Growing a consulting business with a CRM

by Brian Doll on October 31, 2017

Businesses are built on relationships. Relationships are built on empathy and trust, which are built on shared understanding and honesty. Managing relationships well, at scale, requires a process and a system — that’s what a CRM is for.

I wanted to share how we use our CRM at Reify to build and sustain relationships, to keep track of customer conversations, and to serve as the single place that answers the most important question — “How are we doing?”

We recently migrated to Pipedrive for our CRM, but there are a variety of tools you could use for this. What’s most important is that you’re thinking critically about how you engage with clients, and how you want to model the stages of your engagements.

We manage Reify with three pipelines — Nurture, Sign, and Deliver.

Nurture

Always be nurturing. From those “Hey, we’d love to chat!” inbound emails, to that person you met at that conference, to someone you knew from two jobs ago that you think might be a great client now — they all start in this first pipeline called Nurture, which has the following stages:

New Lead

All new leads should show up here. Because you’re using a CRM, everyone at the company can now see the emails and activities related to this prospect. This makes it easy for anyone to get up to speed quickly with any prospect and keep a conversation going.

Meeting Arrangement

By sending emails from your CRM, you can get reminders in X days if a prospect doesn’t get back to you while you iron out meeting logistics. Here you might get to fight with these awful new “AI assistants” to find the best time to have a chat. This stage can take a surprisingly long time.

Meeting Booked

This is a good “milestone” phase where you’re preparing for your meeting, and starting to get an idea of what shape this engagement could take.

Qualify and Document Lead

No matter how the conversation went, qualify and document it. What stage is the company at? Who would likely be your primary contact? Why did they reach out? If it doesn’t seem to be a good fit right now — add a reminder in a few months to check back in. If you mutually agreed that it seems to be a good fit and the timing is right, you’ll move this lead along to the next pipeline…

Sign

There’s a whole world inside the proposal phase. How you like to budget your time and organize your engagements may be different, but the general process of this pipeline is as follow:

Develop Proposal

Here you’re working to document the kind of engagement you think will address your prospects needs. At Reify, our proposal and contract are the same exact document (more on this another day), so we take extra care to make sure we stand behind our proposals when we send them to clients.

Send Proposal

It’s always helpful to know how many proposals you have floating out there, so this column is important. We add the dollar value of all proposals into our CRM so we can see at a glance how to value our pending pipeline.

Negotiation

Here you might be negotiating scope, budget, timeframe, logistics, or legal terms. Simple negotiations like changes in scope and budget are to be expected, and something you can do yourself. For negotiating terms or anything complex, we prefer to involve our amazing lawyer.

Signed

You’ve got a signed contract, congratulations! This has just become a real engagement, and its now time to start planning the work.

Invoiced

But first, don’t forget to invoice for that deposit.

Deliver

We don’t use our CRM to manage our day-to-day work, but it’s very handy to track the delivery phase in your CRM so you always know what’s active.

Plan & Document

This column isn’t used often, but sometimes you may need to plan the engagement a bit, figure out some logistics and travel, and just generally plan for kicking ass.

Do the fucking work

Finally! The phase where you do the actual work you say you do!

Delivery & Sign-off

Once you’ve completed your work, it’s time to deliver anything remaining to the client, and make sure they’re happy.

Invoice

And of course, send the final invoice.

Rinse and Repeat

We love our clients. We prefer to have focused, high-impact engagements that materially impact their business. Once a project is shipped, we look ahead at the next thing we could work on together. This means that the pipeline effectively starts all over again, looking to nurture the next engagement and have some more fun.

If you’re curious about other aspects of how we run our consultancy, give us a shout.



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