May 08, 2014

Is Contactually a better CRM?

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Fitting in with the cool kids

One of the things you've seen me look into over the past few weeks is what it means to be a CRM, and -- given where you're reading this-- whether it makes sense to think of Contactually as one.

After hours locked in deep thought, sitting quietly in my sensory deprivation chamber, my initial response is... yeah, it makes sense. Functionally, Contactually helps you understand, improve, and tie business results to relationships. When you get past all the brand names, consultants, and weird-looking charts that reference things like "organizational impact", that's why people really use CRMs.

But that's just one incredibly handsome guy's opinion. So when I saw "13 Things You Can Do With a CRM System to Increase Sales Numbers" on Small Business Trends, I immediately thought it'd be a great little test for my assessment. Thirteen things! I'm not sure I can even think of thirteen truly distinct things to do with a CRM, period, let alone specifically to increase sales numbers.

Still, seeing if/how you could do these things with Contactually seems like a great exercise. So let's do it.

1. Share Information Across Your Sales Team

Perfect timing! We just finished completely revamping Contactually for Teams, which lets you use Team Buckets to share contact information across your team, with individual privacy & access settings for different team members. It's a huge improvement, and I encourage you to check it out. While our old system of Shared buckets was usable (and used!) in certain team environments, I probably wouldn't have given us this one prior to these improvements, as it was more about one to one collaboration than a true team environment. But hey, sometimes things just work out. Good thing I didn't write this two weeks ago.

2. Keep Track of Your Sales Process

"I just want to say one word to you. Just one word."

"Yes, sir."

"Are you listening?"

"Yes, I am."


Did anyone get that? No? Don't worry about it, we're moving on. Pipelines are great, and between you, me and the rest of the internet, I think they're coolest, most underutilized part of Contactually. I've been getting some great stories about this kind of thing from some of our more active users recently, and what they're doing with it is pretty amazing. For these people, the Pipelines feature is the difference between an enormous, powerful customer & lead base, and one that is connected to actual business prospects. It's a big difference maker for people, and we're going to be sharing some of that here in the near future.

Listen to my wisdom.

3. Keep Your Sales Manager in The Know

Hey, did you know you can share Pipelines? There you go -- no excuses now, Mr. Sales Manager.

4. Better Allocate Your Sales Resources

This was a major driving force behind our Team redesign; people weren't just using Shared buckets because they were cool, or interesting. They were using them to make sure they knew what the hell was going on around them, and when something is that essential, it usually needs to be more rigorously administered and managed by somebody in charge. That's why Contactually lets team administrators assign contacts to team members quickly and easily, from one place. It's a simple way to eliminate a lot of potential confusion between colleagues.

More management! Less resentment of your face!

5. Let Members of Your Team Know Where They Stand

There are some pretty wild, eye-opening visualizations on the Contactually Team screen. Admittedly, they're largely focused on follow-ups and relationship quality (the basic currency of Contactually so far), and not Pipeline information. After all, Contactually isn't JUST for Pipeline management -- we want you and your teams to build better, stronger relationships with all of their important contacts, whether they're attached to a quantifiable dollar value or not. Still, maybe there's something to a stronger connection between our new Teams system and the Pipeline features. See, I told you this was a worthwhile exercise!

6. Make It Easy To Share Sales Materials and Other Documents

This one was a real eyebrow-raiser for me. Is this something people expect from a CRM? Sounds more like a job for Dropbox, or Igloo, unless you're being really, really clever and tying certain kinds of materials to certain types of customers. Is anybody actually doing this, or is this the kind of thing people THINK your CRM will help you do, but end up never actually accomplishing? Call me skeptical.

7. Simplify Reporting Requirements

Contactually definitely does this, but one of the things that makes it different is that it does it for organizations of all sizes, and even individuals, who might not usually report things at all. Sure, in a giant company with layers of sales administration, reporting (and keeping that reporting manageable) is a central focus. But what about individual proprietors? What about people who track relationships by memory, on Excel sheets, or through email flagging? The problem isn't "complicated" reporting -- it's that nothing is ever reported, because there's no one useful to report it to! Contactually is beloved by individuals for solving exactly this problem; your normal, undocumented actions are documented by Contactually, and returned to you in forms you can actually use, like follow-up reminders.

8. Enable Collaboration

Teams! Shared Pipelines! Consider yourselves enabled.

9. Use For Partner Selling

This one is real Contactually-bait. Here, just read this --

"Just as larger sales teams use CRM systems for collaborative selling efforts, smaller businesses use it for partner selling. This might include several small businesses, perhaps even on the solopreneur level, using a CRM system to collaborate. They could partner to land a large sale or sign a large client that would benefit them all."

So a bunch of "solopreneurs" (awesome word, by the way) are going to work together, remotely, to do partner selling. Now, what's a system would allow them to quickly get started, selectively share or not share contacts and prospects, collectively track sales, and do it all for not that much money with no technical experience or IT involvement?

I'll let you think about that one for a minute. Hint -- it rhymes with "Bontactually". That's your only hint.

10. Create "Web to Lead" Systems

Okay, now this is definitely one of those things people assume their new CRM will let them do, but never actually accomplish. If you want to do this, and you don't know how to integrate systems, you need to try somebody like Hubspot, who is very good at this sort of thing. But again, I'm not so sure your CRM system should be taking credit for this -- the CRM just holds on to the information you figured out how to generate. You could also just send it to MailChimp, or... send it to Contactually!

11. Keep Track of Important Contacts

I mean, come on. THIS IS WHAT WE DO. In all seriousness though, there's something to be said about this being 11th on the list -- isn't this really THE most important thing? If you're going to do one single thing better (no, "MAKE MAD $$$ BANK $$" is not a valid answer), wouldn't it be "keep track of important contacts"?

12. Keep Up With Notifications and Reminders

"Just as you need to keep track of that important sales contact or prospect, you need reminders about when to touch base. Failure to follow through could mean losing an important relationship. So CRM systems provide notifications and reminders about important contacts and prospects you maybe haven't spoken to lately."

Well, you certainly won't get an argument from me, or anybody else who works here. If you need follow-up reminders, you need Contactually. That's pretty much the gist of it. So... CHECK.

13. Use GPS on CRM Apps to Connect in Person

Well, twelve out of thirteen is pretty good.