. You may be using different objects like leads, opportunities, cases etc or you may just have your Excel spreadsheet; either way find the place where you can create a bulk of custom fields and get after it. Now instead of typing a slew of notes into the text area of your CRM, you can fill in the specific information you need to capture. This will drastically save the time you used to spend transposing meeting notes and later searching through those notes to assemble your proposal.

*pro tip – Once you perfect your data fields you can use your CRM layout to drive client calls and meetings. Arrange the fields in the order that flows well with your discovery conversations and tab along to fill in the blanks as you chat.

Assembling The Data-

If you use a CRM system like Salesforce or Zoho you can probably automate this process and create proposals directly within you CRM, if not though, you can still save a ton of time with this process and manually transpose the data into your documents (or heck, if you use Excel for your CRM just run a mail-merge in Word to autofill those docs).

*pro tip – The data you collect to assemble your proposal and contracts will be an ideal checklist to review with the client at project delivery.

Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began

We all know a poorly planned and evaluated project isn’t likely to go smoothly and just the same a poorly structured business isn’t likely to succeed and grow.

Get yourself organized and put systems like a strong CRM in place now – start each project with a structured, efficient approach, and find ways every day to automate, refine, and improve your system.

10 thoughts on “Pimp Your Workflow: CRM Tips for Developers”

  1. Pingback: WordPress CRM workflow tips : Post Status

  2. I’m surprised someone hasn’t tried to make a WP plugin to handle CRM

    Thanks for the great tips. I may just be tired, but in this statement: “The last thing you want to do is spend time picking through a lead report to lump Client Referrals and Customer Referrals together, what is the difference between “customers” and “clients” and how you’d recommend handling them differently?

      1. Oh I see–thanks for clearing that up – it’s been a long day. Also thanks again for the tip; I’m sure it’s a good plugin; Bill has a good reputation. I’ll check it out.

  3. So I know you said you weren’t going to discuss particular CRM solutions, but would any commenters be willing to make any suggestions? I have been researching for about a week now (perfect timing!) and have tried out Base, Pipedrive, Highrise, Insightly, Nutshell, and others. Any thoughts on what has or hasn’t worked well for you?

    1. Hmmm I think a CRM round up post may be in order! For now though here’s some thoughts:

      When it comes to selecting a CRM you need to find something that fits your needs for your business (duh). So for me that means custom fields and integration. Flexible reporting is also important, but I can work around that if I have to.

      Out of the systems you mention I think Base is the most sophisticated and professional. The Enterprise price tag is a bit high, if I was going to pay that much I would just go with good ‘ole Salesforce. I do love the flexibility with custom fields and automated workflows for tasks. That is pretty dang sweet.

      Highrise is a good CRM if you just want customer data and high level deal tracking. If you want to do forecasting you will have to use a third-party application and to me that just seems silly. It should be built in to the system. Plus I hate having to use Zapier to automate workflows between Highrise and Base Camp.

      Nutshell has some promise – love the price tag, but there are still bugs in the interface and that can be a pain to work around. I hear negative reviews on their support as well (which if you have a buggy product and your support sucks…not sure how long that business model floats). I like the Google Apps integration but wish there was more APIs to integrate with – project management and accounting should talk to the CRM (if not contained within that CRM)

      My favorites are Salesforce and Zoho. Zoho carries a nice price tag and has most of the features a small business needs. Salesforce is a much heftier CRM both feature and price-wise but you can’t ask for anything better to grow into. If you can dream it, Salesforce can do it.

  4. Great article & blog! I am working with a sales company that has a lot of specialized reporting/quotes/sample requests for vendors and I’m racking my head to get crm’s to customize to their needs. I’m proficient w WordPress and really think that I should build a custom system for them…any clues on good plugins that will transfer data from gravity forms into vendor specific excel spreadsheets, then attach to vendor profile, then report activity?

    1. Hmm well you could certainly create your own CRM and accomplish this but my suggestion would be to just start with something hefty out of the box and save the development time. Salesforce would probably be great for this application because you can even setup portals for each vendor to pull their own reports.

      If you go the wordpress route Gravity would certainly be a good starting point for lead forms. I’m not aware of a way to parse the forms by a certain field like Vendor and then export different reports. But you could easily export your entire gravity report and run a saved action or macro through Excel to create separate sheets or documents.

      Again though, I would go with a system that does this without the extra effort. The harder it is, the less likely your client is to actually use it.

  5. Pingback: CRM System Services in Denton

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Carrie Dils uses Accessibility Checker to monitor our website's accessibility.