A System For Selling

by Brian Casel  ·  Get free updates of new articles here

How do you bring in a steady, predictable stream of new customers every month?

Answering that question has been my focus over the past month for my SaaS business, Restaurant Engine.  I’m knee-deep in operation growth, and this has been my most recent project:  Rethinking and re-building our CRM and sales operation to position us for month-over-month growth (is this what the cool kids are calling “Growth Hacking” these days?  Anyway…)

Today, I’ll share the exact CRM system I’ve built using Trello and Gravity Forms, along with our strategies for calling and following up with leads, and collaborating as a team.

Read on to get the strategy and story behind our system. At the end, you can download my step-by-step instructions for setting up this same CRM (or, you can grab it now).

But first, let’s walk through some high-level strategery…

You see, up until now, we’ve relied exclusively on our content marketing effort, which has helped us solidify a baseline level of traffic, leads and customers — all from organic sources.  This has been a great first step.

But content and organic sources alone aren’t enough.  The resulting growth comes in drips and drabs, some periods heavier than others.  It’s slow, it’s difficult to track and even harder to optimize.

I’m looking for a stream.  A steady, predictable, high-volume stream of traffic, leads, and sales.  A system.  An operation that can continuously be refined, improved, and incrementally scaled up month after month.

So that’s what I’m building.  Piece by piece, I’ve developed our system for selling new customers and growing our SaaS.  Today, you’ll get a look at what this system looks like.  Consider this “Version 1”.  I’m happy with how it’s working and the results we’re seeing.  But it’s far from complete, and we’ll be making improvements every month for the foreseeable future.

But it’s a start…

System Requirements

Remember when you’d go to CompUSA to shop for software and before buying, you had to read the side of the box, where it read (in super fine print) “System Requirements”?  Those were the days…

Well, when you’re designing a system to plug into your business, you’ve got to pay attention to the system requirements for your business.  That is, make sure that the system you’re building fits with your strengths, your resources, and your particular market.

In my case, I identified a few “System Requirements” for Restaurant Engine’s sales system:

  • No cold calls…  In my opinion, cold calls are a waste of time.  The response rate is far too low to justify the time investment.  As a bootstrapped company, we have to spend our time wisely.  Cold calling isn’t a wise use of our time.
  • …But lots of phone conversations.  Although we’re not “cold calling”, we are spending lots of time on the phone with customers.  As much as I’d prefer to work exclusively over email and chat, avoiding the phones just isn’t a reality when you’re selling to restaurants.
  • Education-based.  We already excel at education-based content marketing.  This must work hand-in-hand with our sales system.
  • Remove myself.  Although I have become quite comfortable with sales calls over the past year, I recognize it’s not my strength.  I need to spend my time on other things.  So I brought in a new person to take over most of these sales calls.  A key requirement of this system is it must allow for easy collaborate with my sales team.
  • Remote.  My team is 100% remote.  That means our systems must play nicely with a remote working environment.
  • Efficient.  I want to spend our time wisely.  That means we must spend all of our time communicating with customers and practically no time fumbling around our CRM, doing manual data entry, etc.  All of the “mechanics” must be automated.
  • Trackable.  At any given time, we need the ability to open up our CRM and check on the status of any prospect.  Who’s handling it?  When was the last conversation and what was discussed?  When is the next followup?  It all must be there, at our fingertips.
  • Measurable.  We must have ways to measure how we’re doing from month-to-month.

Now that we’ve laid out our priorities for our ideal sales system, let’s go through the tools and procedures we’ve put in place:

Top of the Funnel

Restaurant Engine gathers new leads from a number of sources, and these sources change on a monthly basis as we try new things.  But all of our lead generation activities have one thing in common:

Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms (for WordPress) has been my forms system of choice for years.  It’s incredibly powerful, flexible, customizable, and most importantly, the easiest to integrate with other pieces of the puzzle.

We have quite a few forms throughout our website.  Contact form, consultation request form, forms on our lead-gen landing pages, opt-in forms on our blog, and more.  The set of fields vary from form to form, but most collect a few pieces of key info from the prospect:

  • Name
  • Email
  • Phone Number
  • Restaurant Name
  • Restaurant Site URL (if any)


Currently, we use MailChimp to manage our email list.  All of our gravity forms integrate with our Mailchimp list, using the Gravity Forms Mailchimp Add-On.

New subscribers in Mailchimp typically receive some form of educational content, like a checklist PDF or an email course.  After that, they’re on our list to receive new content from us weekly.

