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Need to remember to follow up with others? Use a system to manage your relationships.

The world of work is all about relationship management.

No matter your business, or your job, you need to make sure that you are building and nurturing relationships with others. If you are finding it difficult to stay on top of your follow-ups or if you would like to improve how you stay in touch with the key people in your network -- you need a CRM.

CRMs are powerful software tools to help you create solid relationships. CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management; my favorite CRM definition is from an InTouch CRM blog post: Customer Relationship Management (CRM): A system or strategy for managing client interactions, dealing with future and current customers, optimizing and systematizing relationships.

Since we all need to manage relationships in our careers (and lives), it's easy to understand why I like to encourage everyone to use a CRM -- a streamlined CRM can be the core part of an effective and efficient follow-up system.

In addition to helping you build great relationships, a solid follow up system will also help you make more money. Marketing Donut reported that "63% of people requesting information on your company today will not purchase for at least three months -- and 20% will take more than 12 months to buy". You need to follow-up with the people you meet to grow your business, and a CRM system can help you do that. But how do you find the right CRM system for you?

There are thousands of apps that can make you and your business more efficient and effective. Here are some tips on how to choose the right one for you.

There are over 633 CRM apps listed on SoftwareAdvice.com!

Yikes, that is a lot! How do you find the right fit for your business?

The process I use to find the best systems for my clients enables us to:

  1. get clear on what you need and
  2. make "apples-to-apples" comparisons using a well-defined set of decision criteria.

I'll highlight the key four steps in my process in this rest of the post. If you are looking for help in finding the right tool for your business -- let's chat -- I would be happy to assist you in picking and integrating your systems. If you are more of a DIY person, use the remaining paragraphs as a guide for your software selection process.

Step 1: Understand your needs:

Having a clear picture of what you need is KEY to finding a great fit! These questions help clarify your needs for the short-term and long-term:

  • Required (Short-term) Features and Functions: What do you need the software to do now? What day-to-day frustrations in your business are you looking to resolve?
  • Anticipated (Long-term) Features and Functions: How could those short-term needs change based on your goals for the upcoming weeks, months and years?

Step 2: Research:

Once you know what is required, it's time to start research. When I do preliminary research, I compare each system on how it meets the needs. In addition, I always compare potential systems on the following:

  • Integrations and Customizations: What other software and systems do you use in your business that need to "talk" to this one?
  • Data Import and Export: How do you get data in (and out) of the new system?
  • Documentation, Customer Service, and Support: What support is available? How do you access that support?
  • Implementation: What are the steps in the software onboarding process? How long does it take for a new business to be set up with this system?
  • Cost: What are the different packages available? What contract is the best fit for your business? What are the startup costs? What are the on-going costs? What are the support costs? What is the minimum contract duration? What is the cancellation policy?

When it comes to research, I recommend that you cast a wide net to start and then narrow down your choices. You can never choose an option you don't consider -- so I take the preliminary research seriously! [If you are doing this DIY, I recommend you do the same.]

Step 3: Demos:

I use my research to narrow down the choices and build a table to compare the most promising options. Next, I arrange demos (and free trials, if available) to learn more about each of those most promising options.

After each demo, I make sure to update the table and debrief with my clients. With that information, my clients and I can compare all of the options on the most important factor:

  • Usability and Fit: Does this tool have your required features? Does it have your anticipated features? Would you (and your staff) feel comfortable and enjoy using this tool? Do you intuitively understand the interface, reports and how the tool works? Does the experience of interacting with the tool meet your expectations? Are you excited to use this tool? Is it clear how this new system will save you time?

Step 4: Selection:

Using the updated comparison table, we can pick "the one" and start the implementation process. Exciting!

So that is an overview of the steps that I take to match new software systems to my client's needs.

It's hard to recommend the ideal CRM without understanding someone's business and workflow, but below are a few of my favorites. Consider this a starter list; this article would be WAY too long if I mentioned each and every CRM on the market -- there are over 600 options to choose from!

Powerful CRM Systems for Individuals, Mid-sized and Small Businesses include:

More Powerful CRMs for Larger Organizations include:

There are so, so many more options that I didn't mention above. Some CRM's are tailored to specific industries (like consulting, accounting or construction), and others have a specific focus (like facilitating sales, managing contacts or building relationships).  I happily use ActiveCampaign. If you're not sure how to get started, or if you need help narrowing down your options, book a session with me and I would be happy to direct you to a set of CRMs to meet your needs.

No matter what tool you use, it's important that you tie it into your daily workflow. A CRM won't be useful if you don't use it. My simple CRM has become a core part of my morning! It gives me the reminders I need to keep up with my clients, potential clients, friends, and family.

What do you use to help you remember to follow-up? What do you like about your current tool? What's missing?

If you are looking for support in modifying your current follow-up process or introducing a new follow-up system -- book a session and let me be your Ally! I'll help you find a great CRM for you and your team!

photo of Ada Barlatt, Ph.D., P. Eng.
Author : Ada Barlatt, Ph.D., P. Eng.
Hi there! My name is Dr. Ada, and I'm your cheerful OperationsAlly! Since 2016, I've been helping small business owners use technology and automation to save time and boost their business revenues. If you feel overwhelmed, confused, or intimidated by the idea and process improving your launches - I am here for you! Learn more about Ada.

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