How to sell without being spammy

Experts estimate that it costs seven times more to sell to a new contact than an existing customer, so it makes sense to make the most of existing contacts and encourage them to buy more than once.

Helen Lindop
Helen Lindop

Helen Lindop is a consultant who helps small businesses do more with tech, to find and use the best CRM* or ESP**, and capture leads from marketing so that they become part of a sales pipeline.

*CRM = Contact or Customer Relationship Management system
**ESP = Email Service Provider, e.g., Mailchimp or similar newsletter / email service. 

This is a transcript of a conversation in the Drive The Network Facebook Group.

People want to hear from you. Yes, really.

Charlotte Ashley-Roberts My issue is feeling like I’m bugging people… Tips for having a stern word with myself?!

Helen Lindop OK, practical tips that don’t involve stern words.
1) They want to hear from you. These days nobody hands over their email address lightly, so if you have it then they want to hear from you.
2) It may feel like a one-way communication but it doesn’t have to be. You can check your stats to see how many people open and click on which email to judge what’s popular and what isn’t. You can ask your subscribers to hit reply and give you their opinion. You can do surveys to ask what they’d like to know. It’s not all that different to social media.
3) Most of the ‘I hate email’ comments come from receiving bad, boring, pushy emails that they didn’t subscribe to.  It’s completely different if you send emails people want to receive.
4) You already have a relationship with your subscribers when they opt in – they’ve said they weant to hear from you. Work on growing that in a positive way rather than trying not to annoy them. (Apologies for giving a coach the mindset talk!)

Get your CRM set-up to delight rather than deluge

Andy Boothman Most of the CRM / ESP platforms offer automated services that can bombard contacts with content, over reaching and generally annoying folks in lots of circumstances. Which system is good at managing this output without emails spewing out all over the place?

Ann Hawkins The opposite side of that is that a few years a go I bought a necklace from someone I’d met networking. It arrived beautifully packaged and I loved it but there were no contact details in the packaging and I never heard a peep from them ever again.

Helen Lindop Larger businesses have very sophisticated CRMs that risk over-doing it, but very small businesses often have none or a very basic one, as illustrated by Andy and Ann’s examples. This is one of the areas where I think small businesses could really get ahead, because many aren’t using this tech, which is now much cheaper and more accessible than it used to be, and if we did use CRMs we could use them in a way that improves our sales and customer service but without losing that personal touch.

To answer your question – which system is best for avoiding the spewing of emails – I think it’s more about how you use it than the tool itself. So it’s a case of working out your goals, then breaking that down into your business processes or pipeline, then picking a tool or set of tools to fit.

How does your email list fit in with your customer relationship management?

Martyn Sibley I’m becoming aware that e-mailing subscribers is different from a full on CRM system. Plus we’re starting to offer education products to customers. So my questions are:

1) Where does emailing subscribers fit into a bigger CRM strategy?

2) What software do you recommend?

3) Do you have to be techy to understand them?

Helen Lindop For 1) it’s hard to explain here because it’s complicated but this blog post should cover most of it

2) An alternative to a CRM is a membership platform on your website.  It can be hard to get people off Facebook and into your membership site, so you may find a Facebook group is enough to begin with. But if you do stick with Facebook make sure you have everyone on a mailing list so that you can contact them if something goes wrong on Facebook. Software that leans more towards marketing automation is available (see the blog post) but it also depends how you intend to deliver and take payment for the information products.

3) Although you don’t need to be techy to use these, being a bit techy helps when setting them up, which is the service I offer. Having a well-defined strategy at the beginning, before you start to look at tools, will make everything much easier.

Kate Patterson I used to use Capsule as my CRM. Is there’s anything better or would a spreadsheet do just as well.

