What’s the best way to track potential customers in the sales cycle?

QUESTION:

Is there a standard way that people keep track of who they are selling to and where they are in the sales cycle?  I’m talking to many different potential and current clients and I have notebooks, excel sheets, sheets of paper, lists (I think you get the idea) of where I am with each of them.  Is there a recommended way to keep track of who you are talking with and where you are with each of them?

ANSWER:

Naomi Kokubo

Naomi Kokubo

by Naomi Kokubo, Cofounder of Founders Space

The simple answer is SalesForce.com — which has an incredible system for doing just this.

If you don’t want the Ferrari of sales tools, like SaleForce.com, you can opt for a simple Excel spreadsheet or database, where you track your sales pipeline.   I’ve done this many times.  Here’s how I typically set mine up.  Keep in mind, there aren’t any rules.  You can do whatever works for you and your business, but I like to keep it simple and consistent.

Create a simple sales spreadsheet with the following columns:

  • Priority:  0 -5, where a “zero” means the deal has closed, a “one” means it’s ready to close, and a “five” means it will probably never close.
  • Company Name:
  • Contact Name:
  • Title:
  • Last Date of Contact:
  • Email Sent:
  • Did they respond?
  • Meeting set for:
  • Next Steps:
  • Comments/Notes:
  • Email:
  • Phone:
  • Website:
  • Address:
  • Additional Contacts:
  • etc.

You get the idea.  I also like to share this spreadsheet online using Google Docs, so that everyone on the team can edit and add to it.

You can also add other tabs for things like “Target List” and “People Who can Help”, etc.   And I usually sort by “Priority” first and “Company” second.

That said, you’ll find a spreadsheet quickly gets cumbersome to manage, and that’s when you’ll want to upgrade to something like SalesForce.com.

I hope this helps!

Comments & Advice:
  1. Irina Serbina says:

    I would like to add to the excellent advice above few ways to get most of the benefits of Ferrary without paying for one: http://www.zoho.com and SugarCRM. If you don't need to assign various access levels to a big group of people, you may be able to get a deal as good as FREE.

  2. Rebekah Paul says:

    I use SugarCRM community version, which is free.

  3. What you are looking for is a Contact Management system and the good news is that there are a lot of Open Source (read FREE) programs that will help you with that.
    vTiger and Zoho are surely my favorites.
    Good Luck.

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