in Achieving Goals

How To Set Up A CRM For Small Businesses

I’m currently expressing my business in a CRM.  This is more or less a “notes to self” post.  This is “pen and paper” work that you will first do on a yellow pad, or in google docs and then express in the CRM of your choice.

This is the order I’m addressing things – it’s how a CRM is/should be deployed in your business.  

Here are also things you should know or seek learn:

  • How long is your sales cycle? 
    • Does it vary by source?
    • Can we shorten it?
  • What is the best lead source?
    • In terms of gross #’s
    • In terms of % likely to close.
  • What is the most likely behavior to cause a referral?
    • Commissions?
    • Quality Work?

Step 1: Lead Follow Up Sequences:  First, get one to three plans expressed as activity sets.  Following up with & converting leads is important.  

You should be testing this sort of thing for statistical significance: when you have 200 leads and 100 go through one process, and another 100 go through another, you might observe different results. 

The very first thing you do is create a lead follow up sequence.  This is a light weight thing along some fairly straightforward lines example:

  • Day Zero:  Research client & put in CRM
  • Day Zero:  Intro email/call
  • Send something valuable (lead source).
  • First appointment ask.
  • Second appointment
  • Kill lead.
You get the gist and can generalize.  You might have two in order to test (but remember: something like Founder’s Advantage might be in play).  First – write these down with pen and paper or in a whiteboard.  Then express in the CRM in the appropriate bucket.
Many CRMs have an opportunity follow up sequence and there are other things that they do to express these ideas.
You could also differentiate by product/service you’re selling.  Simplifilm’s example is:
  • Simplifilm Movie
  • Book Trailer Customer
  • Flowtility Reseller 
[note: if your CRM doesn’t have activity sets that allow to have a quick setup, Deal Breaker.  I’m talking to you 37 signals]

Step 2: Define Other Activity Sets (Customer or VIP Experience)

You’ll want to then define what happens to customers and express it within your crm.  This is to make sure you’re not surprised by routine and predictable events.  You’ll want to define outcomes for:

  • VIP/Referral sources.
  • Customers (how to treat people after the sale)
  • Almost Customers (people that didn’t quite close)
Step 3: Define Categories, Circles Source and Tags

The next thing is that we’re going to define & sort people.  You need four ways of doing this.  Categories, Sources  Tags & Circles.  Note: some CRMS may have you express them as tags.

Categories: generally are the big buckets people are in.  Generally, people primarily be in one category such as:
  • Past Customer – Obvious – people that bought in the past.
  • Lead-  Someone that still could buy from you, generally someone that is within one standard deviation of your sales cycle.
  • Dead Lead: Once a lead, but has been run through the “lead follow up sequence
  • Personal- Someone that’s in your personal life that may have some 
  • Advocate – A fan of who you are and what you do
  • Vendor- People you pay.
  • Team Member: People that work for you or more or less do.
Next is the circles.  This isn’t some Dante bullshit.  I think each seller has 3 main circles, all as part of their community.
Dunbar Circle: Top 130-250 people in your business world.’s_number for more details.  Basically, people that are part of your community: key customers, key referral sources, people that you want to benefit.  
Core Community: 15-45 people: These are the people that have your back, but maybe aren’t yet in your life.  Quarterly conversations and collaborations with occaisonal periods of more frequent contact.  These people are folks that you know, like and trust.

