July 15, 2012 | David Radin | post-gazette.com Business Section |
Life is too complicated — especially when your company asks you to learn a complex automation that makes it better for them but not for you. Yet, in many cases, salespeople, support representatives and other workers are being asked by their companies to learn and use complex customer relationship management (CRM) systems, like Salesforce.com, Sugar and Microsoft CRM.
I don’t mean to pick on these three vendors, because they are among many CRM systems on the market, but these three are good examples. As a consultant, I have helped sales teams integrate such systems a number of times. I know that the bosses always love them, but they’re usually met with opposition from the salespeople, because they take time to learn and daily time to keep up to date.
The good news is that not every sales force needs a full-function CRM system. The bad news is that your best alternative, until now, had been a spreadsheet, Microsoft Outlook or some similar home-brew solution.
Out of necessity comes invention. Last month, David Oshlag and Justin Wagner, both of Pittsburgh, introduced an Excel spreadsheet called W5 Templates that acts like a simple CRM system. It looks like a spreadsheet on the outside, but has fields, buttons and color coding to allow you to get the most from your sales day.
You’ll know it’s not a standard Excel spreadsheet the moment you open it, as you are greeted with two large buttons and six smaller buttons. The large buttons say Dashboard and Settings respectively. The smaller buttons are to access a one-page set of directions, FAQ, notes and other nonprimary sections.
Clicking the big blue Settings button brings you to a single settings page where you can change virtually any column, category, status or code in the whole spreadsheet. By comparison, Salesforce.com has 126 pages of settings, many of which are cryptic.
The simple Dashboard, though, is where W5 Templates’ magic takes place, as that is where you would work every day, reviewing the prep info before every phone call or meeting and filling it in afterward. On the dashboard, you’ll see a spreadsheet-like form, which shows one person per row — as if it were a standard data sheet.
The columns match the column names you entered on the settings sheet, and there’s room for full contact information for each person with whom you do business during the course of the week. By default, it even includes a field where you can keep track of your hours, if you’re a consultant, for instance, or otherwise need to track your time.
The feature I like the best is the color coding of follow-up times — a cool little trick that W5 Templates does better than the other CRM systems I named, as well as better than Outlook or Franklin Covey’s PlanPlus.
If something is due today, it shows up in a green box. If it’s upcoming in the next seven days, it shows up in a yellow box, or in a red box if it is up to seven days late. Nice touch.
If you have acted on it today, it turns bright orange, and if you acted on it recently, it turns dim orange. Why don’t all the CRM systems and task lists use color this effectively?
Follow David Radin on Twitter @dradin, or learn more at www.megabyteminute.com.
First published on July 15, 2012 at 12:00 am