Setting Up Your Consulting Practice

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Topic: Set up a CRM system

A CRM system will help you keep track of all your professional relationships, remind you when to follow up with each individual in your core network, and manage project opportunities through the proposal phase. This episode covers how to set up your CRM system, drawing on a framework developed by David A. Fields

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Set up a CRM system to manage all of your client contacts as well as your opportunities. This is absolutely invaluable and I could not imagine running my business today without it. For detailed information on how I recommend setting up a CRM system, check out Episode 172 of Unleashed, where David Field shares with me his system which is the one that I’ve adopted.

(A) CRM system is very valuable for two purposes. One, tracking all of your relationships with individual people. The system that David recommends is you take all of your core network, put them into your CRM system, and put them into one of three categories. 

Dormant. People that are in the dormant category you’ve assigned a date of when you’ll reach out to them next, and your CRM system will alert you of when that date comes. So depending on the frequency that you might want to reach out perhaps every three months, six months, one year. You can put in that next activity date. 

Once you’ve reached out to someone, you put them in the “Reached Out” column. That’s if you haven’t spoken to them, but you’ve reached out. Perhaps you left a voicemail or you emailed the person or you sent them a LinkedIn message. You reached out with a touch, they haven’t called back. 

If they call you back or if you reach them when you call them, it’s had a conversation. So you’re moving from dormant, to reached out, to “Had a Conversation”. And you leave them in “Had a Conversation” until you take any action items that you promised to and then you move them back to “Dormant,” setting that next activity date. 

So all of the people that you know in your core network are going to move through those three stages. 

On the other side of your deals is opportunities … potential projects. Those are also in three categories. When you first find out about a potential opportunity, you’re going to put it in “Identified Opportunity”. In that stage, you don’t know all the details yet.

Once you’ve actually spoken with the client, you move that deal over to “Had a Context Conversation” and once you’ve had a context discussion, you move them over to “Submitted Proposal.” 

And you leave them in “Submitted Proposal” throughout the negotiating process. If you win the deal, you click one. It moves it out of “Submitted Proposal” into the one grouping or you lose it and you click lose and it moves it out of there.  So opportunities move from identified opportunity to completed a context discussion to submitted a proposal.

I find this system invaluable and I notice a lot of times independent professionals, they submit a proposal and then fail to follow up; but if you have it in your CRM system it makes it a lot easier to track all your follow-ups and to ping your client once a week just checking in, any updates, any news.  I’ve had projects confirm after six months of regular follow up and I would never have been able to do that without having it in a CRM system.

So check out that episode, Episode 172 with David A. Fields. I love his recommendation on this and there’s a lot of different software programs out there to choose from. I recommend Pipedrive. It’s a robust system, integrates well with G-Suite. It’s also easy to use and doesn’t have lots and lots of bells and whistles that interfere. I know some people that like Insightly. I don’t know any independent professionals who use Salesforce. Of course, that’s a good solution for larger clients. 

So Pipedrive is a great one to check out. That’d probably be my default recommendation for independent professionals, but test the ones out and find one that works for you.