CRM-Customer Relationship Management Tips and Tools

Jim Kimmons
Solopreneur Business Success
8 min readMay 21

Before getting into techniques, strategies, and resources for sales from initial contact to sale and an ongoing relationship, CRM is the first step. Customer Relationship Management is the process or system in which you manage your contacts from first contact through the sale and into the future.

In discussing tools and tips later, references will be made to moving prospects into your CRM system and using the information you have there to facilitate your sales and followup process. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling, as the processes for working with people for sales are the same. From a top-level view, you want:

  • Efficiently take captured prospect information into a system to manage it.
  • Your system should allow you to easily enter information about your contacts and prospects that will help you to determine their hot buttons or requirements that you can satisfy with your products or services.
  • Based on your product or service normal timeline from first contact to a sale, you want to manage and record your contacts with prospects, from phone calls to emails or meetings.
  • Your CRM system should have your sales information so you can followup later with customers for satisfaction surveys, referrals, or reorders.

There are many software and cloud solutions out there for CRM. Their cost can run from free to very high-dollar based on the bells and whistles that are provided. This resource isn’t intended to be a recommendation for any particular product or online solution, but some will be used here as examples to help in understanding what a CRM system should do for you.

The overriding rule for this CRM discussion is that your time is best spent in working with prospects and customers, not in entering and retrieving information. The goal should be to simplify the process while capturing as much information as possible that will help in your sales.

Once you capture the info, then you want to easily retrieve it when working with your contacts. Having their info in front of you makes your next contact more productive.

#1 — The More Integrated the Process the Better

Depending on products, services, and location, those involved in sales are using some or all of these communication methods or systems:

  • In person
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Web forms
  • Mobile apps

The first three are used by the bulk of sales professionals, so the most productive CRM system should facilitate easily moving information from your in person, phone, or email discussions.

You want this because you each discussion has information that can be of value later, but only if you can retrieve it quickly when you need it. The link for this section is to an article with reviews of top sales CRM software or online solutions. All of them carry some cost, but they do accomplish the integration of the various ways in which you communicate with prospects, customers, and vendors.

There are many systems out there, and most have basic packages for the small business that will work at a cost point of around $10 to $12 per month. Most will require that you work from within their solution so that all of your communication is captured there rather than requiring import.

The tradeoff for all of the bells & whistles is that you will have to change the way you do things, maybe change your email address, work in their system instead of what you’re used to, etc. There are many, but two solutions discussed in this section can be free and do what most small business owners need.

#2 — Capture Just the Info You Need

What do you want versus need to keep for information about your contacts, prospects, customers, and vendors? Obviously, you want their basic contact information, name, address, company name phone numbers, email address, and website.

That may be enough, but the key to making this all work for you is to not make it a task you tend to avoid because it’s a hassle. Perhaps if you’re into high ticket sales you may want to keep family information to send birthday wishes, etc. But, for most that’s overkill and you’ll probably not end up asking for that info from every customer/prospect anyway. Other easy to fill in info fields may be:

  • Where you got this prospect from, the lead source.
  • Your products/services they need or have expressed an interest in buying.
  • Their price range may be important.
  • Your product model(s), colors, or other options of interests.
  • Your service(s) options/levels of interest.
  • For real estate, their geographic areas of interest.
  • Basically, any information that helps you to present the correct product/service in your sales process.
  • Once they have purchased something, you want that in your system for followup, referrals, and future sales.

The title link for this section is to an article about what type of information that system believes you need in your CRM, primarily for a B2B type sales process.

Of course, if you want this info, you’ll have to ask for it and record it in your CRM system for each contact, prospect, and customer.

#3 — Zoho CRM, Basics Free Forever

Zoho has been around for a long time, and it has many different cloud solutions that work together to manage a business. The Zoho CRM free solution covers the basics as you can see in the top bar of the image.

You can create a fully functional CRM system in Zoho and do a lot or all of what you need. However, if you want full features, such as tying into your email and/or website, you’ll need to upgrade at around $12/month.

