The Most Important Part of the Sales Funnel Lies Above It

There’s a running joke among people who either use or have tried various CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools:
Q: What does the “R” in CRM stand for?
A: Reports…Revenue…Redundancy…
You get it. Basically any “R” word besides “relationship.”

The Mingly team has spoken with hundreds of independent professionals and their two main frustrations with CRM tools are as follows:
1. CRMs are too complex and cumbersome, requiring a steep learning curve, and
2. CRMs provide little help with the crucial task of nurturing “above the funnel” relationships.

In many cases, the most elegant parts of CRM systems are their reporting and analytics. But independent professionals, from freelancers and consultants, to real estate agents, have neither the time nor the need to model complex pipelines and forecasts. Their success hinges on two activities: providing excellent service to current customers, and building and maintaining a diverse network to generate opportunities and referrals. CRM systems that are so focused on the deal process and relationships associated with specific dollar amounts, neglect a whole network crucial to driving long-term success.

People Before Process
Traditionally, the sales funnel begins with converting leads into new customers. But where exactly do leads and prospects come from? Sometimes the scenario is straightforward, with a current or former client referring business. But other times, the road to earning prospects is more circuitous. Perhaps a journalist contact features you in an article, which in turn brings in hot leads. Or an old co-worker introduces you to a potential partner or gets you a speaking opportunity. In sum, opportunities and leads are the fruit of effectively nurturing an ecosystem of diverse relationships.

“What you get when you tap into other people’s brains is called network intelligence…What will get you somewhere is being able to access the information you need, when you need it… You get it by talking to people in your network. It’s people who understand your assets, aspirations, and market realities; it’s people who help you vet and get introduced to possible allies and trust connections…” – Reid Hoffman, The Startup of You

With a clear focus on growing “above the funnel” social capital, Mingly is changing how individuals and organizations build and leverage personal networks to reach their goals. By taking the work out of the ongoing outreach needed to advance key relationships, users can effectively create a network based on mutual success.

Our Economy Runs on Relationships
All businesses, big or small, are in the relationship business. Client-facing independent professionals (independent contractors, entrepreneurs, consultants and advisors, freelancers, etc.) make up over ⅓ of the US workforce. Their livelihood depends on their ability to build connections, and ultimately trust, with other members of their community.

What industry are you in and how do you currently manage your personal network? Please share your insights and stories below.

Dana Byerlee is a corporate strategist and relational marketing expert to both Fortune 500s and startups. She has worked with Ferrazzi Greenlight, and is passionate about leveraging new technology to break down barriers and build deeper connections. @LADLynn

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