So while we’re pursuing phone conversations with new prospects, they’re also receiving educational content from us via email.  This supports our sales process because as they become more educated about the technology and best practices, they become more aware of the value that our product offers.


Trello is our CRM (customer relationship manager).  I tried lots of others, but I came back to Trello for a few reasons:

  • I love the visual “cards” system.  Every customer gets a card, which holds all of the relevant info.  Then we drag and drop that card from list to list as they progress through the sales funnel.
  • It’s designed for team collaboration.  My team and I assign ourselves to each lead, so we know who is communicating with which leads.
  • Trello allows for more integration than any other tool, which I’ll explain in a minute…
This is our "Leads" board in Trello.  Each list represents a different lead source.

This is our “Leads” board in Trello. Each list represents a different lead source.

Every lead's card looks something like this. All of their info, a checklist procedure, and ongoing notes.

Every lead’s card looks something like this. All of their info, a checklist procedure, and ongoing notes.

Integrating Gravity Forms & Trello using Zapier

HelpForWP sells a nifty plugin for integrating Gravity Forms & Trello.  However, I ended up using Zapier instead.  Zapier allows me to integrate multiple Gravity Forms with multiple Trello lists.  It also provides lots of flexibility and customization.

Zapier is a tool for integrating (almost) any app with any other app.  Both Gravity Forms and Trello have “Zaps” available for use within Zapier, which basically means they’ve made their API’s available to connect with other apps using Zapier’s easy interface.

Look at the 2nd screenshot above, showing the detail of one card (for one lead) in Trello.  Everything you see there has been automatically created using the Gravity Forms/Trello integration via Zapier.  Here’s what happens:

  1. A visitor fills out one of our Gravity Forms on our site.
  2. A new card is created in Trello, placed in the list that this particular Gravity Form is associated with (each list is a different lead source).  The person’s name and Restaurant Name become title of the card.
  3. The customer’s info, which they had entered into the Gravity Form, is populated in the description area of the Trello Card.  Using Markdown, I formatted this so that it’s easy to read.
  4. I also told Zapier to add a Checklist to every new card, which is a procedure that my sales team follows for every new lead.
  5. Finally, I told Zapier to set a “Due Date” for every new card, 72 hours after the creation date.  This gives us 3 days to contact the lead before Trello starts telling us we’re falling behind.

With a steady stream of new leads, complete with their contact info and restaurant info, we’re ready to start making calls and reaching out.

Phone calls & Emails

Every new lead receives a call from us within one or two business days.  Remember, these are not cold calls.  We’re calling people who have expressed interest in our product and submitted their contact info.  So they’re expecting our call and welcome the conversation.

Once we reach out to a new lead, the first thing we do is move their card into a separate Trello Board, named “Sales Conversations”.

Our "Sales Conversations" Trello Board.  Each list represents a different phase in the sales cycle.

Our “Sales Conversations” Trello Board. Each list represents a different phase in the sales cycle.

In our “Sales Conversations” Trello board (seen above), each list represents a different phase in the sales cycle.  As of now, these lists are:

  •  Attempted 1st Contact – When we’ve called a new lead, but couldn’t reach them yet, we place their card here.
  • 1st Conversation – We move their card here once we’ve connected with the lead and had our first conversation.  At this point, we enter some notes as “Activity” on that card, about what we talked about and what the next steps are.
  • Pending – We move their card here after we’ve had a 2nd followup call and/or email conversation.  In this phase we’re in regular communication with the prospect while they’re making their decision to sign up (or not).
  • Signed Up – Cards are moved here once they convert from being a prospect to a customer.  They’ve signed up 🙂
  • Didn’t Sign Up – If the prospect specifically tells us it’s a no go, we place their card here (but we always try to learn what were the deal breakers).
  • Couldn’t Make 1st Contact – If after 2 phone attempts and emails without making that 1st connection, we move the card here.

Grasshopper Phone Number

For a while, I simply used my office land-line as the business phone number for Restaurant Engine.  But now that my team is growing, and we’re fully remote, the land-line just isn’t workable.

That’s where Grasshopper comes in.  I created a new phone number on their system, and it allows my team and I to operate one phone number from different locations.

In our case, the killer feature of Grasshopper is the ability to set a schedule for where the phone rings.  As of this writing, we have 2 people working the phones.  Myself, and Ashley, our newest team member.  She’s based in California, while I’m in Connecticut.  When someone calls our company number, I want it to ring Ashley’s phone, but only during her working hours.  All other hours, it should ring my office.  And during off-hours, it should go straight to voicemail.

