Let’s face it, customer relationship management applications can be confusing.  There are lists of lead, accounts, contacts, opportunities and – in some cases – other things like products, quotes and orders.  Not to mention generating reports, viewing dashboards and perhaps dozens of various functions.  It can be overwhelming.  With all of these things you can do, we are frequently asked, “where do I begin and how do I start each day with my CRM application?”

The answer is simple … but how you arrive at the simple solution takes some discipline.

CRM Activity Management

Start (and finish) every day in CRM by reviewing and managing your activities.  But that will only work if you are doing a good job at being activity centric. So let’s talk for a moment about what activities are (not quite as obvious as it may seem) and how to become activity centric.

Activities are the “glue” that hold everything in CRM together.  They are the scheduled meetings, tasks or calls that you need to remember to do.  In most CRM systems, activities can link to leads, accounts, contacts, opportunities – or just about anything else that you need to remind yourself to do something with.

2 Steps for Activity-Centric CRM

Becoming activity centric with your CRM solution means two things:

(1) Whenever you create a new record, decide if there is ever something you need to remember to do to follow-up with it.  If so, schedule a follow-up activity.  A few examples:

  • You meet someone at a trade show and enter them into CRM as a lead.  You know that they aren’t likely to be in the market for your products for a few years.  So you schedule a follow-up phone call with the person in 18 months.
  • You create an opportunity for an existing client that has asked for a proposal.  You create an internal meeting in two days with your boss to kick off the proposal writing process.
  • You meet a new person at a client meeting, so you add them to CRM as a contact.  There is no foreseeable reason to plan a follow-up with them, so you don’t create an activity.  But you want them in CRM so that you can reach out to them if there is a need and so that your marketing department can contact them with occasional communications.

(2) Whenever you are completing an activity in CRM, decide if there is ever a reason why you should continue to follow-up.  If so, schedule a follow-up activity.  A few examples:

  • You call that lead (under #1, above) after 18 months.  They are, indeed, considering your product as a budgeted item for their next fiscal year and would like a budgetary estimate.  After completing the call, you schedule a task to create an estimate as well as an appointment to review it with the prospect.
  • After the proposal-writing kickoff meeting (again, under #1, above) your team commits to a date that they will have a completed version ready for presentation to the client.  You setup a follow-up meeting with the client to review it.
  • The contact that you created (you guessed it, under #1, above), but that you didn’t create any follow-ups for, calls you.  She wants to meet with you to discuss another opportunity with their company.  You create an appointment with her.
  • You call another lead and, after a brief discussion, you realize that they are too small to ever likely need your product.  So you don’t create a follow-up activity.  Your marketing department may continue to reach out on occasion and, if they become qualified, they will be forwarded back to you for a follow-up call.

Start Your Day

If you follow those two simple rules, then there will always be at least one activity scheduled for every record in CRM that you need to follow-up with.  Now you don’t need to religiously review your lead, account, contact and opportunity records every day.  Instead, you can just work your list of activities and you’ll be taking care of the most important things.  Start your day by looking at your list of activities just like you would use your day planner (remember those?).

Plan Tomorrow Today

One thing that can happen when you’re activity centric in CRM is that you can occasionally schedule an overwhelming number of activities for yourself on a given day.  So end each day by reviewing what you have the following day, and move things around as necessary to ensure that you’re taking care of the highest priority follow-up items.  That might mean moving some things to another day. 

And, of course, sometimes some things slip through the cracks.  So it is a good idea to do a weekly review of items like opportunities and accounts to ensure that nothing is missed.

The Key is Self-Discipline

But becoming activity centric in CRM isn’t as easy as it may seem.  It takes a lot of self-discipline to stay out of reactionary mode and – when you do – you quickly slip so far behind in your activities that you begin to completely ignore your activity list.  Stick with the habits in the same way that you would stick with a daily workout program.  It’ll take some practice, and there will be some frustration, but you’ll get there!

Learn More

We looked at activity management a few other times in these quick tips.  Use these links to refresh your memory on those articles:

Weekly Planning

Activity Tracking