I’m a huge fan of systems and I’m obsessed with automation… so it’s no secret that organizing my network is one of the most important parts of my business and as you’re going through this networking blog series with me, I hope you’re starting to fall in love with it too.
Great systems will help you do the work of like seven people, even if you’re just one.
… and as an entrepreneur, sales person or someone who has goals to hit, organizing your network is the single most important thing you’ll do for yourself.
Organizing Your Network with Systems
In order to run this (or ANY) system, you need tools.
Could you use the good ol’ spreadsheet or notecards?
… If you want to burn out.
In order to grow your network, you need a system that does the heavy lifting for you.
Realistically, if you’re going to be a business owner, the first thing you SHOULD invest in is a way to manage your leads and your network.
I’ve been using Contactually for-ev-er… We’re talking about going back to like 2012… I’ve tried approximately nine million different CRMs and I always end up back at Contactually…
That’s because I like powerful systems that are beautiful and simple to use.
You definitely don’t need to use Contactually, but I highly recommend them and pretty much every blog post that I write mentions it because it’s at the core of my entire business.
You can try Contactually for free for 30 days and you’ll get access to my follow-up templates too.
They call their contact groups “buckets”, so I’m going to break down for you the different buckets that I use.
I have a different bucket for every type of contact in my life because each bucket is set up with a different follow up program.
Every single bucket has an automated program attached to it, so when I add someone to a specific bucket, the tasks start triggering automatically.
Every morning, I log into Contactually to do the tasks on my dashboard.
If it tells me to call someone, I call them.
If it tells me to mail someone, I mail them.
If it tells me to check on someone about something specific, I do that too.
This is my lead generation time and it’s the only way I can maintain my relationships and nurture my leads without burning out.
You have two jobs…
Make no mistake, if you’re in sales, own a business or want to own a business, you’ve got to spend time generating leads.
Every single business has two jobs… What you do and lead generation because until you have enough leads, there are no other problems.
You can choose to find those leads however you want to but you have to find them…
Once you figure out how to leverage your lead generation so you can have someone else do it for you, you might not have to be so involved but if you want your business to stay afloat, you’ve got to be looking for new leads.
The ONLY way to handle it all is with some serious organization and crazy systems.
So here’s how I organize my network to make sure Contactually does the heavy lifting for me:
Categorizing Your Contacts
Newly Met Bucket
For the longesttttt time, I was CRAZY overwhelmed with all of the new people I was meeting and trying to figure out how to organize them all. When someone brand new comes into my life, they’re added to this bucket.
The follow-up system for this reminds me to invite them for a one on one (I generally try to do at least 3 one on ones per week) and then once that’s complete, to add tags for them and remove them from this bucket.
I have a rule that says if I have to do anything more than once, I have to find a way to streamline it.
So whenever someone new comes into my life, they’re added to this bucket.
I leave nothing to my memory.
Every interaction gets logged in Contactually (if they’re emails, they’re automatically pulled in) but I add texts, calls and one on ones.
I don’t try to remember anything… I just add it and when I need it again, it’s there.
It definitely takes some getting used to but as you start seeing the benefits, it becomes addictive and every time you go back to those notes or have a reminder to follow-up and someone goes “I’ve been meaning to call you”, you fall in love with the system more and more and you manage it totally stress free.
One of the things I love MOST about Contactually is it pulls in everyone you email or add to your contacts so you don’t have to actually go in and add them unless they hand you a business card.
New Relationship Bucket
Once we’ve completed our one on one, they’re added to this bucket.
I’ve talked about the importance of building a relationship over a period of 8 weeks a million different times and even wrote a whole blog post about it:
No matter how memorable you think you are, people are freakin’ busy.
They’re not going to remember you and even if they do, you haven’t solidified the relationship enough to earn their business so regularly contributing value to them will keep you top of mind.
Since the 8×8 in the blog post above is a simplified version of my “new relationship” follow-up plan, I’m giving you the actual templates I use to follow-up with my new contacts right here:
Reconnect + Rerun 8×8 Bucket
You know when you meet someone that you don’t really hit it off with right away or you take too long to follow-up and then you don’t hear back from them?
*Drum roll please*
That’s what this bucket is for.
I met these people but for whatever reason, we just didn’t connect so instead of just trashing them, I find a way to connect with them still.
Basically, this bucket consists of adding them on social media and interacting with their stuff every so often so that when I do run into them again, there’s a little more rapport there and we can have a better conversation.