You create your fields in Zoho for the information you want, and you can create dropdowns to make entry faster with little typing. An example would be product of interest with a dropdown list of products for you to select without typing them into the system. You can try the free version to see if it will work for you and upgrade if you like the features.

#4 — Evernote + LinkedIn for CRM

You probably already use LinkedIn if you are in a B2B business or just because it’s a free tool to connect with businesses that can be your customers, suppliers, or referral sources. It is also an excellent resource for information about them.

Evernote is a tool to capture information in many ways and from different sources and save it for easy retrieval later. It has a powerful built-in search function that uses user-generated tags and notebooks to find your information. Tagging gives you unlimited ability to add tags that apply to a contact/prospect/customer and your products or services. Examples include tags for:

  • Product(s) or service(s) of interest.
  • Locations with @symbol.
  • Common contacts to both of you.
  • Any bit of information you may want to use to locate this contact again.

Once you have the contact/prospect in your Evernote system, every note that is created from any source with their name, phone number, email, or chosen tag can be used to bring them up on the screen with every note in chronological order going back in time. You have all of the information in front of you for that contact when you’re communicating with them.

The main value of Evernote is that you can capture information to the system in a number of ways, all free to use:

  • Direct entry of a note.
  • Capture in Evernote mobile apps
  • Use Evernote clipper in browser to grab whole web pages, or selected areas.
  • Use Evernote app in phone camera to take photos for notes; great for documents, signs, business cards, etc.
  • Capture handwritten notes or documents with camera in phone.

If you upgrade from the free version for $7.99/month, you pick up a lot more storage space and capture sizes, but also text recognition. Later the note in the image will be found in a search on words in it. Other features with the pro version include:

  • Voice to text for voice notes
  • Text recognition in photos of signs, business cards, etc. for searches later.
  • Text recognition in .pdf files you send to the app/
  • There’s more at
  • Special email address to forward emails from whatever email client you use into Evernote.
  • If you have a tablet or phone with a stylus and take inknotes on it, the Evernote app lets you take an inknote and it will recognize the text for searching later.
  • Have texts automatically saved into Evernote as well.

Where LinkedIn comes into the CRM plan is with the Evernote web clipper. You have contacts for business in LinkedIn with lots of information about each of them, including contacts common to both of you. Here’s an example of how the clipper in your browser captures a LinkedIn-specific page of info:

It’s just a partial shot, as you customize what you want captured. Now that this contact is in Evernote with their name and all of this info, if you’re upgraded, all of the text will be indexed. Later, should you search for a name, should it happen to be one in several contacts’ records, you’ll see all of them in the search results.

Check out the article at the title link for this tip for specific ways to use the Evernote-LinkedIn tools together from a sales person who has worked with them.

The point of mentioning these two as a complete solution is that you have so many ways of getting information into Evernote. Whether it’s a voice note after a conversation, or even a recorded conversation, an email, a webform submission, photo, document image, LinkedIn capture, etc., you get it into Evernote easily. You can add tags in all of these input methods as well.

Once it’s all there, it’s a simple search on a tag, name, email address, or words in a photo or document, and you get your contact’s information on screen in reverse chronological order.

The value in this combo is that you’re not tied into one system where you must use their input methods or email. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, you can add info to your CRM system and find it easily later.

#5 — Tip: There is NO Unimportant Information

The title link takes you to a article about the importance of CRM in business. When it comes to the sales function, it is critical in working a contact to a prospect through to a purchase. If a client or customer shares some information with you, it must be important to them, so it should be important to you as well. It’s of no use though if you can’t access it when you need it.

That’s why it’s crucial that you do your research on different CRM systems or combinations of apps to get the job done. Choose what works for you from features and cost perspectives. However, the major decision factor is how you can capture and retrieve large amounts of information efficiently.

If it’s not easy and available wherever you are, you’re unlikely to capture important information. If it’s not easy to find that info later, then you’ll be working with customers without valuable information to build on your relationships.

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