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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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).
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.