Business Management

How to best use a CRM for independent consultants

Paul Sokol

Updated: Aug 23, 2023 · 6 min read

Any independent consultant who wants to scale their business needs to use the very best CRM for small business. 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 their strongest skill — so this blog post will guide you through 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 complex or high-ticket services 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 CRM software for small business 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 should make sure it gets documented in the CRM, so you have an entire story behind each contact housed within a single source. This also helps you scale and grow, as new team members will certainly have a rich dossier of previous activity when they begin working with you.

How independent consultants can get the most out of a small business CRM

Sync email

One of the best ways to maximize your CRM, is to sync your professional email address. 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 that alerts you to follow up when a lead fills out the contact form on your website. 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. For instance, Keap allows you to use your 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.

Schedule appointments

With CRMs that schedule calls and appointments, you can easily see everything in your synced calendar — including any accidental double-bookings!

And if you really want to streamline your sales process, set up your CRM so that people can schedule their own appointments with you. You text/email them a calendar link and they choose the best time for you both.

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 the stage of every single lead. 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 are a few examples of how that 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 your sales pipeline work on its own

Once you have your pipeline stages defined, you can now build automations to supplement those stages.

One way is to 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.

Manage lists

As mentioned, there may be many people involved in your sales process. Make sure you're keeping a separate list of each relationship type 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

A small business CRM needs to take all communications, put them into one easy place for you to see and keep track of tasks and follow-up. 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.

Good news! As the best CRM for small business, Keap can do all of this and more. Start a free trial to see them for yourself!

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