You know you need to follow up with your leads, but how do you keep track? If you have a corporate sales background, you will be used to using ACT or SalesForce or a similar enterprise level customer relationship management (CRM) software. And maybe when you transitioned to owning your own business, you kept the same system.
But if you’re a small operation, just you, or you and a few, solutions like ACT and SalesForce can be overly complicated and pricey.
The simplest way to manage your return calls is to schedule them in your calendar. However, this has the disadvantage that a flow of conversations cannot be captured. You might not remember what you said to the contact last time, especially if any length of time has passed since you last spoke. So not only do you need to be reminded to call leads, you need something that can track important details about the conversation.
There are many, many free or inexpensive CRM’s available for the small business owner. My favorite is Podio. Podio is free for teams 5 or fewer and only $9 per person per month over that. Podio is extremely flexible and can also double as a project management tool, and task management system. It has pre-made modules to get you started, but is also completely customizable. Their support people are also very responsive and helpful.
So what’s the best approach when it comes to choosing a CRM for your business? The best way is to start with the questions you want answered and find a system that will deliver those answers for you.
Some of the questions you may have are:
- Can I find my client’s contact information easily?
- Are all the data fields I require available or customizable?
- How does the system remind me to call leads?
- What sort of reporting does the system allow?
- Can you easily track who needs to contact whom?
- Can you easily find out where you should be focusing your efforts based on customer information?
- Does the system integrate with my accounting system/contacts/task list?
- Does the system work on all the necessary platforms (PC, Mac, iPhone, Android, etc.)
- Are the mobile apps suitable or sufficiently sophisticated to handle what I need on the road?
- Can I sync information across platforms and with integrated services?
- How easy is it for my staff to update the information?
- How do we communicate changes?
- How do we communicate tasks that need to be done?
Remember that, as with all productivity tools, your CRM system should support your teams’ productivity, not inhibit it.
If you choose to investigate Podio, and need some help setting up your system, give us a call. We can help get you going.
Many people who struggle with paper management commit three deadly sins:
- They fail to file (or scan and shred) the paperwork they have completed any actions on, but need to keep for future reference
- They fail to prioritize and take action on their action items
- The keep items they do not need mixed in with their other paperwork
The result – they are drowning in paperwork.
This focuses on solving just one of the deadly sins – what to do with your paper action items.
As with any organizing, there is not just one way to deal with your action items. In any case, the aim of any system to deal with your action items should be simple to implement and maintain. It should capture your action items and ensure they can be processed in a timely manner.
Here are five methods for taking care of your action items.
- GTD – getting things done, defined by David Allen
- 4 quadrants – from Stephen Covey
- Tickler system
- Hotel system designed by Dolores Kaytes
- Simple priority system
Let’s look at each in turn.
Going paperless is a bit of a misnomer. It’s impossible to be completely paperless, even in this digital age. There are some documents that need to be maintained in the original hard copy – certain contracts, certificates and so on. But not withstanding those hard copy “must haves,” a great deal of the paperwork that is dealt with today can go digital. Digitizing sales orders, invoices, reference material, business cards, and business documentation is a smart move.
- Reduce paper clutter
- Mobile access
- Fast searching
- Low cost storage
- Choose location – desktop or cloud
- Choose file structure
- Use filename convention
- Use scanner regularly
Here are three things that we see holding our clients back all the time and a tip to overcome those hurdles and help you get organized in your office
1. Get your paperwork under control. The number one thing that clients call us for is paper. Paper piles, mail, to-do lists, business cards, ideas for projects, and on and on! To clear a back log, FAR your paperwork and make 3 piles: File, Action, Recycle. File the things you need for reference, or you need to keep for the IRS or some other government department. Get tough with your action pile – if it’s something that might happen, someday, maybe, put it in the recycle pile and forget about it – you most likely would have forgotten about it anyway.
