From my last couple posts I got quite a few questions about how to keep track of your interactions as you sell. There is certainly a full range of CRM (Customer Resource Management) software, but I find if your team is small (1-3 people) a simple spreadsheet in Excel works just fine.
The goal is to create a document that is simple enough you can make a habit of keeping it up to date. Heavyweight systems tend to be more laborious to use and reduce the frequency of data input (which is key).
In it’s simplest form I keep a sheet with following columns:
- organization name
- first name of contact
- last name of contact
An example of what this looks like from Flock is as follows:
To create your first sales list you can usually just rely on the web (Google searching) or some select industry directories (in our case Yelp was quite useful). This will help you fill out the majority of the fields to create a record for each potential customer.
As you send out your first emails, make a note of that in the ‘status’ section. I usually keep this field short and tied to major stages of development (emailed, heard back, agreed, contract signed). All the other information I input into the notes section.
When inputting information it’s a balance of ease of reading vs ease of writing. I fall heavily on the side of ease of writing because I want to ensure that I get all the information in – even if it is in a messy context. If the information turns out to be important later on (ie this becomes a key customer) I can format the information then.
As I engage in sales meetings I’ll usually just jot notes on a legal pad as I’m talking with the customers and then transfer it to the excel sheet as soon as I get home. If I don’t happen to have a paper/pen handy sending yourself emails via iPhone work just as well. For each meeting I take notes in two phases:
- During – While engaging with the customer it is important to write key issues/follow up items you’ve agreed on down. I’ll usually come in with a few agenda items jotted down as headers and fill in notes under those headers as we talk.
- After – Once the meeting is over, I’ll immediately write down everything I can remember about the customer interaction. This is critical to maintaining a consistent interaction each customer when you are meeting with hundreds.
The nice thing about an excel sheet is it is very easy to review. Every week I’ll just run down the list to make sure I’ve had a chance to check in with every customer with a current issue. All the dormant relationships (sales that closed or failed) will be contacted every few months). The biggest mistake I see new sales people make is failing to maintain consistent contact with their customers.
Also, if you’re in a startup environment where you are just starting to understand your sales pipeline this list will serve as a record of your sales experimentation. You’ll instantly be able to look down you list of closed sales and see from the notes what characteristics of your interaction of the customer made the deal work.
The whole mantra here is KISS (keep it simple stupid!). When you start selling create an excel sheet. Update that sheet after every meeting. If you can do that you’ll be well on your way to delighting your customers!
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