Another cool feature is the ability to transfer a call.  Ashley can place a caller on hold and transfer it to me.  She can even stay on the line and get me up to speed on the customer’s inquiry.  This doesn’t happen often, but it’s nice to have this ability.

HelpScout for Email

We’ve been using HelpScout to manage all of our customer support email.  It’s fantastic.  I love how it’s completely invisible to the customer.  All they see is a regular email conversation.

We’ve now begun using HelpScout for all of our pre-sales email conversations as well.  This works great for the following reasons:

  • We have a single email address — info@restaurantengine.com, managed by multiple (remote) team members.  Any of us can hop in and out of any email thread at any time.
  • We can see if/when a customer has viewed an email from us.  Great to see whether our first contact attempts are getting through.
  • We can add private notes alongside email conversations.  This has been super useful for our customer support emails, relaying technical, “behind the scenes” messages, but it also comes in handy when collaborating on tricky pre-sales questions from prospects.

Sales Script?

We don’t have those.  Creating a carefully worded sales script doesn’t work for us for a few reasons:

  • Every customer is different.  Some are quite tech savvy, some are not.  Some are established restaurant owners, some are startups.  Some aren’t even restaurant owners, but consultants.  We can’t speak the same way to every customer.
  • Multiple lead sources.  We approach leads differently depending on how they found us.
  • Our unique personalities.  I hire outstanding communicators.  It’s the #1 thing I look for (in any position).  I want them to speak and relate to customers however they feel works best for them.  I think having rigid sales scripts limits the potential of great communicators.

Another important reason I stay away from sales scripts is I prefer to do more listening than talking.  I typically start most calls off by saying, “So, tell me about your restaurant” and then “Can I answer any questions about our service?”  Then I sit back, listen, and learn.

What I’m listening for are things that this customer values.  What are the key parts of their business?  Which features are they asking lots of questions about?  What would make our product a win for them?  By listening and hearing them out, I’m able to tailor our conversation accordingly.  I’m giving them the precise information they seek.  But more importantly, I’m proving that we care enough to listen and make this the right fit for them.

But wait — My goal is to remove myself from doing the sales calls, remember?  So how can I transfer my knowledge and sales experience to a new hire?

Documentation.  I created three Google Docs and included them in our set of operating procedures.  Those three docs are:

  • Key Benefits – The 3-5 key benefits our product offers.  It’s our unique value proposition.  Our goal is to make sure our customer understands the value we offer, and that starts with our team fully understanding it.
  • Common Questions & Answers – Answers to the most commonly asked questions I’ve heard over the past 2 years of doing sales calls.
  • Common Objections & Responses – How to respond to common objections like “It’s too expensive” or “I like XYZ alternative better”.

I don’t ask my team to recite the answers word for word.  They’re intended to educate my team so that they can confidently talk about our product, in their own way.


The key component that makes this entire sales system work is not any app, or metric, or magic sales script.  It’s the simple act of following up.

I can’t stress this part enough.  Time and time again, I’m reminded of the power of the followup. For Restaurant Engine, a large portion of our signups wouldn’t have happened had we not made a 2nd or 3rd followup call or email.  This even goes back to my years of consulting.  When I learned to follow up with leads, I found it easier to close more of those contracts.  In many cases, it seemed as if the client or customer was waiting for me to followup, just to see if I cared enough for their business.

In our sales system for Restaurant Engine, we ensure that every lead gets a follow up.  How?  By assigning a “Due Date” in Trello. Every card in Trello has a due date assigned to it at all times.

When the card is first created (automatically, via Zapier), it automatically has a due date to attempt first contact.  If no answer, we reset the due date for tomorrow and try again.  Once we’ve had our first conversation, we’ll set the due date again for next week to make a followup call.  Customer signed up?  Set a followup reminder for 2 weeks after to check in and make sure things are going smoothly (and maybe ask for a testimonial).  Always.  Follow.  Up.

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 2.59.34 PM

Like I said, we use “Due Dates” in Trello for our followup reminders.  Since we’re working with a high volume of leads (cards), Due Dates make it easy to visually see which ones need a followup. Just find the ones with the red “past due” marking.

Another tool I absolutely love (and still use quite a bit) is followup.cc.  This was my followup reminder system for years before Trello. Just Forward or BCC your emails to 5days@followup.cc or 1week@followup.cc or april15@followup.cc and it will send you an email back on that date to remind you.  Simple and effective.

