If you are a freelancer or run a small studio, properly managing your sales and potential sales are really important. For most of us, clients aren’t knocking down the door. Each deal is an important one so it makes sense to actually spend some time managing that process. For the average freelance designer or developer a CRM tool like Salesforce or SugarCRM is complete overkill. So what do you do? Do you pay more money than you need to for more features than you need to get a product that you’ll only use to about 10% of its capability? That’s one way to go.
A nifty little CRM called Stride, however, is aiming to be in the space of simplistic, fast, yet useful CRM. It strips down do the core feature of managing your deals and then continues on with some nice metrics to help you keep tabs on just what’s happening in your sales process. On top of all of this, the application is quite beautifully designed just adding to an already solid experience.
Stride removes all of the fluff. They’ve taken out what many other applications view as standard components. You won’t be managing your contacts, managing cases or allocating tasks. The application is designed to be very quick to use, but still very useful to managing your deals. It’s really a rethinking of a CRM tool all together.
The core feature of Stride is managing your deals. When you first log into the application you’ll see a view of all of your current deals with a visual indication of where they are in your process. A title and the client name along with a breadcrumb type navigation allows you to adjust the phase of the deal without even opening it up. Click on the button corresponding to the step you want to move the deal to is all that needs to be done. You’ll have the option to add a note corresponding to the change if you’d like.
From this main view you’ll also have the ability to put a deal on hold, mark it as lost, edit or delete the deal. Interacting with your deals is insanely quick and easy. It would take you seconds to move a deal from the pitch to negotiating the contract while including a quick note about the pitch.
Adding a Deal
Now, the deals have to get into Stride in some way right? Well, lucky for you that is really simple as well. While it will require little more effort on your part, it is still as simple as filling in three fields. The deal name, the client name and then you have the option to assign either a monetary or star value to the project.
It’s a small detail in a simple app, but I like the option to enter a monetary value or a rating type value. Early on you may only have an idea of the potential return so a rating on that potential seems to make more sense to me than a number you pull out of thin air. A guess that ends up being way off could really throw your metrics out of whack. When the deal moves forward in the process and you do figure out the actual monetary value you can edit the project and make the change.
Manage a Deal
While a lot can be done simply from the main screen sometimes it will be beneficial to open up a deal. In this view you’ll see a timeline associated with the deal showing the dates of each change in your process and any corresponding notes. Those notes that we could add when moving the deal from one phase to another will show here along with other more general notes which can be added from this screen as well. This is a fantastic way to get a quick full view of the entire process for a given deal. It’s a pretty powerful feature and the fact that it’s generated automatically makes it even more awesome. I envision receiving a call from a prospective client, quickly pulling up the corresponding deal in Stride, and by the time you’ve said your hellos you’ll have a sense of exactly where your deal sits with that client.
On this view is also a very small and simple task widget. I’ll emphasize the size and functionality of this thing because I’ll be honest, I didn’t even see it right away. Stride is meant to be very barebones and task management is probably pushing the envelope for what the problem they’re trying to solve. That said, I think this is a nice little feature and the manner in which it has been implemented and how it works still very much fits in with the overall vision of the application.
Enter in a task, hit enter/return. Check it off when you’ve completed it. A completed task will then show up in the deal timeline. Very simple, yet potentially quite handy tool.
Now that you’re managing all of your deals in Stride you’d probably like to see how efficient you actually are in your process. Good news, the other remaining standard CRM functionality deal with metrics. This feature has been greatly simplified into giving you the most useful things right up front.
Everything is calculated and evaluated for you and you’re presented with the monetary value of your active deals, your average deal worth as well as the number of current active deals (remember some may not yet have a monetary value associated) as well as your total deals all-time.
You’ll also see three pie charts that break down the most important metrics of any deal. The first and most obvious is whether the deal was won or lost. Next you’ll see a break down of the value in each step along with the time spent per step. When you really think about what things you care about when looking back and analyzing your deals or your process these are the elements that are most central.
It is also possible to sign your self up to receive weekly summaries of your deals. A very nice, and quite handy feature I’d say. It’s like having your very own intern that runs you your very own report each week.
Even in its simplicity, Stride can be customized a little bit. The steps in the process can be changed. Initially they are lead, pitch, negotiation, closing and won. If you’d like to change some terminology or steps all together that is possible to do.
It is also possible to change the currency type to other popular world currencies.
When Stride came into view, I immediately wanted to check it out. I had been helping a friend evaluate some of the more popular CRM tools and had been really pushed back by the crazy number of features available. It felt like you would spend the first year of you’re pretty darn expensive contract just learning how to use the application. We were looking for some core features and everything we saw went way further than was needed. I think this is a pain point for a lot of freelancers and small businesses.
Now, I will say that Stride isn’t necessarily for everyone. For someone that wants more on the customer side of things, you should look elsewhere. Stride does feel pretty perfect for the small design studio or freelancer just looking for a little better way to manage their deals in a cost effective manner. In that business especially, each deal is incredibly important and simply staying up to date with what you’ve got in the pipeline can actually make or break your business.
Stride is free for up to twenty total deals and then $7 per month after that. However, I should also note that the application is only available via a beta invite code at the moment so you may have to
wait a bit to try it out use our redemption code: betaindustry. But be quick! It won’t last forever!
Long story short, if you’re in this market looking for a simple CRM tool, Stride is absolutely worth a try!