If you work in Inside Sales, dealing with inbound and outbound calls, Skype requests and instant messaging, then you need to have firm control over managing your day. This article takes a look at how you can do this more effectively using Microsoft’s Outlook or Office 365 package.
Naturally, your CRM may do all this for you, but I work with hundreds of companies who still rely on Outlook for email communications, calendar and tasks or who have Outlook linked into their CRM.
To CRM or not to CRM – that’s the question
Most organisations I work with have some form of customer database or CRM – customer relationship management – system in place. If you do, then you should learn every aspect of it and use it to run your working life. Simple.
A good CRM will allow you to track every contact with a customer, what you said, what they said and the progress you made along your company’s sales process. CRMs can be useful in curating data such as key performance indicators – KPIs and many of them have calendars and email management built in.
If you don’t have a CRM system either buy one, lease one that’s in the cloud such as Salesforce or use the latest version of Microsoft Outlook with the CRM add-on. Better still, obtain Office 365 for yourself and your team, add the CRM bolt on and you’re cooking on gas. If you’re familiar with Outlook and the Office suite of products then your learning curve for Office 365 will be negligible. I’m going to show you how you can do this and finally get to grips with time and email management.
Office 365 is an Inside Salesperson’s dream. Add on Dynamics CRM Online and you have the perfect intuitive solution. Your emails, tasks and appointments from Outlook can automatically be synchronised into the database. Your Word docs and Excel files can be stored there too. Your conversations will be noted and saved. And not just for you – but for your whole company.
There’s nothing worse for a customer than when he or she calls a company and they’re treated like a stranger. That doesn’t happen with a good CRM system. You and your employees are sharing all interactions with your community in the system. You have the system integrated with social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. You have emails, activities, notes, conversations and documents linked to every contact and account. Let’s get into Office 365.
Use the Cloud
Office 365 sits in the cloud, in other words, it can be accessed from any device via the internet. It doesn’t sit on an old fashioned hard-drive. This means you can pull data from any device, so set them all up first. Your phone, laptop, PC, tablet. Whenever an entry is made on any device, the database is updated in the cloud in real time so anyone can see the information from their devices.
The best feature here is the merge option where you can link your social media accounts to your contacts. So when you link in with a new contact, their details automatically transfer into your contacts, with a picture too.
If you get into the habit of photographing people you meet with your phone, incorporate this into the contact details. So when they phone your mobile, their name flashes up and a photograph too. A picture brings back memories far quicker than text.
Emails from new contacts can be dragged into the contacts box and a contact entry is automatically made with all the details harvested from the email.
Firstly set the options so your calendar looks like you want it to. Decide you working week, which may include Saturday, mine does. Sort out the default view for your calendar.
Now decide colours for differing items. Here’s my suggestion:
- Red – making money
- Blue – marketing activities
- Yellow – administration
- Green – self development
- Orange – personal activities
You can then see at a glance whether you’re being productive or not:
Microsoft provides an enterprise quality web meeting software platform called Skype for Business. It uses the Skype engine but it’s not connected to your personal Skype. It allows you to run a web meeting with anyone or any group at the click of a button. Make sure you obtain this and link it into Office 365. It’s far better than GoToWebinar and more cost effective too.
Office 365 comes with a stable task management engine which is underused. Many people just list all their tasks into one giant “to do” list and this can be very bewildering.
There’s a couple of ways you can convert your tasks into something more digestible. The first manner is to put dates on each task – start and end dates – so they appear at the bottom of your calendar for the relevant day. Handy if they must be done on that day.
I do it differently. I categorise each task so I can group them on my calendar. I believe I’m more productive when I’m doing similar tasks in clusters rather than free-wheeling.
Firstly, I’m crystal clear as to my objectives, supporting projects and goals I need to achieve. I’m sure you are too. With that in mind you should be choosy whether you add an item into tasks. You should only do this if it moves you forward in your objectives. If it does, it’s known as a Tactical Next Action – an TNA.
I have TNAs for:
- TNA: Calls
- TNA: Online
- TNA: Do
- TNA: Write
- TNA: Someday maybe
The last one is true; I have 35 items in that category at the moment but none are deal breakers, but the first four are what my calendar carries most.
When a new task comes into your task list, put it in as unassigned – it will automatically find its way to the top, so when you do your task management, you can allocate an TNA to it. Use your phone to add tasks whenever you think of something or someone gives you a job to do. Don’t rely on the brain to remember, it won’t, but the phone will. The task will whiz into the cloud and synchronise across all devices.
The foundation of all communications and one of your collection points. I’ll talk about collection points shortly. But let’s tame your email once and for all; I’ve known salespeople to drown in it. Here’s how.
Before we go any further, turn off your email alert feature. This has to be one of the worst distractions known to the Inside Salesperson.
You are allowed to check email regularly for important items but it’s best to do this every couple of hours – say 9am, 12 noon, 3pm and 5pm. But only to deal with urgent ones, leave the rest till later when you clear your inbox. For a quick reminder of urgent versus important you won’t do worse than Stephen Covey’s Time Management Grid. You can see below that he creates four boxes which determine whether a task should be done or delayed or even ignored.
If you really do need to keep tabs of urgent email as they come in, buy yourself a smartwatch and Bluetooth your inbox. I have a Microsoft Band which does this for me, it vibrates and you glance at the tiny screen without accessing email.
And you must clear your inbox every day. Here’s how.
Choose a 60 minute window every day at some time, best before the close of play. Start with the first email. Can you handle it in less than 2 minutes? If so, handle it. If it’s going to take longer than 2 minutes, then put it into a task to be dealt with at another time. You can simply drag the email into the task area on Office 365 and it will automatically populate a task, which remains unassigned to be assigned an SNA later.
If it’s something you don’t want such as a subscription, see if you can unsubscribe. Be ruthless with these.
If it just needs filing somewhere, just drag it into the folder on your PC where it belongs.
Work your way through your emails in this manner and you will clear your inbox. And you must do this every day. Believe me, you’ll feel good when you do.
This is my term for where information and communications come into your business. Have a quick think about what collection points you have. Here’s mine when I first did this exercise:
- In tray on my desk
- Car dashboard
- Post-it notes on my computer screen
- Unassigned tasks on my phone
- Mobile voicemail
- Land-line voicemail
- Social Media direct messaging
- WhatsApp communications
- Ideas stored in my brain
The aim is to reduce them, I was ruthless because the more collection points you have, the more difficult it all becomes to keep in control and you’ll soon be overwhelmed. Here’s my culled list:
- Office 365 Email
- Unassigned tasks for ideas etc.
- In tray on my desk for all paperwork including post
- Plastic folder in brief case for receipts etc.
Email is king for me, so I channel everything through to my email inbox and because I can access this on my phone, I don’t miss a thing. All social media messages come through to email, eBay notifications everything. It does mean I have a full inbox every day but I do clear this each day.
Do all these things and you too will manage your time really effectively so you can concentrate on selling. I do.