To Be Improved…

There are a few things I plan to implement to help improve and optimize our system.  But instead of getting bogged down in these technical perfections, I decided to take a lean startup approach:  Get this up and running quickly, learn, iterate, refine, and improve.

But there is much to be improved and enhanced.

  • For example, using Gravity Forms, we can grab variables from the URL, like utm_source and utm_term and populate them into hidden form fields.  That means we can add info such as the traffic source and keyword query the lead used to reach us.  That all gets included in the submitted form info, which is then ported into the Trello card.  HelpForWP has an interesting plugin, Google Analytics Tracking for Gravity Forms, which seems to help with this as well.
  • Another possible enhancement might be to build in a way to “rate” new leads as our conversations unfold.  A higher rating would mean the prospect is more interested and closer to signing up.  We can then focus more of our attention on the higher rated leads.  We can make use of labels in Trello for this.

So… Can I call myself a “Growth Hacker”?

(I’d rather not)

Bonus: Want step-by-step instructions for setting up this CRM, exactly as I’ve described in this article? Get my setup guide

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  • This is beyond awesome.

    Like you, I avoid labels, but you are hacking growth rather than trying to artificially create growth with paid advertising. Wear that label proudly!

    And if you lived in Colorado I’d be begging you to come to work for me. If someone reading this happens to be in Colorado and can embrace all the ideas in this post, I hope you’ll consider applying for this job: http://www.builtincolorado.com/job/growth-marketer

    • Thanks Scott!

      I’m sure it’s a good position. Have you considered hiring remotely? I found that looking for talent locally is severely limiting. Check out: http://37signals.com/remote/

      • I’m open to it, but we really like the camaraderie in the office, and we’re small enough that we all back each other up quite a bit, too.

  • jeffrose

    Thanks Brian. Your insights into your process are always amazing & helpful!

  • KJ

    Great article its always interesting to see how others manage the sales process.

    One thing I didn’t notice was a back-end plan for nurturing your “lost deals.” I don’t know your close rate, but I’ve worked in sales environments where the close ratio was < 25%…So we crafted a plan that helped identify what to do with the 75% of our leads we were unable to close, based on a set of temporal decision making criteria. For example a prospect might be browsing because they have a contract expiring in 3 months, or they might be starting a business in the next 6 months, etc. They won't close right away but you can have a follow up system that automatically reaches out at the right time.

    I also noticed you have a goal of calling within 1-2 business days. That will murder your whole plan. If you aim for 5 minutes you'll see a dramatic increase in close rates. I'm sure you have an email confirmation setup, and maybe its strategic in nature (education based PDF, testimonials, etc).

    Also I don't see much on the qualifying stage….which may be the most important stage if you want to focus your time. Usually I look for similarities between our best existing customers and try to work backwards. Sales is a DISqualification process as you can't do business with everyone and have limited time and resources. There's a good possibility all of the people who find your website and fill out a form are qualified, so maybe you don't need this step.

    Great post, looking forward to hearing how it works out.

    • Thanks for sharing these notes KJ!

      – “lost deals” – we do have a list in Trello where we move cards to if they didn’t sign up, or stopped responding, etc. We do plan to check in with these folks a few months down the line. I didn’t detail that because this operation is only about 1 month old for us, so we haven’t gotten that far yet.

      – Although in Trello we set a 72h reminder to place a 1st call to a new lead, our policy is to call them as soon as possible, which is usually same day. In the past, I rigged up IFTTT to send me a text message when a new lead comes, and I used to call within 10 minutes. You’re right – that’s definitely effective. But now that I’m so busy and we’re scaling the team up, it’s hard be scrappy like that. But hopefully we’ll get back into that.

      – Qualification – I agree – though I think that makes more sense for higher-priced consulting sales. In our case, our prices are published on our website. In most cases, the person has had a chance to learn about our product and just wants to ask some questions.

  • Truly insightful stuff.

    It was amazing how I could dissect the information and use it as applicable.

    Using trello for organizing the leads is a game changer.

    Will definitely be applying this for our product – http://hisabing.com

    • Good to hear you found it helpful 🙂

      I’d imagine that customers of your invoicing product are more web savvy that restaurant owners, so you don’t need to rely so heavily on phone sales. But then again, that could be a great tactic to differentiate against larger competitors.

