I just got off the phone with a prospective client. He told me to call him back “after the new year,” a common response for this time of year. Now what? How should I remind myself to get back to him?

I could set up an event in iCal to remind myself to call him. No thanks, that takes too much time and can you imagine how cluttered my calendar would look if I added every follow up call? Yikes.

I’ll pass on that.

Maybe I should add a dated task to my favorite to-do list app (Wunderlist). Ok, that could possibly work, but what about the notes I have recapping my conversation? And where will the notes go when I complete that task? Pass.

How about I just jot down notes in my trusty notebook or notebook app? But that won’t remind me to call on a certain day will it? No, no, that won’t work either.

If your business development workflow includes a hodgepodge of office suites, to-do list apps, calendars and Moleskine┬« notebooks, perhaps it’s time to consider acquiring a CRM system for your agency.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems come in a variety of flavors, but all are designed to keep sales teams organized. Regardless of the system you choose, the guiding principals are the same — to provide a centralized place to capture all relevant information about a prospect and keep a record of associated communications. Most CRMs are structured in an Account -> Contact -> Activity hierarchy. It’s simple for me to store general information like company names, addresses, phone numbers, websites, and social media accounts in the Account record. I can also add my own fields if I’d like to capture other relevant information like industry, company size or even the lead source. The more information you capture about your prospects the better; for example, you can use this metadata to build targeted lists to share a press release detailing the results of a recent campaign.

In addition, I can track the contacts I’ve made at each prospect and record activities and events which include phone calls, emails, demonstrations, and meetings. In the case of the prospective client who wants a follow-up after the new year, I can quickly make a couple notes recapping our conversation and schedule a follow-up task for mid-January. Each morning, I log in to my CRM and get a sense of what I’m responsible for that day. It’s not dissimilar to a traffic management system like CurrentTrack┬«, but it’s contact- rather than project-focused. Here at Developware, we make a distinction between business acquisition efforts and traffic management — not cobbling the two together. After all, account services’ sales efforts are decidedly different from project management.

Since I prefer to access my day’s work from any location, I use a web-based CRM system, , but many options exist to suit any workflow. Successful business development starts with a carefully considered strategy and a CRM system to enforce it.

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