Think about it this way…
Connections = $
With that in mind, no good contact ever goes to waste.
Every person that comes into your life is someone you can help and who’s lives you can make a difference in so instead of just archiving them, they’re added to this bucket.
Next up, these are my core 50 people.
That number can be whatever you want it to be but for me, it’s 50.
These are people I actually like talking to, want to (or have) done business with, have the capacity to help me reach my goals, are also well connected and the value that we can exchange is pretty balanced.
The key here is that these people can help me reach my goals, so I want to make sure that I’m REALLY taking the time to invest in them.
These are the first people I invite to different events, the first ones that I share opportunities with and the first ones that I check in on.
You don’t need to be besties with every one of them, but making sure that you’re regularly contributing value to them will ensure that when the opportunity arises for them to help you, they’re actually excited because you’ve done so much for them.
I actually have two separate buckets for this…
The first is for buyer leads and the second is for seller leads.
I mentioned in a previous blog post that when someone tells me they want to buy or sell real estate, the campaign they’re added to includes 33 touches over 90 days…
Yup, sounds like a lot, but believe it or not, they love it.
There are 12 emails, 13 texts, 4 mailings and 3 calls that go out… and every single one of them are pieces of value that someone who wants to buy or sell a house would actually find valuable.
Oh, and if you’re doing the math, that was only 32… The 33rd touch is either a property search (which sends every time a new property comes up in their criteria) or a property valuation (that sends out monthly).
All together, it actually ends up being way more than 33 touches but I don’t count the property searches or home valuations.
With that in mind, because the buckets are attached to programs that automate all of that for me, I just add them to the correct bucket and the program starts firing.
I know that probably sounds like a lot but here’s the thing: the emails and text messages are automated.
All I had to do was create them once, set it up and now they go out automatically.
I look like a rockstar to my leads and because I automated it, I don’t have to think about it until I get an email from someone with a question or telling me how much they love the emails.
I get a reminder to send out the mailings and that’s systemized too. I already have the four mailings printed and Contactually just tells me which one to send them on what day.
Yes, I have to set up the property searches and home valuations but again, once I set it up (which takes less than 30 seconds per person), I don’t have to think about it again until they respond.
Lastly, all I really have to do is make the phone calls and in the follow-up plans, it tells me what to say when I call so I never have to think.
I’m a huge fan of the phrase, “the more you have to think, the less likely you are to do it”.
… and with this follow-up plan, I don’t have to think. I just do what Contactually tells me to do and I get to look like a rockstar.
Do you need to set up such a complicated and advanced follow up plan?
I didn’t start that way either… They were layered in, one piece at a time.
I started with the mailings and phone calls like I mentioned in the 8×8 blog post above, then added in the emails, then the property searches and valuations and the most recent thing that was added was the text messages.
If you try to start out too complicated, you’ll never do it so start simple and build.
Yes, I know, that doesn’t sound sexy and you want to do everything at once… but trust me.
One baby step at a time.
It’s the only way to sustain your growth without burning out.
Long Term Nurture Bucket
After someone finishes my new relationship or buyer/seller follow up campaign, they’re automatically added to my long term nurture bucket.
I know you’re tired of hearing this but you’re going to keep hearing me say this over and over again…
This is totally automated so I don’t have to think about it.
I use BombBomb to send out monthly video emails to the people on my long term nurture list so I sat down for a couple of days, recorded 12 short videos and scheduled them to go out… and I don’t think about it again until I start getting responses.
Does all of this take time to create?
Absolutely… but it’s worth it.
Too often, we’re stuck on the income roller coaster where we hustle for new business, find new business and get tied up servicing it, once that new business is handled, we’re right back to hustling.By having a short term and long term nurture plan already automated, it takes an hour or two a day to go through and make the phone calls and send the mailings and your business starts to grow.
I’m so passionate about automating your follow ups that in addition to the 8×8 blog post above, I also wrote a blog post that’s basically what I used to create my long term nurture campaign. You can check it out right here:
My point in all of this is if you want to grow without feeling overwhelmed and without burning out, you’ve got to have systems in place and that’s exactly what this is all about.
The above buckets can be used for anyone, regardless of what industry you’re in, whether you sell a product or service and whether you’re digital or in person… but because in addition to selling real estate, I also lead MEB, I have a few other buckets that I wanted to make sure I mentioned, just in case.
MEB Collaboration: This bucket is for bloggers, venues and anyone else who we’ve collaborated with in the past or may want to collaborate with in the future. I’ve left this as a very general bucket because I narrow down with tags rather than having 50 different “collaboration” buckets for each type of collaboration.