  • Hey Brian! Great post. I enjoyed it, as well as the one I tweeted the other day (as @BeSnappy, where I write). 🙂 I love the way you’re using Trello. I use it quite differently, but I also use Zapier with it. I love how versatile they both are. Two of my must-have apps for sure!!

    I’ll be lurking around a bit. 🙂

    • Awesome Alyssa, thanks for sharing! Ya, Trello is fantastic. I’m fairly new to Zapier but realizing how powerful it is – especially for someone like me who can’t code custom API integrations.

  • Hey Brian this is pretty interesting mate. I’d love to know what sort of numbers you are doing. Like how many signups in any given month? How many staff etc?

    To me it’s either not comprehensive enough if you are getting a lot of leads or it’s way over complicated if you are only getting a few. There’s too many moving parts and not enough personalisation.

    Not that I’m trying to flog Infusionsoft but I think you could put all of this into a CRM like Infusionsoft and achieve a few things:

    1. Not have so many systems which is always going to be a challenge as it scales. Trello is great, we used it early on as well but as we grew it became unusable to train staff and build processes around something so flexible. Things would go missing etc.
    2. Be able to send people information based on what you know about them rather than trying to send everyone the same thing. This really puts your content to work for you. If you check out some content on Hubspot and sign up for a download, follow what they do, they do it well. You might be able to work out which particular paths are good indicators of people becoming customers.
    3. Lead score people so you don’t have people calling everyone who signs up which isn’t that much different to cold calling. Like above you might be able to score people who do certain things and just call those people.

    I think most leads should come from referrals in most cases, that is the bit I would be focusing on personally.

    This feels like you are stuck between a spreadsheet and a comprehensive system that can grow.

    I could be wrong, this could work really well it just seems overly complex.

    I’m not sure this is really growth hacking either. I was a bit skeptical about the whole growth hacker thing but we did a great interview with Sean Ellis and I think he did a good job at explaining it. He also talks a lot about referrals in there which I think is more the essence of growth hacking than managing new leads.


    • Hey Dan (sorry for the late reply)…

      So – the reason we focus so heavily on in-person sales calls (not cold calls, but requested consultations) is we found that’s what works best for getting signups and preventing churn later — Especially for an industry like restaurants who barely even touch email.

      That said — we have implemented some of the things you describe here:

      1. The system probably looks more complicated here than it really is in practice. We haven’t had much of a challenge with it, though we’re still a fairly small operation (just 2 sales people right now).

      2. We do have an automated email sequence (we use Drip, which is somewhat similar to Infusionsoft), which is sent to folks after they request a consultation. So over a 3-4 week period, we’re personally following up with them while they receive our targeted email messages. And those are tailored based on the info they gave us when requesting the consultation.

      3. We don’t exactly do lead scoring, but we do have a list in Trello called “Promising” where we move a handful of leads who are most likely to sign up (which we determine based on conversations).

  • Manjesh Thomas

    Awesome! Detailed post. Really love the way you’re using Trello.

    • Thanks! Glad you found it helpful.

  • This is really very interesting! Found it in the Trello announcement that came today. I have considered using Trello as CRM, but my question is, after the sales process, where do you put your ongoing customers, and how do you manage those relationships?

    I see Trello as great for the sales process, but the advantage of a stand-alone CRM is that it’s easy to convert the lead into an account once they close.

    I’m curious how you handle this in your case, if you have time to respond.


    • Thanks Ethan!

      We do have a list in that Trello board where we move leads into once they sign up.
      But for managing our existing customers database, we mainly refer to our Stripe account (subscription processor) as well as our WordPress user database (our product is built on WP).

  • Yuriy

    Thanks for such a nice article about Trello.
    Brian, I wonder what do 8/8 or 3/8 mean? Do you have any subtasks?

    Also, it is quite interesting which information do you keep inside cards in “1st conversation” and “pending”.

    If you have some time to respond, I would appreciate it 🙂


    • 8/8 and 3/8 etc. refer to the checklists that are attached to every card.

      When a new card is created automatically via Zapier, (for a new lead), there is a checklist that is automatically attached to the card. That’s a checklist of actions that our sales person takes: Call the lead, send an email followup, link to the email here, move the card to the next list, etc.

      I found that checklist to be helpful when this system was new, but now that my team knows the process pretty well, it’s a bit redundant. Still good for new hires though.

      • Yuriy


  • Nicolas Grilly

    My team is using Trello as well. I’m curious about two things:

    – What do you do when you have too many cards in the same list/column?
    – How do you “clean” the board when you start accumulating too many cards in the signed/not signed columns/lists?

