It’s time to start managing your relationships with your leads and clients instead of reacting.
It’s time to start using a Sales CRM as your system to stay on top of your relationships.
The number one mistake I see freelancers and consultants make is that they forget to use their CRM.
I get it.
Using a Sales CRM means learning a new tool, process, and system.
Your CRM can start feeling like a “Pile o’ Shame.” It’s a list of all the actions and activities you didn’t make time for. It’s full of the contacts you haven’t followed up with (yet).
I get it, friend.
There is a better path.
You’re going to start using a CRM. Moreover, you’re going to build a CRM habit.
“I don’t think I need a CRM, Kai.”
Yeah, most people don’t until it’s too late.
Here is a quick CRM self-assessment. Answer each question ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’
- Do you have a list of all the leads that are currently in your pipeline?
- Do you use a piece of software to keep track of whom you need to follow-up with?
- Can you tell me (with confidence) what percentage of conversations with leads turn into paid projects?
- Do you know what specific next actions you’re supposed to take with each lead in your pipeline?
- Do you have one standard place where you store your notes, activities, and information about your leads and clients?
Give yourself 1 point for each ‘Yes’ and 0 points for each ‘No.’
If you scored 4-5, you’re terrific at your relationship management. Email me at email@example.com and let me know that you’re a Follow-Up Fanatic.
If you scored under 4 points, you’re carrying too much information around in your head.
Your brain is an impressive piece of technology. But, it isn’t great at remembering the 17 different activities you need to take next week with your contacts, clients, and leads.
If you aren’t using a CRM, you’re leaving your follow-up to your frail, human, meat brain.
It’s time to start using a CRM as part of your sales system to help you stay on top of your relationships.
The golden rule of relationship management
When you take action with a lead, you want to schedule your next activity immediately.
In practice, it can look like this:
- You make a note in your CRM on a lead of a future task you want to take care of, like “Send Kai an email next Monday.”
- Next Monday, you see that activity, and you send your friend Kai an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Once you complete your action, you’ll want to immediately make a note/schedule your next activity with that lead
- That next activity might look like “Send Kai a follow-up email in 2 weeks.”
This golden rule comes to us from Activity-Based Selling. Activity-Based Selling is a sales technique that has you you focus on the activities that are under your control (like “Send an Email” or “Follow-Up”) instead of events that are outside of your control (like “Get a reply from Kai” or “Get that proposal accepted”).
When you switch your focus to activities that are under your control, you make it easier on yourself. Sales, selling, and CRMs feel less anxiety inducing.
Instead of thinking to yourself
Well, the next step is to get this proposal accepted. How the heck do I do that?
You’re focusing on the actions and activities that are under your control (send emails, set meetings, follow-up!).
In the Activity-Based Selling worldview, you want to schedule your next activity as soon as you complete the current activity.
This way, you’re never caught flat-footed wondering ‘What am I supposed to do here?” You’re leaving future you a note.
If you’d like to learn more about the idea of-Activity Based Selling, you can in this free video lesson: https://kaidavis.com/activity-based-selling/
“Which CRM should I start with?”
Pick the tool that works best for you. There’s no magic, secret sauce to a tool.
The secret is you showing up, using it consistently, and putting in the work. You want to build a CRM habit.
Building your CRM habit
These are the steps I took to build a habit of using my CRM. These steps help reduce friction, get your eyes on your pipeline more, and help you always know what actions to take next.
Make your CRM the default
First, set your CRM’s Deal Pipeline as your browser homepage. You want to see this whenever you open a new window.
Add some data
Start adding data to your CRM.
Here, you can add me, send me an email, and then schedule a reminder for a future activity to follow-up with me.
- Name: Kai Davis
- Email: email@example.com
Send me an email and say “Hey Kai, added you to my CRM!” and I’ll send you back an email with Emojis of Awesome.
Schedule time to use your CRM
Schedule time twice a week for twenty minutes on your calendar.
