So a few thoughts... As an industry we suck at sales. Seriously. I have talked to large numbers of studios over the last 3-4 years and I would say 75+% do not have an organized sales process, sales process management tools (CRM), hell, most of us don't even use contracts!!!

To quote Mike Monteiro in Design is a Job:

"Lack of clients is the number one reason design studios fail. The number two reason? Who cares."

Lest you think I'm getting it twisted. A process, tool, or document do not equal actual paying clients. But I would argue that the fact that a large percentage of agencies in the web industry do not have a defined process means they do not have tools that help track their clients which means they are losing business where they might use a contract (see what I did there?).

Anyway, I decided that it was time to put a more formal process together for Blue Fish. My first step when heading down this path is to read and research. So I listened to The Competitive Edge podcast with Aaron Ross. It is a good listen. Aaron has some interesting concepts in regards to structuring sales organizations. That's great, but what is one to do with an organization of one? Aaron addresses that issue as well.

The short version is that you schedule your week so that you fill different roles on different days. But the important thing is to not miss any of the different facets to a healthy sales organization. The podcast with Scott and Aaron was good enough for me to purchase the Kindle book. I am about half way through it. Aaron repeats himself a bit but there are some good ideas in it.

Next up on this journey, I have been researching CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools... Let us officially declare that we do not need any more CRMs, no not one. If you are thinking of going into this space then let me present you the list of what I found:

Blue Fish's Exhaustive List of CRMs

  1. JobNimbus
  2. Marketo
  3. Campaigner
  4. TrackVia
  5. Microsoft Dynamics
  6. SalesBoom
  7. Infusionsoft
  8. OnePage CRM
  9. Base CRM
  10. Capsule CRM
  11. Pipedrive
  12. You Dont Need a CRM (note: Ironic Much?)
  13. Highrise (Interestingly enough this is not the 800lb gorilla in the group)
  14. Zoho CRM

Are you getting the point yet? Oh, don't worry if you haven't seen one you like. We are only half way through the list!

  1. Sugar CRM
  2. SalesLogix
  3. Act
  4. Redtail CRM
  5. Pipeline Deals
  6. Agile CRM
  7. Nutshell
  8. Nimble
  9. Maximizer
  11. Batchbook
  12. Daylite CRM
  13. Intuit Quickbase (ick!)
  14. Customeed
  15. LanternCRM

And finally, the 800lb gorilla is SalesForce

That is a list I compiled in about 10 minutes. Without even trying, I was able to come up with a list of 25+ CRMs. That is just ridiculous... so if you were even thinking about going down this path I would urge you to pick a better way to spend your time.

For those of you not familiar with Sales or with what a Customer Relationship Management(CRM) Tool is, there are basically two types of CRMs: automated and non-automated.

CRMs with automation provide some mechanism by which you can automate certain aspects of the sales process. So, perhaps when you get an inquiry from your site you send out an email each time that asks the basic questions about project info, project budget, project timeline, etc. With a CRM that provides some automation you could have that email atuomated. So someone visits your site, fills in the contact form and immediately gets an email back thanking them and asking some of those basic questions. CRMs with automation also provide tracking of people/organizations through a sales process. SalesForce and Agile CRM fit this bill.

CRMs without automation don't do that. So basically they provide tracking of people/organizations through a sales process and nothing else. All of the ones listed above provide this functionality. This is standard. Some have better processes by which they allow you to track folks but the reality is that this is a given on these systems.

The other item I am seeing pop up over and over again is Social CRM. This is a relatively new feature. Basically it means that you can input a person/business and their social media information. The Social CRM will then track their information and allow you to interact with it. So if one of your prospects tweets about having an issue you can reply back with an article or fix for them. This will ultimately end with them throwing money at you and you will become a millionaire overnight. Actually, I can definitely see a useful purpose with this. Especially with existing clients and making sure that they are happy.

So go through the list. Which one did/would you choose? Why? What are it's strengths? What are it's weaknesses?