2. Focus on being productive. Being organized is a means to an end, not the end product. Be sure to make a short list of “must do” actions each day. Do those things first. The rest is gravy. I write my list on a sticky note so it can’t be too long and it get’s posted right in front of where I work to remind me to stay on task. I only ever have one sticky note that has my “must do’s”. Any other to-do’s are collected on a master list which can be referred to when making the “must do” list. I make my list at the end of my day so I can fully rest at night and not be thinking about all the things I need to do the next day while I’m trying to sleep. Keep a hot file of the paperwork associated with actions either by due date (tickler file), by type of activity (See David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”), by project, or by priority (immediate, soon, later, or whatever labels work for you.)
3. Know when and how you work the best. Schedule blocks of time to work on your most important tasks when you are at your peak performance. Notice your style of working. Are you able to sit and focus for long periods of time and getting up for supplies breaks your concentration? Are you the opposite? Do you need a break from sitting in one place to keep up the creative flow? Make your office fit what you need. Place supplies either in easy reach, or so that getting them is an excuse to move.
If you can make keeping your paperwork under control, focusing on your top priorities each day and making time to do your best work habitual, you will be amazed at what you accomplish.
Have you ever wondered why we get and keep all the paper that we do? I do all the time. What are we afraid of if we don’t have it? Are we missing out on something? Will something bad happen if we don’t have it? Will you be able to find it again if you file it?
There are three things to keep in mind when you need to file your paperwork. If you have piles and piles and you don’t know where anything is, consider these concepts.
Tip One: Identify why you need to keep your paperwork organized. What benefit will it bring you? Knowing the reason you do something can be a big motivator. Many people find that they save time by having a home for everything and everything in its place. If you know what to keep and what to let go of, you can have a certain peace of mind, you do not need to continue to ask yourself if you need something.
Tip Two: Pre-sort your paperwork using the FAR method. File, Action and Recycle. File the paperwork you need to archive or need to keep for reference – remember that much information can be found on the internet. Action items are those items you need to take action on. Keep these separate from your filing in a hot file. Reduce and recycle the rest – get off mailing lists of companies that you will never purchase from and recycle the rest.
Tip Three: Chose one way to organize your paperwork and stick to it! If you’re not sure which type of system to use, use your dominant Processing Style to your advantage. Your Processing Style, also called learning style, influences how you process information in the world. People are familiar with three main processing styles – visual, auditory and kinesthetic. But there are many different ways to process information, including emotional, intuitive, cognitive, verbal, and more. People do not usually process information only in one style, they usually use a combination of styles, but some will be more dominant than others. If you know your strengths, you can use organizing strategies that utilize that style. Some questions to ask yourself to find your preference:
- Are you a visual processor? Use color in your filing system, using one color for each major category.
- Are you an auditory processor? Talk out loud as you file – you’ll remember where you put things more effectively.
- Are you a kinesthetic processor? Place your main categories in different locations to help differentiate files.
- Are you an intuitive processor?
Trust your instincts – you’ll do what’s best for you.
Is the paperless office just a fantasy for you? Do you struggle to find files on your computer like in the “”real”” world? How can you organize your digital files?
One of the goals for any organizing project is to make it easy to find things when you need them. Thankfully computers have great search capabilities and by keeping a few tips in mind, it can be a snap to find any file within a few minutes, if not seconds.
Tip 1: Use your desktop carefully.
Generally speaking you want to keep your desktop clear, just as you would your physical desk. Your desktop is not the place to file reference material, just as your desk is not either. You may want to keep a few project files on your desktop that you are actively working on. The key here is actively working on.
Do not keep files on your desktop that relate to a project that you may work on someday. Do not keep digital files that are archive material on your desktop. Keep it clear so you can focus on the work at hand. Also consider putting shortcut icons in the task bar if you have a PC for the programs that you use most and take their corresponding icons off the desktop. To organize further on the desktop, group your icons using Fences by Stardock (http://www.stardock.com/products/fences/).