I used to hate CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems. Every financial organization has one embedded in their programs and I always felt beholden to them. The CRM system required that I maintain it. The CRM system required that I give it information. The CRM system required that I click its buttons and massage its reports. What did a CRM system ever do for me?

I used daytimers, lists, and Outlook calendar reminders. It worked better, faster, and more personally than any CRM system my former employers had implemented.

But when I launched my own financial planning firm, a CRM was one of the first things we set up.

What Changed?

Well, technology changed. Between the early 1990s and the mid-2000’s software programs got a lot smarter, and a lot faster. The large corporations that I worked with weren’t nimble enough to move to the new programs, and were up to 10 years behind what was actually available in the marketplace. An upside of the small business? It can move quickly.

I knew what I hated about CRM systems - what didn’t work for me - and the long list of exactly what I hated included:

  • Having to type notes into the system (I hate maintaining… anything).

  • Having to set up tasks and remember what the next steps were again and again (I have no memory).

  • Having to look in more than one place to get a set of information (don’t you make me click more than twice!).

  • Lack of control of my data and systems (I don’t want to marry my CRM - I want an exit strategy).

Thanks to my amazing team, who know me, asked a bunch of questions, and did the research, we use Base. It’s got a super-slick interface that makes it easy to use - which means, I actually use it.

On top of managing my “hate” list, my team found a system that has:

  • A user-friendly mobile app for my phone. I’m on the road a lot and I don’t want to be “blind”.

  • Solid reporting that tells me all kinds of things about how I work, how my team works, and how close we are to reaching our client-specific goals.

  • Customizable pipeline tracking - the way I do business and all the steps in it was mapped out by my team and then positioned inside the CRM system. This way, I know how many clients are in each stage at any given time. And, of course, I can pull reports.

  • Automated tasks - oh how I love thee. Since I have no memory, I would have had to go back and look at some process document to understand what happens next. While the process document absolutely exists, I don’t have to look for it, or remember it. My system tells us what to do next.

  • Coordinated calendar management and client management because so much of my business is around meetings.

  • Automatic email logging - because who wants to write even more notes?

CRM Basics

I know you want your own system now. First, remember that you’re more likely to use your CRM properly when you have at least one other person on your team. When you’re rolling solo, you may get lazy. The instant accountability that comes with even one team member changes your approach to systemization dramatically.

Second, know that there are a lot of moving parts to setting up a CRM system. None of which I was involved in, because I like delegating, especially those things that I know very little about and have even less interest in learning.

But since you’re asking, my team tells me that your CRM system will have these basic components:

Contact Management

Your contact management system should:

  • Include everyone - everyone - you contact in your business. Not just clients. You are including strategic partners, professional advisors, competitors, and more.

  • Receive exports from other systems, so that no one has to do a bunch of data entry. For instance, you export all of your LinkedIn contacts, your phone contacts, the shoebox full of business cards under your desk (although, someone will probably have to scan them).

  • Allow for you and your team to make notes on the client.

  • Track every email you send to and receive from your client - and every email your team sends.

  • Record past meetings and future planned meetings.

  • Track tasks, deals, and documents.

Deal Management

In CRM speak, a “deal” is a piece of business. It could be a contract, a project, a transaction, or a donation. It’s the primary process that you complete inside your operation.

Your deal management system should:

  • Link to the appropriate contacts in your system, so you can view all communication history and look at all the related information (appointments, tasks, emails) in one place.

  • Track your new and ongoing business, including the dollar amounts attached to each deal. This will feed your reporting, below.

  • Be customizable. You run your business, and your process, different than anyone else. Your team should be able to tweak the system.


A lot of people don’t realize how much amazing data you can get out of a CRM system. It can tell you just about everything about the business you run, including:

  • Project your future cash flow (based on deal flow).

  • Determine the demographics of your client base.

  • Test the efficiency of your team and process.

  • Determine your best referral sources - and therefore where you should spend your networking/advertising time and money.

  • Understand how you work, who you work with, and what makes sense to continue or end in your own processes.

Automated Tasks

This is where the rubber hits the road. Automated tasks are the business. You don’t want to spend your time reviewing things, and you don’t want anything to fall through the cracks. Automated tasks save you time, clarify expectations for what jobs are completed by which team members, and ensure that your expectations around the timing of those tasks are met.

Here are a few examples from my own team:

  • Our automations set up new prospects in the system, and assign a task to our administrative team to book a meeting with the client.

  • Once I’ve met with a client, the system assigns a task to me to write a proposal, and to the administrative team to harass me about it.

  • Once a client has agreed to move ahead, the system assigns task(s) to the administrative team to send out all the necessary paperwork and gather information.

I don’t have to think about it. My team doesn’t have to think about it. No one can get it wrong. And I can drop in on any client’s profile, see tasks completed or upcoming, and know exactly what is happening next, who is doing it, and when.

How do you get started?

Mapping your own processes - alone or with the help of a team who has done it before - is the best way to start out. Make a hate list, and a wish list. Know where you keep your contacts.

And get in touch. We can help you find the right system for you.