Stop blaming your software! It might be you!

I’m breaking up with you

Ever had that awkward conversation with your CRM? “It’s not me it’s you” as you explain you have to dump them? As business owners, we’ve likely been through many software products in order to solve problems in our business. We adopt them with excitement and enjoy the honeymoon phase, only to drop them months later.

Have you stopped to consider why? Do you wish you could have a long-term relationship with your software? Make awesome memories? Be successful together?

The good old days

To help us understand what the problem is, let’s hop in a time machine and go to the late 1970s and early 1980s. Computers had finally gone from being an enterprise solution, to technology that was available to the home user and small business.

Apple, Commodore and countless other micro-computers took off offering more than just games! Thousands of home and business applications popped up allowing business owners to build databases, write letters, manage finances and even the holy grail; desktop publishing.

Yet in those days, individuals had to make do with the meagre technological resources at their disposal. Whilst we talk in gigabytes and terabytes, they were dealing in bytes!

Yes, in just a few bytes (or kilobytes if you were lucky), people were solving business problems and experiencing newfound success. What an exciting time it was!

Why aren’t we doing more with more?

You’d think that with so much computer power in our pockets, we’d be super-efficient business owners, producing high-quality leads and converting high-ticket projects.

We have wi-fi, the cloud, web-based software, portable devices, “AI” and so much more than the business owner of 40 years ago, yet somehow many of us still feel stuck!

My theory is this… 

Before our reliance on technology, we were forced to establish and document a process for our work. Reminders and tasks had to be written down. Letters had to be sent. Phone calls had to be made. There was no automation, everything had to be thought out and action taken.

There were also limited distractions. Social media didn’t exist, and our only forms of social networking would be at business networking groups or industry events. Imagine a world where networking was a physical activity in the diary followed up with a few strategically placed telephone calls?

Back then, when the computer entered the small business, it was instantly adopted as a tool to support already existing processes and procedures. Today, we tend to look for that next magic fix and the software with the best sales copy will normally win our attention!

Early software was often designed to replicate the physical. To assist the business owner rather than to “do it all” for them. I remember a contact directory in the 80s that did its best to replicate the look and feel of a Rolodex. So cool!

Multitasking wouldn’t exist for some time, so automated reminders were few and far between, so the regular business owner still had to check their source of information. Be that a paper notebook, or their Apple II.

In short: Technology supported the business owner, rather than today, where the business owner often feels a slave to the technology.

What’s the solution?

Document your processes and procedures

First, stop looking at new software, stick with whatever you are using for the moment. Then take some time away from the tech to map out your business processes. Yes, grab a pen and paper!

For each business activity such as lead management, invoicing, billing, etc., document each and every step, along with who does what. 

Example: We started with lead generation and the sales process. This was something that had changed very little over the years.

Here are the stages with identified:

  • Opportunity identified
  • Lead established
  • Discovery
  • Proposal
  • Negotiate and review
  • Close the sale

Then we fleshed out each with a step-by-step process from beginning to end. Documentation doesn’t need to be complicated. Nested bullets work just fine!

  • Opportunity identified
    • Opportunity added into our CRM
    • Followup task assigned to relevant sales team member
    • First contact made and recorded in task
    • Followup task created
    • …. And so on
  • Lead established
    • More steps…

Sanity check what you do

Next, take some time to review your documentation. Have others read through and be honest with yourselves. Are your existing procedures the most efficient? Can you see any potential bottlenecks or problems?

Having what you do written down allows you to sanity check and potentially improve upon what you’ve been doing. You can then move on to the next stage with confidence and clarity.

Review your software

Now take a look at the software you have. Are you using it in such a way that emulates and enhances business workflow? If not, can you make some changes in how you use it in order to bring some balance?

In many cases, the software you have will more than do the job. When using something with a specific task in mind, you are more likely to get the required output and value from it.

IF on the other hand you realise you have adopted a sledgehammer to put up a nail for a picture, then now is the time to look elsewhere and perhaps have that “breakup conversation” with your existing solution!

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Lee Jackson

Lee Jackson is an entrepreneur and owner of Agency Trailblazer - a community for web design agency owners looking to grow their business and achieve a better work-life balance. Their content and support is delivered through multiple media channels, courses, events and an online community. Lee is an experienced businessman who doesn't conform to corporate stereotypes. He's known for his ability to make complex ideas easy to understand. He wishes he could communicate in GIFs only! Never without his baseball cap and an accompanying Dad joke, he loves a white wine and a good chinwag. He's the mentor who will challenge you, call it how it is and tell you to get things done.