This time is when you’re reviewing your CRM, processing actions, and cleaning things up.
Use this time to open up your CRM and poke at it.
- Customize your pipeline
- Add deals and contacts
- Process emails into deals
- Add activities
- Send follow-up emails
Make using your CRM part of your workflow.
Add this time to your calendar just twice a week to start. In a month, you’ll want to make it three or four times a week.
You don’t want to overwhelm yourself; you want to build a habit.
Get used to your CRM
If there are on-boarding videos, watch them.
Does your CRM have an “Inbox Integration” or any features to make it easier for you to use?
Take 30 minutes and set up those integrations. Turn on and test the features that look useful.
Customize your pipeline
I use and recommend a Pipeline with these stages:
- New Lead
- In Conversation
- Meeting Scheduled
- Ready for Proposal
- Finalizing Details
- Waiting for Payment
- The Pen
One rule: deals should only move forward in your pipeline.
The exception is The Pen, which is for long-term follow-up. The Pen is where you stick deals that are in a holding pattern. “Follow-up in 3-months” and all that. When they’re ready, move them out of the pen into the appropriate spot
New Lead: New leads from your website, people you’re following-up with in advance of a reply.
In Conversation: People who have replied to your outreach, people who you’re in an email exchange.
Meeting Scheduled: You have a meeting on the books. Cards shouldn’t ever move back from here. You should end every meeting by scheduling the next meeting while they’re still on the call.
Ready for Proposal: They’re ready to receive a proposal/quote/price/buy now link from you.
Finalizing Details: You’re in the last 10% of the deal. This stage is the final conversation and objection busting. You’re waiting on the decision-maker saying “Yes.”
Waiting for Payment: You’re in the last 2% of the deal. This stage is waiting for the payment to arrive.
The Pen: Is your holding pattern for deals that go into long-term follow-up.
e.g., “I am waiting on my contact to get back from their Arctic Cruise next June.”
When you get paid
- Mark your deal as won and remove it from your pipeline
- Schedule a future activity for 3-months from now to check in with the client for a testimonial for this project
- Schedule a future activity 6-months from now to check in with the client on a follow-up project
- Go to the contact and schedule an activity 6-months from now to check in with them and offer a quarterly strategy call
Add “Work on the CRM” to the to-do list
If you use a to-do list app, add a recurring task that matches up with the CRM times on your calendar.
Name it “Work on CRM for 15-minutes.”
“What CRM do you recommend, Kai?”
If you’re looking for ease of getting started and low price, I recommend TrelloCRM
TrelloCRM is the easiest option to get started with. Read Trello’s article (https://blog.trello.com/ultimate-trello-for-crm-workflow-breakdown) and dive in.
If/when you hit a wall, like:
Shit, I can’t schedule a future activity. How can I let my future self know who to follow-up up with and when?
Then and only then, evaluate updating to Pipedrive or another dedicated Sales CRM.
If you’re looking for more advanced features, like Email Integration or Activity Scheduling, I recommend Pipedrive
- Deal Timeline, showing you all the activity, emails, and events with that contact/deal
- Email Integration, letting you send, receive, and process emails in Pipedrive (and sync your Inbox with Pipedrive)
- Activity Scheduling, allowing you to schedule future activities for your deal/contact
All these features push Pipedrive (https://pipedrive.com) over the top for me. These are features that TrelloCRM does not have.
Your Next Actions
Here are the five actions you want to take to get into the habit of using a CRM:
- Pick the CRM you like the most
- Read the tutorial/getting started docs
- Schedule a recurring “Work on the CRM” time
- Add just a few (3-5) contacts and deals to the CRM
- Stick with it and roll with the punches. If you miss a day or week, don’t beat yourself up. Keep moving forward.
I write a high-quality, daily newsletter about marketing, growth, and lead generation for indie consultants, freelancers, and service professionals.