It’s Monday — that means it’s time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

I’m baaaaack!

The last week and a half both went by way too fast and way too slow.

I didn’t mention it before I left, but I went on a 9-day family road trip, that included stops at Mount Rushmore, at Yellowstone National Park, and at the world’s largest mineral hot springs in Thermopolis, Wyoming.

I had some interesting and highly-relevant observations while gone, but that’s not what today’s issue is about.  Today, it’s Monday, which means I’m back with another Mailbox Monday.

And although this question starts small and highly-specific, it touches a much bigger (and more impactful) subject, so I’m going big to bring you maximum value on my first day back.

Here’s today’s question…

Hi Roy,

I work on a Mac.  What is the best prospect and client contact tracking software in your opinion?

Thanks,

Richard

Like I said, this is a very small and specific question.  It falls somewhere around the levels of tactics and techniques.  And applying the right tactics and techniques are important…  But they are made most powerful when you first zoom out and get your principles and strategies right.

So that’s what we’re going to do.

In the context of answering the “which software” question, we’re going to look at the best principles and strategies for using this class of software, what features are needed to get this kind of use, and then we can zoom in to which software to use…

And in the end, you won’t just have the answer of which software…

You’ll know how to use which software to convert every qualified lead and prospect into a buyer in the fastest, most effective way possible!

Principles behind effective customer relationship management (CRM) software use…

Just so we’re all speaking the same language here, I want to lay out the definition first.

Richard’s request for the best prospect and client contact tracking software, to me, falls under the generally-used industry term of customer relationship management, or CRM, software.  So I’m going to call it CRM software from here on in.

So the question is: what do you need CRM software for?

There are a lot of answers to this, and I think most of the ways and reasons people use CRM software fall under the “trivial and unimportant” category.

If we apply the 80/20 principle, we know that 80% of the activity produces 20% of the results — and the inverse, 20% of the activity produces 80% of the results.  Using Perry Marshall’s terminology of 80/20-squared (from his book 80/20 Sales & Marketing), we also know that 4% of the activity produces 64% of results.

I care most about the 4% activity that will produce 64% of the results.  Using another term from Perry, this is your $1,000-per-hour (or $10,000-, or $100,000-per-hour) work.  If you get this right and fail at everything else, you’ll likely still be a big success at selling.

So — what are the 4% of activities you can do with your CRM software that will generate at least 64% of the results?  What are the vital few activities that will yield the lion’s share of the reward?

Creating a never-ending follow-up chain.

I’ll explain.  When I sold IT training, the Holy Grail of purchase orders was for this big $30,000 network-based video training server with 10 training “seats.”  This gave the client access to our entire catalog, for up to 10 people to go through the training at once.  We sold a couple of these per month as a company.  And as a salesperson, the commissions from this one sale were a nice bonus on your check.

Well, I made it a priority to find the customers who wanted this.  Mostly big IT departments, at big organizations.  These were the main people I focused on selling to.

I created a “training consultation” we advertised on our website, for anyone who was considering these bigger solutions.  They filled out a form, which put their name, phone number, and email into our CRM (Salesforce.com), and we scheduled a call.  I spoke with them about their training needs, their department, and their purchasing process.  And for those that we mutually determined were qualified, I created a task in our CRM to check in with them the next day.

Then, I emailed or called them the next day, left myself a note in the task about the nature of that email or call, and dated it out a couple days into the future.

Then, I checked in again, offering my help and asking them to express their interest or share what was needed to move forward.  I made myself another note in the task, and re-dated it a couple more days into the future.

This kept going on and on.  Whenever I reached out, I left myself a note, and dated the task into the future.  At first it was a couple days.  Then, the longer it had been since I spoke with them, the longer I’d date it between check-ins — with 3 weeks being my longest window.

If they replied, I went into this task, made a note to myself, and reset the date to a very short follow-up window.

This way, every day I could log into my CRM, and I’d have a list of follow-up tasks, based on both the most recent leads, and leads that I hadn’t been in contact with in a long time.

The only way the leads ever dropped off this list were: 1) they told me they were no longer considering us, or 2) they bought.

Even then, when someone said they were no longer considering us, I’d often just date the task out 3-6 months into the future, and check in with them at that time to make sure they were happy with whatever option they’d chosen.

This approach concentrates follow-up when leads have shown the freshest activity and are most likely to make an on-the-spot purchase, but then stays on their radar until they’ve explicitly stated that they’re no longer a qualified prospect.

Since many purchasing decisions can take 6-24 months to make it all the way to the transaction (especially when you’re dealing with hurdles like a separate purchasing department), but others take place within hours (especially when there’s some free budget money that has to be spent) this is a highly-effective way to take care of everyone.

Done right, with a helping attitude, this makes you a welcome presence in your prospect’s lives and will put you ahead of 96% of other sales people who will stop corresponding after anywhere between 1 and 7 attempts.