Helen Lindop OK, without knowing exactly what you need, but by guessing you tend to work one-to-one with clients, I would say Capsule is likely to be much better than an Excel spreadsheet because it:
a) Will allow you to save email conversations so you don’t need to dig through your inbox
b) Will allow you to set reminders to follow up with prospective clients
c) You’ll need a client database of some kind anyway, and Capsule is better for storing names, addresses etc than Excel
d) You can integrate it with your mailing list if you need to
e) You can set up your ‘sales process’ (not a very friendly term, but you know what I mean) e.g. if your process is client emails you > you book a discovery call > if you haven’t heard from them in a week you follow up > they either sign up as a client or go back on the list to be called in 6 months , then you can put that all in Capsule so you can plot each person’s progress against it.
f) If you share your client data with your business partner you won’t get the errors you would get from passing an Excel spreadsheet between you.

Kate Patterson Thanks Helen you’re right it does all of that. It has vast capabilities but I feel more than I need?

Helen Lindop If your needs are fairly basic for now you could look at Hubspot CRM? This gives you a lot of features for free, but beware it gets expensive fast if you need to go beyond the free plan. But if you feel Capsule does a lot more than you need then I expect you could comfortably fit in the Hubspot free plan.

Micro-businesses have nothing to fear from GDPR

Rachel Extance For the absolute beginner who has no idea where to start and is scared by GDPR, what are the basics you need your CRM to do?

Ann Hawkins Can we please lay the ghost of GDPR? It was never intended to apply to small businesses in the way that most of the unscrupulous advisors implied, purely to make money by scaremongering. Who do you think might lodge a complaint against you, and for what? If you accidentally send someone an email that they didn’t sign up for, the most they’ll do is send you a snotty note. They’re not going to go to the authorities and lodge a complaint, and even if they do, the compliance bods are not interested in this scale of things. They’re after the big players who willfully misuse information for profit. Stop even thinking about GDPR if you’re a micro business. Just think good practice, keeping your clients data safe, and you’ll be fine!

Helen Lindop A key part of GDPR is not keeping data unless you have a good reason to do so, which is good practice anyway. Every reputable CRM and ESP now has GDPR compliance features that are easy to check.

Can you transfer contacts from one system to another?

Rachel Extance If you have contacts on a mailing list in say, Mailchimp, can you port them across to a CRM?

Helen Lindop It’s very easy to import contact details into a CRM. You just upload a CSV ( ie a list in Excel will be fine).

Something else to consider is that you might not want your entire mailing list in your CRM anyway. Perhaps you just want them to go in your CRM when they are customers so you can follow up? Maybe you just want those leads in your CRM who are quite likely to buy, rather than anyone who has ever downloaded your freebie?

Strategy first, then choose your CRM

Rachel Extance Once you’ve started putting people in your CRM, then what?

Helen Lindop You need to work this out before you get a CRM, really. But for anyone who isn’t sure why you might need one, here’s a blog post with an example

Rachel Extance Aha! So you need a strategy first.

Helen Lindop Absolutely! There are so many tools out there that there’s bound to be one that does what you need, so it’s a question of being very sure what you need before you begin.

And if there isn’t one that does what you want, you can hook existing tools together using Zapier or similar.

Daljit Virdee I feel like there are probably specific CRM tools for Accountants, such that they cater for the management of all the deadlines, on-boarding (which is painful because of all the regulations for our Practising Licence), and case history.
Any tips on options for this, Helen. (FYI – I don’t expect you’ll know Accounting specific tools, but still interested to read your input).

Helen Lindop For an industry that’s as highly regulated as accountancy I would definitely look for an industry-specific tool first as this is likely to save a lot of customisation. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t one, actually.

Emma James Just to jump in here. I’ve recently been trialling GoProposal, which I really like so will probably keep, for proposals, LoEs and part of the onboarding. On the CRM/practice management/deadline tracking side, I used to use Senta and hated it and aim to start trialling Accountancy Manager in the new year. Onkho and Karbon might also be worth a look, but most people I know are moving from those to Accountancy Manager.

Would you like to know more? Get in touch with Helen Lindop or follow her on Twitter