Any independent consultant who wants to scale their business needs to use a CRM. The client relationship is the most important element to track in a service-based business and no human is mentally capable of remembering every conversation or task that needs to be done. However, like with any tool, the results are only as masterful as the user.
Many independent consultants struggle with getting the most out of their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. This is understandable as most consultants are not technical consultants. Often, software is not the strongest skill. That's why in this blog post, I'm going to show you how to maximize a CRM from the standpoint of an independent consultant.
Fine-tuning Relationship Management for a Stronger Consulting Business
The needs of a consultant are different from a typical business. Often, consultants have a complex or high-ticket service to sell with multiple people involved in the purchasing decision. The highest paid consultants understand that technology can enhance all relationships and give everybody the one-on-one attention they deserve along every touchpoint.
In other words, a consultant’s ability to manage relationships directly affects how much they earn.
This is where the CRM comes in because communication is the lifeblood for any consulting relationship. Every email, phone call, text message and conversation should go into your CRM. Whenever something happens you make sure it gets documented in the CRM, so that way, in the future you have an entire story behind each contact told in a single source. This also helps you scale and grow as new team members will have a rich dossier of previous activity when they begin working with you.
How Independent Consultants Can Get the Most of Their CRM
One of the best ways to maximize your CRM, is to sync your professional email address to your CRM. The system becomes your digital assistant keeping track of every inbound and outbound email even if you’re not logged into your CRM. If you do send emails directly from the CRM, you can easily add notes to a contact’s profile, create follow-up tasks for yourself, and set up an automated follow-up message for a few days later if they don’t reply.
Automate Task Creation
Most CRMs like Keap have the ability to create a task for a user in your company. This allows you to seamlessly follow up with quotes, invoices, further communication, or any other step all in the same place. For example, you can set an automation so that when a lead fills out the contact form on your website, you get a task to follow up with them. Then, later in the sales conversation you can have your CRM create a follow up task once somebody has signed a consulting agreement.
Incorporate Text Messaging
For independent consultants, text messaging is as important as email or calls to get quick access to clients and communicate timely requests. Likewise, this channel makes it easier for leads and clients to chat with you. Text messages also have a much higher open rate compared to emails, so the likelihood of your message being read is very high.
To use text messaging as a consultant, like with email, you need to make sure that your text messages sync with your CRM. With Keap, you can use your free business phone line in-app to make calls and text. This integration gives a clear timeline of the communications so the customer's journey is clear.
With CRMs that schedule calls and appointments, you can see your synced calendar in one place easily. This includes making sure you aren’t accidentally double booking yourself!
And if you really want to streamline your sales process, set up your CRM so that people can self-serve their own appointments. You text/email them a calendar link and they choose the best time for them.
Track Sales Deals
As a consultant, most sales conversations happen over a long period of time. Selling one of your consulting projects is an invested process. With a sales pipeline in your CRM, you can track at which stage every lead is at. Not only does this help keep you organized, it allows you to use your time more effectively. For example, if you only have an hour you can focus on people that are in one part of the pipeline like “leads” to try and push the conversation ahead.
Automating All the Above in Your Consulting CRM
Most modern CRMs like Keap have automation capabilities. This is truly how to save more time and streamline your independent consultancy business.
Here’s how it works.
Book Appointments While You Sleep
If your CRM has the ability to let contacts schedule their own appointments, then you can automate around that whole experience. For example, after somebody fills out the contact form on your website, they automatically receive an email link to book on your calendar. If they don't book right away, they’ll receive a follow-up email reminding them about your calendar.
Make a Sales Pipeline Work on Its Own
Once you have your pipeline stages defined, you can now build automations to supplement those stages.
For example, you can have a stage for when the contract is out and awaiting signature. When you move somebody into that stage, this could trigger some basic automation that follows up with people automatically. Nothing fancy. Some simple emails and text messages to touch base. After they sign a contract, that series of messages will stop.
As mentioned, there may be many people involved in your sales process. Make sure you're keeping a separate list of each of the various types of relationships that you manage. Beyond just prospects and leads, this can include other vendors that you work with, contractors, and all the people who you rely on to do what you do.
With email marketing in your CRM, it’s easy to send an email broadcast or text message to a segment of your database. This is another reason why you want to be particularly discerning when creating the audience segments in your CRM. You want to be able to get to those groups quickly.
All Your Consulting Communication and Organization Needs in an All-in-One CRM
An independent consultant CRM needs to take all communications and put them into one easy place for you to see, and keep track of tasks and follow ups. Automation capabilities are also one of the biggest keys to getting more done in less time. If you are an independent consultant looking for a CRM, make sure you find a tool that can do as many (if not all) of these things as possible.
Keap can do all of this and more. Start a free trial to try it for yourself!
About the Author
Paul started using Keap, then Infusionsoft, in the summer of 2008. By June 2009 he was part of the Certified Marketing Automation Coach (CMAC) program, Keap’s partner program at the time. That lasted until 2011 when he worked for Keap directly in coaching and product until May 2016, at which point he became a certified Keap partner again to serve entrepreneurial small businesses.