Mar 10, 2023
In this episode of Unleashed, Will Bachman explains how independent professionals can use a spreadsheet as their CRM system. A spreadsheet can be an effective first step before investing in a paid CRM system, and for independent professionals, the most fundamental use of a CRM spreadsheet is to keep track of the people, organizations, and project opportunities, in addition to confirming new projects, but the first step in setting up a CRM system should be to create a spreadsheet of all your contacts, and another tab with all your past projects.
Ultimately, using a spreadsheet as a CRM system can be a great way to get started and gain familiarity with the features of a paid CRM system before investing, but when you do, you’ll be able to upload your spreadsheet into the CRM.
Will walks you through setting up a CRM system. The initial tabs discussed are 1.contacts, 2.opportunities, and 3.companies.
Using a Spreadsheet for Contacts
When setting up the contacts tab, a few fields are recommended, including:
info about the person, like employer and title, name, pronouns, ID number
URLs/links/social media links
It's also recommended to have separate columns for first name, middle name, last name, maiden name, and nickname. It is also recommended to include the option to track if the contact is a connection on LinkedIn or not.
When it comes to tracking contacts, emails are essential, and often, the preferred method of communication. It may also be helpful to track physical address, how the contact was originally met, the strength of the relationship, the level of decision making power, whether they are a client or potential partner, the industry they are in, the date of the last contact, the time interval between points of contact, if they are subscribed to your newsletter, if they are on your holiday card list, what gifts have been sent, topics of interest, the name of their executive assistant and their contact info, and the next action to be taken with the contact. Additionally, it is helpful to also track notes from interactions with the contact. Will suggests creating a separate tab for notes on each conversation, and to filter it for any given individual. However, the drawback of using a spreadsheet is that it is not as great as a relational database.
Using a Spreadsheet for Opportunities
For opportunities, the fields suggested to track are:
Project/opportunity ID, title, associated company/organization
Client executive name, billing contact, and any other names related to the opportunity
A description and stage of the opportunity
Source of opportunity
Will learned this system from David A. Fields and he talked about it in episode 172 of Unleashed. David’s three stages are: identified opportunity, but not yet talked to the client; completed context discussion (which entails live interaction with client), and finally, submitted proposal. If you have several projects in the pipeline, you could also add several stages such as: ‘in contract phase’. Will suggests adding two stages for a contract: ‘1 active’ - for current projects, and ‘1 complete’, for the final stage. It may also be useful to add a stage for ‘lost’ and/or ‘on hold’ and ‘possible opportunity’ for potential opportunities on the horizon that you may want to follow up on in a few months. You could also track the dollar size of the opportunity and likelihood of closing. By tracking ‘likelihood to close’ you’ll gain a better understanding of your ability to your accuracy in estimating potential opportunities, and dates of each stage. And most importantly, columns to include are your next action(s) and action due date(s).
Using a Spreadsheet to Keep Track of Organizations
Company ID, website, LinkedIn, industry
All the projects you have done for the same company
Who else works at the same company
Be able to see all the projects you have done for the same company
Who else you might speak with at the company
Will also suggests adding if you have a service agreement with the company, termination dates, payment terms, and any other key contractual terms, such as a non-compete agreement, and invoicing instructions. While the former company details may not be necessary if you have the details of the company contact in place, the latter is particularly useful if it's been a few years since you worked on a project for the company.
A link to a downloadable spreadsheet template has been added in links to to help you customize your own spreadsheet.
00:01 Using a spreadsheet as a CRM system for independent professionals
01:49 Tracking contact Information for professional relationships
09:27 Tracking conversations and opportunities
16:21: Tracking contact and contract information on organizations
Notes on using a spreadsheet as a CRM: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1PQssMvenlu4EPVaLevbRNWGlgppIWc8IXFatU4RG5sY/edit?usp=sharing