Episode 172: David A. Fields on how to set up a CRM system
Our guest today is David A. Fields, Umbrex member and the author of The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients: 6 Steps to Unlimited Clients & Financial Freedom.
In today’s episode, we discuss how to set up a CRM system for an individual consultant or boutique firm.
A bit more than a year ago, I attended a training session that David led on this topic, and I set up my CRM system exactly that way he describes on this show. I’ve found the simple setup that David suggests incredibly useful, and I highly recommend it.
While you can use his suggested setup with just about any program, I happen to use Pipedrive, which is the system that David uses and recommends to his clients.
David has a great blog that I highly recommend – check it out and subscribe at: https://www.davidafields.com/blog/
Will: Hello David, welcome to the show.
David: Thanks. Well it is always a pleasure having a conversation with you.
Will: David, it’s great having you back. You were guest number one on episode number one and that was a real popular episode. Today wanted to chat with you on a topic that you’ve given training on and that you do I know longer sessions on, but just kind of hit the real highlights of how to use a CRM system for independent consultants or boutique firms and particularly how you recommend consultants set up the various stages in a CRM system.
David: Got it. Yeah, we can do that. Will, you’re right, we do this over the course of a full day so let’s see a way that we can hit the highlights in just a minute or two on the fly.
Will: Yeah, and I’ll mention that I think you have it currently offline. I’m hoping that you put it back online again at some point, but I took your online course that you had on how to do this, which I found hugely valuable and have implemented in my own business. I’m really excited for you to share this with listeners. Just, this is the mini version of it and I know that you offer a deeper, more involved session. This is just kind of the skim.
David: Okay. So should we jump in? Let’s see how quickly I can do this and give you the meat.
Will: Yeah, let’s go to meat. Let’s assume that someone knows, hey, they already recognize I should use a CRM system cause I got multiple opportunities and it’s hard to track all these calls, and outbound calls and stuff. What’s this, just let’s maybe jump into the stages. Someone’s already convinced-
Will: -that they should do this. I know that you recommend Pipe Drive and that’s the system-
Will: -that I’ve used. You can configure other CRM systems-
Will: -with these stages. Pipe Drive has some advantages, but let’s talk about setting up the six stages that you recommend.
David: Sure. Can I back up just for one moment? I promise I won’t digress too much.
Will: Sure. Permission granted.
David: In order to make a CRM system work I would say there are three principles to keep in mind. One is that it needs to be simple. If you over complicate it and it’s very easy to fall sort of into all the hype and all the tools, right, that every system offers all sorts of power. Don’t use all that power. Just keep it simple. Second, I have found that very few consultants will keep their CRM up to date themselves. Have an administrator help you. Finally to make a CRM work, it has to be action based. That actually is one of the reasons I like Pipe Drive. I don’t get anything from Pipe Drive for telling you that or sending you there. I find it to be useful because it is action based. With that as a backdrop, yeah, there’s two parts to a CRM.
There’s the people that go into it or the whatever it is that you’re going to move through the stages and then there are the stage. Let’s discuss the stages that you would set up in your CRM, whether it’s Pipe Drive or something else. I’m going to give you six stages. I’m going to give you a left side of the pipeline and a right side of the pipeline, and each side has three stages. On the left side the first stage I call dormant, you could call them a whatever you want, but this is basically your big pool of contacts. All the people you’re going to reach out to at some point, and you keep the data on them, the contact information, perhaps when you’ve last talked with them, any notes, however you want to do that. They all sit there until such time as you’re supposed to reach out and then if your CRM is working properly, some sort of flag comes out and says, hey, it’s time to call Will Bachman.
Until then everybody including you, Will, you’re sitting in dormant. The next stage is reached out, and I would move you to that stage if I’ve reached out to you. Outreach is any kind of touch or attempted touch that’s one-on-one, whether it’s by phone, WhatsApp, a LinkedIn message, any other kind of message, email. As long as it’s one-on-one, not mass. Your newsletter that goes out every week or every month, some sort of mass mailing doesn’t really count. If I attempt to get ahold of you one-on-one I’m going to move you over to reached out. Then you’re either going to call me back or you’re not, or you’re going to email me back or you’re not. If you don’t I’ll decide do I want to reach out to you again? When? Maybe it’s in a week, maybe it’s in two weeks, maybe it’s in two months, maybe it’s in six months. If it’s longer than two weeks I’m going to throw you back into the dormant pond and let you pop up when it is time you reach out to you.