So, with that laid out…

Here’s what you really need from CRM software…

All you really need from your CRM software is a way to store basic contact information, and a time-based way to be reminded to follow up with your prospects as well as to keep notes.

Before computers, you could do this with a Rolodex or alphabetical binder of contact information sheets, and a tickler file.  The Rolodex or binder would keep the contact info.  The tickler file is a series of folders, 12 for the months of the year, and 31 for the days of the month.  Today being June 5th, the front big folder (think the green hanging file folders) would be for June, and the smaller file (think a manila folder) would be 5.  Folders 6-31 would be behind the 5 folder in June, and 1-4 would have already been moved to July.  In today’s folder there would be a piece of note paper for each contact you were supposed to follow-up with today.  It would have a short dated note for each previous contact, including any information about that interaction.  Once you followed up with that prospect today (looking up their information in your Rolodex as needed) you’d move that note paper to the next date it was relevant to speak with them, based on the general approach laid out above.  At the end of today, you’d move the 5 folder from June to the back of July.  For longer-dated follow-up, you could just drop the note into the month folder, and figure out what day folder you wanted to put it into when that month arrived.

I lay all that out to illustrate how simple it all can be.  I know most of my readers, including the inquiring Richard, want software.  So do I.  But if you can accomplish it all with a couple pieces of paper in a couple simple organizational systems, it should tell you that you can ignore most bells and whistles on most CRM software.

Put very simply, the only features you need to use in a piece of CRM software are the most basic of contact detail storage and date-based and note-friendly follow-up tasks.

The two bonus features that make this all work better are the ability to quickly search for and find a contact, and email reminders (if you need them) of tasks when they are approaching their due date.

In certain other situations, such as in a corporate environment with a large sales team, there may be advantages from having additional features.  But at the level of the individual looking to maximize their own sales performance, I’ve already laid out what you need most.

The good news?  Nearly every CRM on the market has these features.  Which brings us to…

Which CRM software is best for you?

Richard emphasized that he’s on a Mac.  For those of you who followed my recommendation to read the book Play Bigger and read its case study on Salesforce.com, you’ll realize that doesn’t matter much in this category of software anymore.

Ever since Salesforce blew up in the early 2000s, CRM software has been “in the cloud.”  Prior to that, your CRM was installed either on your network, or on your individual computer.  Today, nearly every CRM worth considering is accessible through your web browser.

And with that, you don’t have to worry if you’re on Mac, Windows, Linux, or even Chromebook.  If you can type an address in your web bar, you can access your CRM.

Plus, this is such a refined market that you could fill a dartboard with all your CRM options, and pretty much no matter what you hit, you could implement the strategy laid out above out of the box.

Even better, if you’re a solopreneur or implementing this for yourself, you can literally do it for free.

That’s right.  Free.

The normal CRM business model goes something like this: get the small business hooked when they have only one salesperson, or a very small team (usually up to about 4).  Then, once they hit a certain size, offer slightly better features for the team for a low monthly fee.

So if you’re a solo entrepreneur or even if you have a very small sales team, you can get all you need from a CRM without paying a penny.

Salesforce.com, which is still the biggest player in the online CRM space, offers a 30-day free trial, then a $25/month plan.  As the biggest player in the category, they can still command that price and remain a leader, even as there are free options.  They do have the benefit of having a big and powerful platform with lots of 3rd party developers and outside integrations, which make their service useful for many and worth paying for.

I haven’t been using a CRM very heavily recently (based on having one main client booked for the entire year, and developing out BTMS which requires less 1-on-1 selling), but my current CRM is insight.ly.  I chose it for its deep Google Apps integration, including buttons in email to add leads and save emails.  At the time, it was the best option for that — since then, many other CRMs have duplicated this feature set.  They have a free forever version for up to two users.

There are many others that are effective and affordable.  Zoho has a free option for up to 10 users.  HubSpot also has a free CRM.  Simply search Google for “free CRM” and use the process above as a guide for evaluating.  If you see one you like, that resonates with you, that you find easy to use for the above process, you have a fit.

As is the case with so, so many other tools, it’s not what you have, it’s how you use it.  (Double-entendre noted!)

(Though, I will note, if you develop a much more complex sales process that involves multi-media, mass-contacts along with one-on-one follow-up, some of the above guidance may not apply and a more sophisticated system may be required.  But that’s probably less than 1/2 of 1% I’m speaking to there.)

Get the principle, strategy, and process right, the tools, techniques, and tactics fall into place and can usually be switched with very little consequence.

The most important answer to the question?  It’s not which CRM, but how you use it — and the simple fact that you get started with ongoing follow-up right away!

Want your question answered in a future Mailbox Monday?

Shoot me an email at Roy@RoyFurr.com.  I’ll add your question to the queue and answer it in an upcoming Monday essay.

Also, I have some big news coming later this week.  These are exciting times!

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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