How We Work – managing leads

Highrise CRMby 37signals

For any business, one of key challenges is to learn to manage new leads and client prospects.  This may be especially true for a small business – one that can’t afford to have a dedicated sales staff to follow up on leads.  In business parlance, this is called “Customer Relationship Management” or CRM.  And, there’s a whole field of software dedicated to just this task.

At EH Design & Consulting, we’ve recently started using Highrise from 37Signals to help us respond to customer inquiries, stay on top of leads, follow-up,  etc.

After using the service for just two months, I’ve found it to be a critical component to what we do.

At EH Design & Consulting we’ve found that some of the “simple” tasks regularly set us apart from many other companies.  This includes simple tasks such as responding to all e-mails within 24 hours, returning phone calls and all voicemails, doing what we promised we would do, etc.  It seems like these are the simplest of tasks.  But, these simple tasks have set us apart from other companies – often companies much larger than us.

Highrise, has helped to make these seemingly simple (but often overlooked) tasks much easier to accomplish.  Here’s just four of our highrise secrets:

1.  BCC every e-mail to a client to Highrise

Every time we send out a follow up e-mail, a question, a thought…whatever… we BCC that e-mail to our Highrise Drop Box account.  I’ve put the Highrise Drop Box e-mail in my address book.  So, I just type in the word HIGHRISE in the BCC field.

Now, whenever I go to my HIGHRISE screen (which is every day – many times) – I can instantly see all the e-mails sent to a client.  What we’ve said, when we said it, etc.

2.  Make A New Task When You Create a New Contact

Every time we make a new contact in Highrise, we Immediately make a task that is 1-2 weeks out (depending on the nature of the contact) for following up.  We NEVER, NEVER, NEVER make or import a contact without at the same time immediately making a new task for this contact to follow up.  This helps to guarantee that the follow up happens.

Highrise then e-mails us when this task is due.  We log into Highrise see the task (For Example: follow up on Jason Fried), Click on the e-mail for Jason and send out the follow up.

Since we started the new e-mail by clicking on the e-mail link, There is automatcially a BCC entered to copy the e-mail to Highrise.

3.  Make A New Task When You Accomplish a Task

Every time we accomplish a task (such as: follow up on Jason Fried), we immediately make a new task for the same person.  Typically this task is just to follow up again in two more weeks or something similar.  But, we make it a policy to NEVER cross off a task without at the same time making a new task.

Typically the less contact we’ve had with a client, the new tasks get farther and farther in the future.  We might go from a new task being a couple days in the future to a new task being a week in the future.  Then from a week to two weeks, and then off to a month or two, etc.  We generally don’t stop until we feel like we have closure.

Never mark a task off without making a new taks

4.  Use TAGS to help create a Sales Funnel

We have 9 tags (each one starting with a number 1-9 – so they line up nice) that represent our sales funnel.  The tags are items like “1 – contact” for first contact and “2 – contact” for second contact.  Later we move on to “5 – Quote Sent” and “6 – Quote Accepted Waiting…”, etc.

We have also added a few non-numeric tags.  One in particular is COLD.  We use this when we feel like it is time to stop the Complete a task / make a new task chain (item 3 above).  When we feel like it is time to stop this, we tag a person as COLD.  Once a contact is COLD, we don’t force ourselves to make new tasks.  We complete the task and then leave it at that.

On a loosely regular basis, we look through our COLD list and ask if we need to warm any one up, if we’ve ran into any of these, etc.

There’s really a lot we have learned and a lot we are still learning.  We have other “secrets” we use to leverage Highrise and we’re always learning more – for example, right now we are looking at MailChimp integration.  Simply put, there is no way we could do what we do, without the help of Highrise.  Give it a try and let us know what you think.