The Twelve:  (Named after Jesus’s disciples).  Right now I have 11. 8-15 people that are the closest business friends you have.  There can be overlap with the above. These people love you, you know they love you and they are in a position to help.  Monthly or better contact, with occasional periods of more contact is good. Someone in a mastermind.  
The deal is: everyone in your circles must benefit more from you than you from them. That’s the way to be 100% secure in your business.  Everyone that you touch benefits more than you.  Even if your not quite “there yet” with execution, your intentions will be solid and you’ll be able to help.
(As an aside, I reevaluate this about every other month or so).  The way that I may do things is as follows:
Someone that is part of the “12” will also be tagged with “core” and “dunbar”  that way if I email everyone in one of these groups, I have a way to catch in ascending order of preference.  Dunbar catches everyone, Core catches Core & Twelve, etc.  The twelve change and have changed.  
Finally: people are only in circles when they like you, too.  They have to reciprocate, reflect or respond what you send to them.
Source: Is where the person came from.  This is sometimes expressed in a CRM as a separate field, but more often it’s expressed as a tag.  You want to know this because it becomes fairly easy to spot trends as time goes by.  Our sources (where they come from):
  • Web lead- someone that comes in via the web.
  • referral- someone that’s referred to us.
  • Sphere- someone in the close sphere of influence.
  • outreach- someone that we reached out to and found
This could be nuanced and even used as tags.
Tag: This is where we want to be careful.  We want to set up tags and have a robust variety, but we don’t want to over-do it.  This is often a preference but we want to know what is there.  Most quality CRMs will allow tags to be searched for and not including tags. Or, they can be exported.
There can be some overlap with categories, as someone may be “primarily 
Here are the tags I’m using at the start of my migration:
  1. mets (people that I’ve met or had an enhanced relationship with).
  2. Wants (People I want a real relationship with- most likely to circle)
  3. Dunbar:  xc7uhjN&Uc 
  4. Core:
  5. 12
  6. leads: (people that are web leads)
  7. Software  (people in the software space)
  8. Connected 
  9. consumer products
  10. Medical Industry
  11. WordPress
  12. 500
  13. YC c
  14. TechStars
  15. Vendor
  16. Animator: Someone who animates, usually for us.
  17. VO
  18. teammate:  
  19. research needed: people that we email in to research later.
  20. web-lead
  21. targets: people we are chasing (that aren’t chasing us)*
  22. hot: People that are chasing us
  23. referral source: people that have attempted to refer people to us
  24. customer
  25. bought video** – people that have bought a video from a competitor.
  26. WIP- people that have an active deal with us or have within 5 months.
  27. lost (people we lost)
  28. Pitched (people we sent a proposal to)
  29. toxic :  People that are toxic and shitty.
*we use targets because that’s what they are. 
** you substitute for your product.
Right now, I probably ave too many tags.

Step 4: Define when they go on the mailing list.

There should be a standard for people to go on the mailing list.  This is to say: not everyone that you encounter should go on the list.  But, if you are a seller speaking to 10+/- people per day, you should be adding 15-20 to your list per selling week (60 or so per month).

You have to define when they go on the mailing list and how that happens.

For us, it’s:

  • Anyone that joins the list on purpose (duh)
  • Anyone that buys a product (duh)
  • Anyone that is a weblead (puts their name in the box, on purpose
  • Anyone that grants us permission to send them something with full volition (hey,mind if I send you an article about _________”.
I don’t always put all of these people on the list, but this is who I can put on the list.  We’re judicious about people that grant permission.
Step 5: Define When They go in Your CRM
The CRM and mailing list are a little bit different.  THe Mailing list is more promiscuous.  Anyone can join.  The CRM, not as much.  The difference being that the CRM is for people that we can trade with.  The CRM should have a good signal-to-noise ratio and everyone in it should be reasonably likely to benefit and be benefited from our business.

Step 5: Define An Activity Series for Every type of person.

The way we do things is this: I try to reach out to everyone in my CRM once a quarter. Even when it’s something as fairly simple as a “hey how’s it going,” or an intro or a book recommendation.

Everyone gets an activity series that has three or so phases:

  • Research (for people that are targets/prey for us):  
  • Initiation (a fairly intense initiation phase that’s designed to be permanently memorable)
  • Incubation (meaning that you are demonstrating stability & commitment-over-time which leads to trust)
The initiation series is a 7 week program that has me sending something every 8th day.  The incubation program requires I’m in touch with them 18 or so times a year (roughly every 3 weeks).
The “circles” have more activity series info than the rest.

Step 6: Define When People Leave The CRM: (And get retired to the mailing list)

You have to improve your CRM regularly. Every year that goes by means that you have to improve the intensity of the CRM.  An average salesperson should have roughly 1k-1500 people in their CRM.

And, from economics we know that Gresham’s law means that bad contacts will drive out good ones.  What this means is that you have 1,000 contacts in the CRM, and you go 6-9 months without a meaningful interaction with someone you retired them to your mailing list.