Let me ask you one quick question, and if your answer is “yes”, I want you to agree to just stop reading right now. If your bank only provided you account data, transactions, balances, and other data through email, would that be ok with you?
You said no, right? Please tell me you said no, because that would be insane, right? Of course it would. So why is it ok to use your inbox (or worse, random notepads and scraps of paper) to keep all the important information about your source of income: your clients?
A Shocking Revelation
I was fortunate enough to work with some amazing business analysts and sales managers very early on in my career. One of the fundamental tools in their arsenal was Salesforce.com, our CRM (customer relationship management tool) of choice. For me, using a contact management system to record every bit of information about a customer, every interaction, whether through the support or sales teams, was second nature. The mantra if it’s not in Salesforce, it doesn’t exist was true — plenty of our sales folks learned that the hard way when their commission checks came in a bit short.
When I moved on past my first big-kid marketing job, I was shocked. How in the world did my new employer survive with no good data, no common repository of contact information, no pipelines and sales reports? The thing is, they were just barely making it; they were wasting their time and energy every day working in silos, digging for misplaced information, and scratching their heads wondering why deals weren’t closing and the business wasn’t growing.
Turns out, good data management isn’t always at the top of the priority list for small businesses. In fact, most of my small-to-medium-sized business clients come to us struggling to get by in Excel spreadsheets (or worse) and have no insights into their pipeline data at all.
So Why Do So Many Businesses Skip This Step?
The problem with customer management is that there is never really a good time to implement it. When you first start out, and it is just you struggling to wrangle in a single new client at a time, actually managing those clients seems like ridiculous overkill.
So then you hit a steady pace; you’re growing and that’s great! But you’re also busy as hell because you don’t have the time or cash flow to hire any help. You’re starting to let things slip through the cracks, and it’s costing you in billables and strained relationships.
Fast forward a bit – you’ve finally brought on an assistant, a sales person, or some other new hires who can take the load off and give you some time to finally start getting your back office in order. But this task is so overwhelming you continue to put it off. After all, just because you have a little help doesn’t mean you can spend hours a week digging through mountains of emails and files to organize your clients into a proper CRM.
Break the Cycle. Starting Right Now.
I can guarantee there will never be a great time for you to step back and implement a great client management system. I also guarantee that at some point you will drop the ball. You will forget about a prospect. You will lose an email address. You will bring on a new employee and waste hours emailing and digging for information they need to start working with your clients.
So, take one step at a time to work toward a better management system for your business. Start today by selecting a CRM system. Most of them offer a free trial, and as long as they meet the Must-Have list I posted over here you’ll be golden to at least get started. If you outgrow it, or your needs change, you can export your data and move on to the next best solution for your needs. Most CRMs will also let you easily import all your contacts from your address book and sync all future contacts.
Still feeling a little lost, scared, or overwhelmed? Give us a shout, and we’ll help you get started down the right path. We can even do the heavy lifting for you.
Ok, so you’ve signed up and have a fresh CRM just waiting for you. How do you actually get all your client info in there? The answer is simple, but it ain’t easy. You absolutely must change your habits. You must force yourself to start adding in client info every single day. Talk to a potential client? Get an email from a prospect? Have a few spare minutes at lunch? Use those moments to quickly add contacts and their relevant info into the system.
Up Next: Putting Your CRM to Work: Pipelines and Forecasting