MEB Members: These are people who are members and attend our workshops so I reach out to them often for ideas, feedback and random pieces of value.
Vendors: Similar to the collaboration bucket, this is for anyone who I’d recommend to one of my real estate clients.
Other Realtors: I interact with other realtors regularly, so this bucket is where they all go.
Nonlocal: These are people who don’t live in the area anymore but I won’t delete them because as we start opening chapters in other cities, knowing people that live there will help us grow faster.
Originally when I started organizing my network, I had like 9430438030238938293024834589 buckets (that’s only a slight exaggeration) and I was trying to figure out how to minimize those without losing the customization, so enter tags. Buckets are categorized by how I interact with people while tags are quick little notes that allow me to sort people by type of relationship. With that in mind, here are a few of the tags I have for people:
Past Clients: I don’t have a specific bucket for them because I don’t interact with them any differently than my long term nurtures except around Thanksgiving when I send out a gratitude card to them. Because there isn’t a whole lot different, I don’t keep a separate bucket for them.
Shit List: You’re probably laughing but I’m dead serious. There have been vendors that messed up or people who pissed me off that I just won’t work with. Because I don’t try to keep everything in my mind, I just added a tag for this. There are only a few people on it, but when someone asks for a roof recommendation, I don’t have to remember who the one that tried to screw one of my clients over is, I just have to make sure they’re not the one with the shit list tag.
Met at: I recently started doing this and it’s been cool to see how this comes in handy. Whenever I meet new people, I’m
Invite to MEB: Before workshops, I send out a reminder to the people with this tag to invite them. They’re usually people who’ve attended a workshop but haven’t become a member or someone I met with and want to get them introduced to MEB.
Mentors: This one is self-explanatory. I like to keep a tag of them so when I need advice, I can go to my mentor list and ask a few of them.
Gave Referral: Another self-explanatory tag, I like to keep track of the people who’ve given referrals because it helps me see who I should be investing more of my time in.
Type of Collaboration: As mentioned above in the “other buckets” section, these tags will look like “MEB Collab: Blogger” or “MEB Collab: Venue”. This helps me keep track of what type of collaboration we can do together and quickly helps me narrow down what I’m looking for.
Type of Vendor: Similar to the ‘type of collaboration’ tags, I also have tags for “Vendor: Roofer”, or “Vendor: Mortgage” and things of the like to quickly narrow down to exactly what I’m looking for.
Simplifying Your Life With Tasks, Templates + Plans
I’m not going to get into a whole lot of detail on this since we’re just talking about organizing your network in this post but I at least thought it was necessary to mention it…
Tasks: I’m hugeeee on having action items after every conversation. Even if it’s just ‘check in on them again in 90 days’, I don’t end a conversation without an action item. Once people go into my “long term nurture” bucket, that’s usually what the task is. When someone’s in the buying or selling process, the action items can vary… but every single person gets tasks added to them. I’m a FIRM believer in doing what I say I’m going to do, so if I make a commitment to you, best believe it’s going into Contactually.
Email Templates: This is probably going to steal some of the magic but email templates make me look like a superhero. 99% of my communications are templates and I’ll just add a quick little note to make it more personal. The less I have to think, the more I can do, so templates allow me to be that rockstar.
Follow Up Plans: I’ve mentioned it a few times throughout this post, but each bucket has a follow-up plan. I never have to worry about not following up with someone often enough or trying to find a way to add more value to them, I just do what Contactually tells me to do because I know my follow-up plans work.
I know this probably sounds crazy and overwhelming, but I promise with a little practice, Contactually makes it totally sustainable and keeps you from getting overwhelmed on a day to day basis.
Your network becomes a living breathing organism that’s growing, maturing and changing.
The best networkers have a wide network that includes a lot of people and a deep network where you have a great relationship with them.
This system takes some time to build and requires daily maintenance in the form of making your calls and doing the mailings, but it makes it infinitely easier to manage a larger number of leads and relationships without burning out and making every single person feel like they’re the most important person ever.
The second caveat to this is you have to actually do it every day… Systems do the heavy lifting, but you still have to work the system.
Depending on how large your network is and how you meet people, you’ll have days that pop up with like 3 tasks and you’ll have days that pop up with like 30 tasks… but you have to commit to doing them so that all of the programs run right.
Want to know how I do this?
Get my follow-up templates right here: