How does the Dropbox feature works under the hood

The Dropbox feature explained in a nutshell is this: each user gets a dedicated @clevertim.com email address, which they can use to:

  • CC on emails they send to their contacts
  • BCC on emails they send to their contacts
  • Forward emails they sent to their contacts but forgot to CC/BCC
  • Forward emails their contacts sent them
  • Automatically get emails replies if their contacts hit Reply All and the dropbox dedicated email address is on the Recipients

When an email is received to that dedicated email address, the contact or contacts (and this can be companies too) will be looked up in the system and the note attached under those respective contacts.

How does it know which contacts to attach the note under? It’s simple. It looks up the contacts by email address. Your contacts’ email addressed are generally in the emails received to the dropbox. But not always, and that’s when this Dropbox feature doesn’t know what to do.

If you forward an email to the dropbox address, make sure you keep the Fwd headers, that bit at the top that contains the email address of your contact.
If you don’t want all that information, just make sure your contact’s email is there in the text somewhere – if not, you can add it manually when you Forward. When you CC or BCC, you don’t have to do that, as the email address for the recipients will be already in the email.

The dropbox feature will collect all the email addresses in the emails it receives and it will look up contacts for each one of those and it will attach the email as a note under those contacts. If a contact doesn’t exist for one of the emails, it will be created automatically. This is a convenience feature that allows you to easily add new contacts and file new emails under those contacts without even having to log into the system. Straight from your favorite inbox. Just CC, BCC or forward emails to your dedicated email address and the job is done.

But the dropbox feature doesn’t give you just one dedicated email address. You also get one for opportunities, where an opportunity is created too, in addition to the contact. You also get one for cases, where a case is created, in addition to the contact, and you also get dedicated email addresses to allow you to add tasks easily straight from your inbox.

How does it deal with spam?

First of all, the dropbox feature will reject any emails sent to it from non-recognized email addresses. In the Email Dropbox menu (accessible from the upper right Settings menu), you can define all your recognized email addresses. That means, if you use multiple email addresses, you can define them all in there and the Dropbox feature will happily accept emails from it.

If this is not sufficient and someone discovers your dropbox dedicated email address and sends you unsolicited email – for example, they could email you and the dropbox, and then the Dropbox feature would accept email, as your email address is on it (it would be considered a reply from one of your contacts) – well, in that case, you can always re-generate the dedicated email address. Needless to say, don’t over advertise this dedicated email address, as that might spam your Clevertim account.

Contacts or companies?

When you start using a contact management system or a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, one of the first problems you encounter is what level should you track your data at? Sounds like such a simple problem too, and, depending on your business processes (i.e. the way you work), it might be simple or not so simple. But the fact you come up with the question shows you one important thing: until you try to add a structure to the way you work, you don’t really discover some of these questions. Discovering the trivial, yet important questions about your business is important when you want to scale your business, train more staff, transfer knowledge easily and institute some consistency in the way you deal with your business partners, be it customers, potential clients etc. For example, how can you be sure that both Mike and Pete in your company follow the same rigorous steps in the sales process?

But let’s go back to our simple question. What level should you track your interactions in your customer management system? Contacts – that is people? Or companies? The answer depends on the industry you’re in, the way you interact with your business partners and what you want to get out of the contact management system. Let’s see the options you have.

1. Contacts only

If all you do is interact with individuals, then this option is the most natural choice. It is the most appropriate option if you work in retail or take appointments from the regular Joe out there. If you’re a financial adviser trying to sell retirement plans, then you obviously work with individuals. Companies are irrelevant and you don’t want the additional complexity.

2. Companies only

You might be in the B2B domain, where you work and sell to companies, not to individuals. Even then, the interaction for selling purposes with inevitably happen with actual individuals working for the target company. You might decide to only track notes under the company and not care about the individuals involved. You might lose some of the business intelligence in that case, but that might not be relevant in your case.

3. Contacts and companies

This is probably the most common scenario when you work with individuals and companies. The actual exchange of information, communication, emails happen with individuals. When you use the Dropbox feature and forward or CC emails to your dedicated email address, those notes will be sent to actual individuals, unless you use generic email addresses (e.g. sales@domainname). If you want to attach a note under a contact and a company at the same time, that is possible with Clevertim, as Clevertim allows you to attach a note under multiple contacts and companies. It also allows you to attach notes under an opportunity or a case.

We want to encourage our customers to use both contacts and companies when using our contact management system. One of the common complaint is that is not easy to have a single view of all the communications with a company. To facilitate this, a while ago we’ve added an option under the Business Preferences. It is called “Automatically file contact notes under their respective companies too”, and, as the name suggests, it makes all the notes filed under contacts visible under their respective companies. As a result, the company becomes a single view of all the exchanges done with any employees within that company.

Happy International Beer Day

So apparently there is an International Beer Day and it is on the 1st Friday of August. So we will be heading to our local pub at the end of the day to celebrate it!

Did you know that there are over 1,200 operating breweries across the UK? It takes more than just appreciating a good beer to become a home brewer, but don’t get put off by needing to learn new skills and the highly competitive market. Any refreshing change of career would require you to learn something new and, sometimes, face tough competition. As with any new product in a crowded market, you have to do a lot of research and have a solid business plan and strategy to stand out. The good news is that although the consumption of alcohol in the UK dropped, when it comes to beer and ale, it went up. So there is a market for it, in the UK and in Europe. All you need is to learn the techniques to become a master of brewery, a lot of dedication, time, patience and hard work.

If you are all set to start your new business, or if you already in the business, you need to make sure you have the right tools to help you succeed. Whether you are thinking of hiring an in-house sales team or getting freelancers to do the selling, a simple and easy to use online contact management software like Clevertim will help you along the way. Your main clients are pubs, local shops, grocers, and your sales team will be constantly on the road meeting with potential clients, attending beer events, networking. Your CRM and contact management software needs to be intuitive and easy to learn and use, simple but effective. You won’t need a full bells and whistles tool, because you won’t use it. Unless you are planning to spend all your work time in front of a computer, learning to use your software, trying to figure out how you can make the most of all the features you don’t really need, you need something that will keep your work to a minimum and will be fast to perform actions. It’s like paying a fortune for the latest model of a MacBook when all you use your computer for is checking emails. Save your bucks and your time for better things, it’s the advice we give you.

Our simple contact management solution is perfect even if it is just you in the business in the beginning. Start by adding the companies and their contacts from your researches and networking, record your sales opportunities, save your emails and notes in one place. As your business grows and you have more people working with you, it will be much easier to share the information and bring the team up to speed. Clevertim is also very easy to learn, so it shouldn’t take long to figure out how to use it.

And make sure you let us know when your brewery is up and running as we would love to try your homemade Ale.

The one simple trick that will improve your sales

This short blog article is when I tell you about the one simple trick that changed my sales mindset and significantly changed my business life and the way I think about sales in general.

It’s a simple trick once you know it, but it took me a while to fully realize its true transformational power. Once I did, I noticed that my sales improved, people started paying more attention to my sales pitches, they became more interested in the actual content and what I was really saying. More importantly, I realized I was closing more deals than before. Now thinking about it, it all seems so simple that I keep wondering how come I didn’t think about it earlier – my life in sales would have been so much easier.

You too can repeat this simple trick in your mind and it will definitely change the way you approach sales, ask for things, present your ideas and do business in general.

The simple trick is this:

No one cares about YOU, they care about THEMSELVES!

That’s it. Now go ahead, repeat it 3 times:

No one cares about YOU, they care about THEMSELVES!

No one cares about YOU, they care about THEMSELVES!

No one cares about YOU, they care about THEMSELVES!

It’s a simple thing but its implications are subtle and powerful. Too often, in sales, marketing, but also in real life, we’re too caught up in ourselves and in what we have to offer, our products, our services, the features, etc. It’s all about us, US, US and me, me ME.

Many sales reps have a pre-learned script that they go through and it’s about presenting the company, the product or the service as the best, as having X whistles and Y bells, as being used by so and so.

This is more evident in remote sales done by inside sales teams by phone or email. There, the sales reps really follow the same script, same templates and most templates are boring and talk about the company, products, services, features, etc. They don’t talk about one thing potential customers genuinely want to hear about: themselves and their own problems. So they switch off, either abruptly or they go on auto-pilot and stop listening.

So it’s important to remember customers have their own problems and they care about themselves. They want someone who understands their problems and cares about solving their problems. They’re not interested in someone who just wants to sell to them but rather someone who in the very least listens to their needs. Any solution provided, be it problems or services need to start with the customer problem and offer to solve it.

Say that once more:

Any solution provided, be it problems or services need to start with the customer problem and offer to solve it.

And now in bold:

Any solution provided, be it problems or services need to start with the customer problem and offer to solve it.

It doesn’t sound like a big realization. Pfff, I knew that! It’s so obvious. Well, of course everyone cares about themselves.

But the more you think about the implications of this one simple trick, the more you realize that you can win more, sell more, be more popular in general by simply changing the way you sell and the way you interact with prospects, existing customers or other human beings in general. Put yourselves in their shoes! Who are they? What are their problems? Their aspirations. Their needs. What actually makes them tick. What excites them. What drives them.

Create a real image of a potential customer. Give the image a name: Michael. Give it a job. A family. A house. A car. Picture him on a day in the office. Picture him on a day out. Think of him as a real person. Now ask this person all the questions above. He’ll tell you what he wants to hear.

Now go out and find a real Michael and sell to him by putting him first. Or her. And since you’ll have many more contacts, leads, prospects and customers as a result, you might as well try a really intuitive web based contact management system.

 

Dealing with your worst customers

Most customers are a real pleasure to deal with, but once in a while, you inevitably encounter one of those customers that defy the social etiquette and behave outrageously for one reason or another. How you deal with such customers tells the story about who you really are as a business and at the same time, it can leave a mark on your reputation. So how do you deal with such customers?

Well, one common advise that you read in popular business book is to “fire your worst customers”. This advice is not necessarily a purely pragmatic advice, motivated by cost and profitability – and indeed, bad customers can be a drain on your resources in terms of support, time spent answering their emails, phone calls, addressing complaints and so on. It’s a recommendation that goes against another very popular advice found in many business books that says: “The customer is always right!”.

So which school of thought do you follow? Do you think the customer is always right or do you fire the worst customers?

At Clevertim, we believe the truth and the right thing to do is somewhere in the middle. We believe in general customers are in their right to ask for things to work properly without hitches and we do apologize and fix things quickly when it’s our fault. Inevitably some people are frustrated when things don’t work as they expect to and tempers differ. This doesn’t bother us.
However, we draw the line at abuse and intimidation of our staff. We believe our staff and any staff, any human being in fact, has the right to perform their duties and live their lives free of abuse and intimidation from anyone, irrespective of what the situation is.

If that happens, we don’t fire customers though. Everyone has ups and downs and we know and accept that. When that happens, we try to cut through the emotion and negativity to see what the real problem is and address that. Is there a problem with the payment? Is there a fault with the website? What’s the root cause of the problem – get to that one thing we can do something about. Then just fix it and move on.

The other thing we do is to be honest with our customers. We’re a small business ourselves and we operate with limited resources. One of our goals is to keep the cost down for our customers, so that means that we can’t do everything. For example, we cannot offer phone support – we only offer email support, which we like to think it’s very responsive and helpful as we don’t have many layers between support people and developers or managers who can actually fix the issues. We also cannot implement all the features under the sun. We listen, but sometimes politely explain we cannot do it.

Some customers fire themselves at that point, when they realize we cannot do for them what they want: e.g. phone support or feature X, Y or Z. It’s just a fact of life. We cannot be all things for everyone. But for most of our customers we solve a real business problem of managing the data about their own customers. We like to keep those customers happy by any means we can.

Now, that being said, back to you… how do you deal with your worst customers?

Web based contact management for web designers

Do you run a web agency? How do you keep track of your leads and existing customers? Well, it’d be ironic if the answer wasn’t “on the web”. Actually the answer depends a lot on your size. If you’re a small agency, you don’t need more than a spreadsheet, your inbox and your good memory. The problem manifests itself once you start growing a bit or if you start outsourcing certain services to freelancers, virtual assistants etc.

For example, Steve McKenna, a friend of mine running a small web agency, told me that a while ago started using virtual assistants, mostly people he sourced from odesk or elance. He was using virtual assistants for getting leads from social media, essentially outsourcing the filtering of social media leads. Social media can be a great source for lead generation: a lot of people ask for recommendations for a good web design agency on twitter, linkedin groups, various forums and even on facebook.

Scouring the social media every day to track these down and try to communicate with those users is very time consuming and potentially not fruitful. Certainly, not for someone who wants to focus on web design and high value, qualified leads – i.e. people who are very close to buying your services, rather than long shots.

It’s the ideal type of tasks that can be outsourced to cost effective virtual assistants who are located in countries where the cost of living is cheaper than the UK or USA. Virtual assistants based in countries like India, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, China or eastern Europe can do that work for you. So how would that work?

Well, the way Steve works with his virtual assistants is he’s asking them every day to search various social media websites he provided them with for various keywords. For example, the virtual assistants would search twitter every day for keywords like “recommend web design”, “need web design”, “suggest web agency”, and so on. Steve has provided the full list of keywords and the full list of social media venues. They would identify tweets like “Can anyone recommend a good web designer?” or “Anyone know a good web agency in London?”.

Once identified, the virtual assistants would try to engage them by messaging them with a soft approach. Again, Steve has defined what’s ok and what’s not ok when engaging potential customers on social media. Steve has a soft approach to engaging such early stage leads as he doesn’t want to alienate people or make them feel uncomfortable. The virtual assistants mostly approach users with “Hi, please consider our agency for great work. See our portfolio here”. They’re instructed not to annoy further, unless the lead expresses some interest, or starts interacting.

This approach has the advantage that it replies to existing requests for information – so it’s not spam. It has the advantage of engaging people who already have the problem and they’re actively looking for the solution – i.e. they need web design services. The other, side benefit, is the fact that a link to the portfolio is posted in a genuine conversation that can be witnesses by other potential customers or that can attract curious onlookers. Some might become customers in the short or long run. It’s brand awareness as, in the process, some people who didn’t know about your web agency now know.

At this point, if the user engages or expresses interest, the virtual assistants enter their details into a web based contact management system (and in this case it happens to be Clevertim CRM) where an onshore team member will pick it up and continue the conversation until the deal is hopefully closed. This basic workflow is followed repeatedly every day for a multitude of social media venues: twitter, linkedin groups and a list of forums Steve provided.

But does it work? Well, according to Steve it does. He couldn’t afford someone onshore to do that sort of triage, but when low cost virtual assistants do it, it tends to be profitable in the long run. The links to the portfolio that are posted on the social media also generate leads that cannot be easily attributed to the virtual assistants and they also help with Steve’s web agency’s SERP rankings for SEO purposes.

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

 

 

Should I use the task management feature in Clevertim CRM

Let’s face it. There are so many task management applications out there and every few years a new one comes to the market. Every new one claims to have improved the experience somehow. But ultimately working with tasks and the data entry it involves can be problematic and it’s one of the main reason certain people don’t use such apps for managing tasks. It’s the additional data entry step and the need to check the system periodically, keep it up to date (e.g. mark tasks as done). It’s an additional effort.

So the question become: when is the additional effort worth it? Well, clearly, the answer must be: when the cost of not doing it is greater than the cost of doing it. But what are some of those situations and how do we calculate the cost of doing something vs. the cost of not doing that.

If I was to start with a personal example that perhaps many of you will empathize with, I would say there are situations in my work and my life when I feel swamped with so many things to do that I don’t even know where to start. Procrastination can set in, simply because it’s so difficult to choose the next step that I should be working on. That’s when I start creating lists. Lists work like tasks do. In fact, tasks do more than just lists. Assuming lists track things to do, tasks track that plus more: meetings, calls, emails, etc.

Fact: tasks are very good at breaking up complex work into smaller actionable steps.
A journey of 10,000 miles starts with a single step, as they say.

Another important use case is when you want to delegate and keep track of what you’ve delegated. Tasks are great because a sales person can easily put together a list of tasks for a sales assistant or a virtual assistant to perform. Such tasks might be relatively low value jobs which are more efficiently and more cost effectively handled by assistants, so the main sales people can focus on selling. A few examples of such tasks: data entry, research (e.g. figure out the titles for your contacts by looking in LinkedIn, or fish out information about companies: size, location, key people, etc.).

For this scenario, tasks are good at delegating and they allow multiple people to collaborate on the task. Clevertim CRM for example allows users to add comments on tasks and therefore collaborate, exchange information, report progress or flag tasks as being blocked (e.g. couldn’t call contact as he’s on vacation). The sales people assigning tasks are notified when there’s progress or when the tasks are marked as done or accidentally deleted. They have visibility into the assigned task.

Tasks are even better when the person or team to delegate work to works remotely, potentially in a different country. A good example is the use of virtual assistants, who could be located in different countries with lower cost of living. Shared tasks allow you to collaborate efficiently with such a remote team/person and get the most out of the relationship.

Fact: Tasks are perfect for delegating/outsourcing work, especially when the teams are not co-located.

Small businesses need a simple CRM

Last week I had another look at Salesforce, something I do from time to time, to see for myself what’s new in terms of features, usability, plugins, etc. Salesforce is a great platform, but every time I log in, my head hurts. It’s just so complex – it can do so many things, which is great for big enterprises, especially when they have lots of money for customizations (and they inevitably need to customize it big time).

But when you’re a small business, complexity kills productivity. If it takes you 10 minutes instead of 1 minute to perform an action, then that’s 9 minutes you won’t get back. 9 minutes you won’t sell, you won’t market, you won’t support your customers and you won’t spend time with your love ones.
It’s not just time though. It’s the frustration. If you’re like me, I tend to lose my patience, start pulling my hair out when things are not immediately obvious and when, something that I think of as “this should be easy” proves out to be more complicated or take longer that what I’ve prepared myself for.

Now this post is obviously a rant. It’s not about Salesforce. Again, Salesforce is a great business and a great CRM swiss army knife. It’s about complexity, it’s about optimizing the use of your time and time is so much more precious when you work with the limited resources of a small company.

Time and time again, I keep telling small business owners that they should choose a simple CRM, a system that works for them. But most of them like to think big … in 6 months we’ll outgrow it. We need something that can grow with us. And inevitably they fall into the “complexity trap”. They go for something more complex, something they don’t need now, just because they’ll need it in 6 months. Many of them turn out not to grow as they expected to, but they’re still saddled with the complexity of a behemoth. It just kills their productivity.

Start with something simple that you can use today. Cross the complexity bridge  when you absolutely have to, because complexity is not a nice problem to have. Complexity kills productivity.

Web based contact management

If you’re a small business, growing is a fantastic experience. There is a new learning experience every day and sometimes it’s not easy to stay ahead of the curve. It’s a time when you start working with more people, be they employees, customers, leads, suppliers, partners and so on.

Keeping track of your business’ interactions with all of them can be quite challenging. If you were relying on managing everything from your inbox or a spreadsheet, this is the time when you start to realize that is simply not working very well anymore. How are you going to share all the data with your employees? How are you going to ensure your leads are being looked after by your employees in the same way you look after them? How can you make sure your customers are kept happy and everyone in your business adheres to the same principles that you set out for your business?

All of the sudden, you have to start thinking about data management, about visibility of data, about workflows, about business processes in general. It is time to ditch the inbox as your main business and sales contact manager and say goodbye to your spreadsheets that outlived their usefulness. There is only so much data and complex interactions that you can model in a spreadsheet anyway.

CRM systems can offer a good way of doing that. CRM stands for customer relationship management. However, CRM requires a lot of investment in technology and come with a hefty cost of customization, not to mention a full business exercise of defining or verbalizing your existing processes, and that’s not always easy, although it sounds like that.

As a small business, you’re probably best bet is to go with a simple CRM solution, more like a contact manager that allows you to track also sales opportunities, cases, task and so on. Contact management is a small subset of customer relationship management and it’s a light introduction to a new way of structuring your business for growth. It’s growth without paying a heavy upfront cost.

For small businesses, there is also a strong case for managing all your contacts online, on the web. In other words, web based contact management. The main advantage is that you are outsourcing the complex IT required to run your systems and the reducing the heavy cost that can be associated with running these IT systems in-house: think software, potentially development or customization work, hardware and qualified people. Again, instead of paying a big bill upfront, you are paying as you go, in much smaller amounts. It radically reduces the risk.

This is just a light introduction, and of course, we’re biased, so do look for a second opinion. But, since you made it this far, why not take our quick demo. We believe in simplicity that increases productivity and doesn’t waste anyone’s time, so no credit cards, no registration required, just click on the quick demo link, and you’re straight into our web based contact manager.

Enjoy!