If you do call me back or you message me back, now we’re starting to engage in conversation and so I’m gonna move you to the third stage, had conversation. As long as we are in conversation I’ll keep you right in that stage while we’re talking. Whether that conversation is leading to any kind of opportunity or not. When that conversation has run its course and we decide we’re going to talk again in three months, or six months, or whenever it is, I’m going to set that next date for you and I’m gonna throw you back in the dormant pond. The left side of your pipeline, dormant, reached out, had conversation. That’s where all of your people live, all of your contacts, they all live on the left side.
Will: Yeah, and let me just add something there David that you taught me, which is that in most CRM systems you’ll have one category of data, which is people, and what we’re talking here is you’ll have a second category, which is typically deals that move across-
Will: -stages. Then so for these ones on the left hand side, if you have a contact who’s name is a person, is John Smith, you would also create a deal that’s named John Smith and John Smith is the person attached to that deal. That is the deal that moves back and forth between stages one, two, and three.
David: Right. That’s exactly right, so you can track that person. Now we’re going to confuse things slightly because in Pipe Drive everything that moves across is called a deal, but I separate people from opportunities, from possible projects. People, that person deal as you said there’s Will Bachman and I have all the information on Will Bachman and then I have the Will Bachman deal, which is just us talking with each other so that I know to talk with you and I know I’ve reached out to you, and I know we’ve had a conversation. Let’s say we’re having a conversation and you bring up this opportunity to work together. Now I’m going to talk to you about a specific opportunity and we’re going to create something new. It’s called perhaps the Umbrex deal. It’s the Umbrex growth opportunity and that’s something new, that’s separate from you as an individual and that will go on the right side of the pipeline.
There are three stages on the right side, just like there were three stages on the left side. The first stage on the right side of your pipeline is, or your CRM, is identified opportunity. Now I realize there’s something, a place we could possibly play together where there might be a project we could win and so it starts right there. As we get into it we’re going to have a context discussion and the context discussion is outlined elsewhere. It’s basically your discovery process. This is the all important process where you actually win a client is in discovery. The next stage, once we enter into context discussions will be conducted context discussion. That’s that next stage in the pipeline. After identified opportunity we have conducted context discussion and you’ll stay in there for as long as we’re doing discovery, which might be one conversation, but I might need to talk to you, some of your people. It may turn out I need to talk to the owner of the firm that’s not you, or internal experts.
You might stay there for a little while until finally we reach the stage where I’m going to submit a proposal and then I move you to the final stage of the pipeline, which is proposal submitted and you’ll stay there while we negotiate the proposal up until the point where we close it. If at some point this doesn’t work out then we just mark it as lost. If we win it we’ll market is won. I’m not going to manage the projects. This is just for managing the pipeline, but here’s a couple of important nuances, Will. One is that project we talked about like the Umbrex project, that I can win or lose, but I will never win or lose you as a person.
Even if our project, we decide not to do it and then it goes to lose, I don’t lose you. That’s why it’s so important to separate the person from the opportunity. The person survives forever on the left side of the pipeline. If we decide to work together, you and I, so now I have one that you as a person, you’re still going to be living on the left side of the pipe pipeline because I want to make sure we are continuing to connect and have that relationship be nourished.It’s completely separate of our project.
David: At every single stage, every single person and every single opportunity has a specific next step, a specific action with a date assigned to it so I can keep this pipeline moving forward. Did that all make sense? It’s rare to do this without showing it.
Will: Yeah, no, I know it’s a little show and tell without the show. Just to kind of recap, if we have Amy Brown as a person who works at Acme Corporation, we would have one deal where the deal is named Amy Brown and the person attached to that deal is Amy Brown. It’s a little bit of meta but so we have a deal named Amy Brown that moved between stages dormant, reached out, and had conversation back and forth between those three. If we speak with Amy and she mentions, hey, I could use some help on actually reducing some procurement project on office supplies, then we would create a, we would say identified opportunity where the name, the person is Amy Brown, but the title of it might be something like Acme Corp Procurement Project. Then once-
David: Exactly right.
Will: -that would be identified opportunity. Once we’ve actually scheduled time and had to speak with Amy and her subordinates then it would be completed context discussion. Once we submit our proposal it’d be in submitted proposal. Then if we win it, we’d say click win and Pipe Drive gives you a nice little graphic of someone [crosstalk 00:11:10] dunking a basketball.
David: Dunking a basketball or something, right?
