One of the greatest frustrations for many independent professionals is the lack of a really good, flexible, economical contact relationship management system.
Does such a thing exist for a solo business person?
Everyone’s needs are unique. Your knowledge and experience may make the selection and implementation easy or difficult. You may have to compromise on a few features and functionality and settle for at least 80% of your requirements. I have spoken with many colleagues and clients who are all dissatisfied with what they are using. So, a fundamental question is this: Is there a resource for doing a fair assessment of all options? Well, it depends.
All successful systems and software selection projects begin with a list of requirements or wish list (Must have vs. Would like to have). You may ask, “Where should one start? Are there knowledgeable people who can guide a person or team toward an intelligent selection of a contact management system?” The answer is YES. They exist at www.360salesfocus.com. 360SF will hold your hand through the entire selection process or provide just-in-time coaching on an as needed basis. For individuals who want to do it themselves, below are some initial considerations.
Regardless of the nature of your practice as an independent professional or the size of a company, its sales value and volume, business development for simple or complex opportunities, I always suggest to clients to first clearly define their processes before evaluating and selecting a technology or automation tool for anything.
For example: What does a typical sales cycle look like for you? How do you process new leads/contacts? How soon do you follow up? What method do you prefer (email, letter, greeting card, phone call, etc.)? What’s the message? Do you have a sales/biz dev process? What are the steps, decisions, possible outcomes, etc.?
Processes enable people and technology enables processes
Technology without a correctly defined process will speed up poor results. It’s the old garbage in, garbage out concept…but faster.
MY PREFERED METHOD when I was an independent consultant: Even though I’ve implemented, used, optimized, and managed several CRM projects for clients (including SalesForce.com and ACT!), for 20 plus years as a solo consultant or, as the only business development person, my preferred CRM & Sales Force Automation (SFA) has consisted mostly of Microsoft Outlook for basic contact profile descriptions & management. I first had to learn effective relationship management without technology to make this work, thanks to Stephen Covey’s 7-Habits of Effective People. Outlook has all the basics such as detail contact info, calendar, and task, space for tons of notes, attachments, and links on every item. I think this may be true for most PC & Mac office-like contact/calendar/email applications.
For forecasting and tracking sales/business development opportunities, a spreadsheet does it all on one sheet, one line per opportunity (forecast of qualified opportunities…date, company, contact, offer, value, priority, close date, win-probability percentage, next Step (notes/remarks). If you want to see a good example, contact www.360salefocus.com/contact-us for a free Microsoft Excel forecasting spreadsheet that we use often and that you may use and modify for your unique purposes.
One of my requirements is mobility. Both Outlook and the spreadsheet interface well and are mobile (works on my smart phone). I use Card Scan to scan business cards that I receive from meetings and networking events. I import and synchronize contacts with Outlook. It’s also great for mail merges (letters and emails). I’ve also incorporated David Allen’s Getting Things Done method for processing all my action items.
Once you get your process defined, then you can go shopping. Effective contact relationship management is at the core of what I do and coach my clients to do. Technology can bog you down if you are not careful. Let’s face it; nothing gets done unless you do it…whether on paper or on-screen. A discipline to keep records up to date, follow-up and follow-through still requires the consistent human touch.
One other consideration might be a marketing campaign management system for managing high volumes (> 500 contacts per campaign) of outbound/inbound lead generation efforts of large and frequent marketing campaigns (direct mail, events, website leads, etc.). This is ideal for processing and managing hundreds of leads that you will try to convert to clients. You still need a process first.
Unless you are trying to track contacts for a multiple people, I would keep it simple and use your desktop office apps for contact profiles, scheduling events/meetings and tasks, date all detail notes, and use every reminder and alert possible.
If you need help implementing a program like this, consider contacting a sales consultant.
Share your experience by leaving a comment.
At http://www.360salesfocus.com we have an entire integrated sales and marketing company at your disposal. How can we help you generate more business? Let’s talk about making something happen for your company.
Carlos Diggs is Managing Partner at 360 Sales Focus, a full service sales and marketing consultancy. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/carlosdiggs. Reach Carlos at email@example.com or 410.782.0360 or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/360salesfocus.Google+