Web based contact management for small businesses

A friend of mine works for a big company but his department is well insulated from the rest of the company. It’s a small self sufficient (in many ways) department, they have their own small budget – which if they don’t spend they lose next year, they work with little supervision. They have to obey the corporate policies around the use of the brand, logo, etc. but in many ways, they’re free to engage potential customers. He works in licensing.

The scenario above is very similar in many ways to working for a small business. But I didn’t immediately realize that. So I’ve asked him … what CRM do you use internally? I expected him to say Oracle or Salesforce, which is what I associate with “working for a big business”. Instead he stared at me point blank and the conversation went:

He: CRM?
Me: Yes, how do you track your customers, licensees, licensors, etc.
He: Oh, we have one big spreadsheet.
Me: How do you share it?
He: It’s on a network drive.
Me: Doesn’t that make the editing difficult.
He: Oh, yes, if someone edits it, the spreadsheet is locked and no one else can edit it until the first person releases it. If the first person opens it and then goes home, no one can edit it anymore.
Me: That kinda sucks.
He: Yes, but we solved it by asking our intern to keep it up to date. So we send her all the updates and requests for data and she does it.
Me: Isn’t that slow.
He: Only when she’s on holidays or when we need the data over the weekend or when she’s out for lunch and we need the data in a meeting and so on.
Me: Why don’t you get a simple web based contact management that everyone can access at any time, from any device?
He: We don’t have the time to look into it. Plus, a lot of the sales guys are not IT savvy and our internal IT department won’t support something that’s not approved.
Me: Some of the web based contact management solutions require almost zero admin work.
He: You’re preaching to the converted.

Does this conversation sound familiar? The whole thing reminds me of a cartoon I once saw.

Clevertim_CRM_contact magament for small businesses



Rejection therapy

When you start out in sales, one of the most challenging aspects of your work when dealing with prospects (especially if you do cold calling – in other words dealing with cold prospects/leads) is the rejection. Being told No repeatedly can have a demoralizing effect on you in the short run and some people quit at that point. In time you learn to deal with it as you get used to it and it becomes a regular part of your job, but at that initial point, you’re vulnerable.

Nothing in our society prepares us for rejection. In fact, society prepares us all for success but the truth is, success is not always easy or straightforward and many times it takes many failures and rejections before achieving (some) success. So perhaps society should prepare us more for rejection. Perhaps failure in general should be embraced as a learning experience. Some work methodologies do that already and encourage their followers to fail often and learn from it, as long as you can 1. fail fast and 2. failure is not life threatening.

Failing fast is key, because if you spend all your life in one long drawn failure, then it’s a bit difficult to learn from it and apply it to the next venture that hopefully can be more successful. I recently watched a show on TV where a couple spent 20 years on the same business idea. They spent their entire life savings, lost their home in the process and in the end didn’t get anywhere with the business. They didn’t even get the funding needed as part of the TV show. I felt sad and the investors felt sad for them but still they didn’t invest in the couple. They recognized a slow failure. It’s nearly impossible to recover from a slow failure because you’re so entrenched in it that you have serious difficulties seeing different angles and being agile about problem solving. You’re also running out of time. We are on this planet for a very limited amount of time, after all.

Failing fast is important because it allows us to detach ourselves from the burden of a failed venture while still gaining experience that can be used in the next venture. The idea here is: don’t make the same mistake twice. Fail enough and soon there will be no more types of failure left for you to go through. Surely success is next. If only it was that easy…
Reusing the experience gained comes with one big assumption too: that none of the failed ventures kill you, so you can continue on.

One thing you can speed up the whole process is to put yourself through a controlled rejection/failure therapy. Try out things that you know you’re going to be failed at. Ask for things that you know are going to lead to rejections. Ask for free upgrades. Try to negotiate the price down. Try to chat up the opposite sex when you feel hopeless about the end result. There are millions of ways you can set yourself up for rejection. It’s a controlled process that will get you used to rejection and failure, while at the same time learn a lot about people, situations, business models, the flexibility of businesses and people. You can even have fun in the process. But don’t think of it as guaranteed failure, instead try hard to “close” the deal. It’s a painful experiment, but you can end up not just a better sales person, but a better person for it.