Will: Which is awesome, or taking off on a rocket ship. If you lose it you click lose and you have a chance to classify the reason of why you lost it, which can help on the analytics. For each different opportunity with Amy Brown at Acme we would create a separate deal starting there in stage four. We might even have two or three different deals going on at the same time with Amy Brown at Acme on the right hand side, but only one deal named Amy Brown on the left.
David: Exactly right. That’s exactly right. You get multiple Amy Brown deals.
David: Here’s the thing, Will, so I have benchmarks of each conversion point, all right? How many of the people who you reach out to should you actually, well first of all, how many people should you be reaching out to regularly and are you keeping that up? When you reach out how many of those outreaches turn into conversations, how many of those conversations actually surface an opportunity, lead to a context discussion, lead to a proposal, and finally turn into a closed project? One of the great things about having these different stages and moving your contacts and your opportunities through these stages is you can start to get the statistics. Then for me it’s a very useful diagnostic. I can see not only are you, if you’re struggling a little bit with business development, not just the sort of the qualitative standpoint. I can see where it’s breaking down and then we can address it, which is why it’s such a useful tool.
Will: What are those benchmarks?
David: I’ll have to do this off the top of my head because I don’t have it in front of me. In terms of how many people you should reach out to, that of course depends on your energy. At a minimum I would suggest anyone set their floor at three outreaches a week. Just to, at an absolute minimum, and in fact, if you run through all the numbers and you say, if I only did three outreaches a week what would that turn into? It’d probably just turn into one or two contracts in a year. At the high end I’ve seen people do 30, 40, 50, 100. I mean there’s some people who just love outreach. The percentage of people you reach out to that will actually return your call, it’s typically in 10% to 20%. If it’s at 2% there’s some challenge perhaps with your voicemail or your email. If it’s above 40% my line is always stop calling your family.
Will: Stop calling your mom, all right.
David: Exactly, stop calling your mom. In that 10% to 20% is pretty good, 10% is fine. I would expect one out of 10. If you’re making 10 calls and only one person’s calling you back, that’s fine. Don’t feel badly about that. In terms of what percentage of the conversations you have may actually surface an opportunity, usually about one out of five. That 20% range is pretty typical because there’s some selection bias. The people who call you back are more likely to be people who have actually something in their mind to talk to you about. Now a number of people will call you back just because you’re friends and you’re nurturing the relationship, but there is a pretty decent percentage that want to bring up something and so they will create an opportunity.
Once an opportunity’s identified, typically around 80% should make it into context discussion. Now you might say, well why doesn’t everything go there? Well, because not every opportunity turns out to be something you want to work on because not in every case are you actually talking to a decision maker and so you can’t really get into context discussion. You might be talking with an influencer either inside or outside the organization who can help you but can’t get you actually into real discovery with a decision maker or decision makers, so about 80%. Usually 90% or more of your discovery conversations should lead to proposal. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes priorities change. Sometimes again, you’re not with the final decision maker you realize and you can’t get there.
There are reasons why you wouldn’t submit a proposal and you’re better off not submitting a proposal than submitting a proposal when it’s inappropriate. Then in terms of close rates, anything north of 50% is good. If you’re winning just only 20% your processes broken somewhere. If you’re winning more than 90% you’re not charging enough. North of 50, under 90 is a very healthy place to be and there are some benchmarks for you.
Will: All right, so this was obviously a whirlwind tour of how to use CRM, not an exhaustive session. I know, David, that your firm, you do work with independent consultants and boutique firms on how to set these systems up and coaching them through the use of it and you kind of help people get all the settings and everything ready to go as well as to identify their core network so they know who to put into it.
Will: For people that wanted to kind of hear more about that or speak with you about how you work with consultants, what’s the best place for them to find you?
David: Easy place to find me is DavidAFields.com, so just go to my website, DavidAFields.com. I’m really actually very easy to contact. There’s those little contact and learn more links all over the place and very responsive to people who reach out. I would just go there and if you want to learn more, give me a shout and we’ll have a conversation
Will: I’ve said before that your blog comes out every Wednesday morning. That’s the first thing I read that day. I love it. You can sign up at your website DavidAFields.com and your book The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients is one of my favorites. I’ve given out over 100 copies to independent consultants. I love that book and it’s been hugely helpful to my practice. David, thank you for coming on the show once again. It was great having you.
David: I love having conversations with you, Will. You always come up with the best topics and so you know I’m a huge fan of what you do. Thanks for having me as part of Unleashed.