Last updated January 16, 2019
Every business that provides a service needs a CRM – we learned this the hard way.
Don’t be like us.
If you take nothing else away from this post, the most important idea is that if you don’t separate ‘sales’ from the rest of your business, it will suffer.
One-person freelancers, agencies, and other businesses alike can get caught up in the day-to-day of supporting existing customers or completing existing projects, that it can be hard to keep an eye on new opportunities for growth.
And the best first step you can take to ensuring that growing the sales side of your business gets the love that it deserves is to leverage the power of a CRM.
What’s A CRM?
Let’s start with what a CRM is not. It is not a:
- email inbox
- support help desk
- Quickbooks, Stripe, PayPal, or whatever you use to manage finance or customer payments
- project management tools like Asana or Jira
A CRM is a “Customer Relationship Management” tool that you use to keep organized all information related to potential, current, and former customers.
A good CRM also helps you standardize your sales funnels and other processes so that nothing falls through the cracks.
Here are the more important features that you’ll find in most CRMS:
- Customer/Contact Database – Organize your contacts and all information about them. A good CRM will let you customize the fields and entries to tailor to your business. A better CRM will have an integration that will pre-populate data or pull it in from other services you may be using.
- Sales Funnel – Create the progression of leads to customers that makes sense to you. For example, with our Enterprise hosting service we use something like, “Lead > Demo > Quote Sent > Trial > Migration/Onboarding > Customer”. With the CRM, we get a visual view of where all leads are in the funnel at all times.
- Lead Scoring – Once you have your database organized and your sales funnel in place, you will start to notice trends of who your ideal leads are. Many CRMs even help generate ‘lead scores’ to identify potential customers that are more likely to convert. You may have a different funnel or process for those, or choose to spend more time and resources on them to optimize results.
- Reports and Stats – This is the feature that I obsess over most. At any time, we can run reports to help us forecast sales over the next quarter and year, identify where leads in the funnel fall away, and track how long it takes for the average new deal to close. For existing customers, we can identify trends over time of the verticals and niches that we serve. Without a CRM, we would spend ages trying to sort through all of this data.
- Rules and Workflows – Be reminded when you have not heard from or updated a lead in a while. Don’t let contacts go cold because you are pulled in so many directions that you forgot about them.
Choosing A CRM
We went looking for a CRM several years ago after failing at trying to keep up with everything in monstrous shared spreadsheets. It wasn’t pretty.
You have a ton of options, and a google search can be overwhelming. The only CRM that we can confidently recommend is the one that we use, HubSpot.
Best of all, for most of your needs, especially individuals and freelancers, HubSpot is completely free.
We do pay for the additional ‘Sales Hub’ features as our team and needs have grown, but in that case, the cost is worth it too.
Side note: my favorite and almost hidden surprise feature of HubSpot is the meeting calendar link, which you can send to leads or customers without all of the awkward back to find an agreeable date and time.
For us, HubSpot has been easy to customize and it is regularly getting new features and improvements which we appreciate.
Getting Started With Your CRM
No matter what CRM you choose, you’ll want to allow a good amount of time for configuring and setting up your customer fields and sales pipeline(s). You can always tweak these later, but the more time you spend upfront, the more useful your CRM will be.
You’ll also want to import and manually add all of your existing customers first off. This will help to ensure that you have all the fields you need and will allow you to get going with any of the analysis you want to do with reports right away too.
Connecting Your CRM and WordPress
At the most basic level, you’ll want to have information from your contact forms or landing pages added directly into your CRM as new potential leads.
And our Hustle plugin includes native integration with HubSpot and several others.
The important part to remember is to send the name, email address, and as much info as you can over to your CRM so that it doesn’t get lost or forgotten about in your email inbox.
Automate, Automate, Automaaaaaate!?
With rules and workflows, it can be tempting to automate everything and hope for the best. But, we’re big fans of personalizing all communication as much as possible. Nobody likes getting obviously generic emails.
So, what we do, is to use rules and workflows to send us automated and generic reminders to send a much more personalized contact. For example, has it been 4 days since you sent a quote over but alas, no reply? How about a nudge with a link to a helpful blog post or resource, or a testimonial or case study from a similar customer as part of a follow-up reminder. As the potential value of the customer goes up, the more personalization and the less automation we want to employ.
CRMs help with tracking and automating more than emails too – phone calls, SMS messages, tweets, snail mail, smoke signals, and whatever. Track it all.
Building Your Lead and Customer Profiles
The last big thing to set up with your new CRM is to make sure that you are importing as much information about your leads and customers as possible.
If someone fills out a contact form on our site, for example, HubSpot automatically searches the web and social media profiles to give us a detailed overview of who we are talking to. We get job titles, social media accounts, and more. We’ve enabled web analytics integration which will show us the number of visits and pages visited, so we can get a better idea of the content that the potential lead has accessed.
And, most CRMs have a BCC email address or other email integrations so that you can add all emails, help tickets, or live chat summaries to the CRM profiles. This gives you one place to keep track of all communication and notes.
Taking It To The Next Level
Once you have the basics down, there’s so much more you can do with your CRM beyond managing your sales pipeline.
You can really dig into your data to identify potential upsell opportunities or to engage with old customers and win them back.
Perhaps you’ll be able to better identify trends in support tickets or commonly asked questions by leads so you can improve your marketing and landing pages.
We hope that if nothing else, this post has encouraged those of you that have yet to take the CRM plunge to bite the bullet and give it a go.