    • Too many people in the list can be a challenge sometimes… Especially in the column for new leads that we’re attempting to make a first contact with. Basically, we make 3 attempts and if no connection by then, we move them out of the list.

      Also, every card (every lead) always has a next action. That could be “follow up” or move them to the next list in the sales cycle.

      • Nicolas Grilly

        And I guess you archive them at some point?

        • Yes, leads ultimately end up either in the “Signed Up”, “Didn’t sign up”, or “Couldn’t make 1st connection”. We archive cards out those every month or so.

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  • Hey Brian!

    Just like the others below me, I absolutely LOVED reading this well-thought-out post and talented “tweaking of the system”. Bravo! Great job thinking outside the box. This is (except for a different WordPress plug-in to capture lead info) pretty much EXACTLY what I’ve been conjuring up in my head these last few days. Good to know I’ve been heading in the right direction 😉

    So, looking back now after a few months, how has this system been treating you so far? Are you still using it to the T (of what you’ve written above) or have you made a few tweaks to the system?

    I was wondering if you’d be kind enough to share with me the “zap” layout you’ve currently implemented across the headboard (different for each discovery). Maybe if I could even just see a layout — I’ve got everything figured out up until the Zap part…and then there are so many different ways I could go in programming that I get a bit overwhelmed!

    I’m the lead salesperson of only 2-3 total (and the only one caring enough about company-wide organization to get this all set up). I’ll be glad to have my time back and really think this will help keep us more organized, on task, and CLOSING!

    Thanks again for your time 🙂


    • Thanks Jourdan!

      I just added the bonus download to this post — it’s the exact step-by-step instructions for setting all of this up, incuding the Zap configuration in Zapier. The basic answer this is to select Gravity Forms as the “trigger” and Trello as the “action” in Zapier. (screenshot: http://d.pr/i/uG53). You can then configure the settings to map the form fields to the description of the Trello card (details in the downloadable guide).

      “So, looking back now after a few months, how has this system been treating you so far?”

      Great question… 8 months later, I can say that we do still use this system almost exactly 🙂 There are two tweaks that I can think of though:

      – We’ve added one additional list to the Trello board, called “Promising”. Basically, this is a way of lead scoring. We can tell (based on a number of factors) how likely a person is to sign up, and if they seem promising, we move them into this list. This helps us focus our attention on them.

      – We’ve since switched from using Grasshopper to using Skype for making phone calls. As a remote team, Grasshopper presented a few issues, mainly that it was eating up all of the cell minutes on my employee’s iPhone. Skype seems to work pretty well… My only complaint there is it’s tricky when both my teammate and I need to use the Skype phone line at the same time.

  • Hi Brian,

    Great post. I’m wondering about moving backwards and forwards between helpscout and Trello. (also noticed a field to paste the helpscout link, so this feels a bit clunky, no?). Did you try any of the helpscout “workflows”? They are a bit confusing some times, but I think you can also set reminders and alerts there using some custom rules. I think you can pretty much build your own basic version of followup.cc inside helpscout if you really want…

    I have one question about followups though. How do you make them effective without feeling a bit creepy or pushy? Is it just the standard “just checking…” email? or do you have some clever tips how to become better at those?

    • Ya, we manually paste the HelpScout url in the Trello card for each contact. We already handle every lead manually so it’s not a big deal to manually copy/paste the URL. Having it in the Trello card really helps us jump between the 2 apps efficiently.
      We do some stuff with HelpScout workflows, but mostly related to Customer support, not our sales/CRM stuff.
      Followup… Well we do have some templates emails but we personalize them for each contact. Keep in mind, we only deal with inbound leads– people who’ve requested consultations. We don’t do cold calls etc. So it’s a warmer, consultative relationship from the start.
      Brian Casel

      • Thanks Brian.

        So far the majority of our contacts have been inbound requests as well, yet relatively frequently a potential customer comes in with an enquiry, and we try to reply with something positive and ask a little about their needs, maybe we suggest talking over the phone so we can explain things better… then they disappear. I don’t think our first responses are that terrible, but somehow it happens. I would like to figure out some positive ways to follow-up, and so was wondering if you have any tips. We’re very inexperienced in sales, but try to improve and learn. I understand if you’d rather not go into detail about this, but even some general tips or favourite links could be really appreciated.


        • Sometimes it depends on the industry. For us, restaurant owners prefer phone, so they ask us to call them (now we call everyone). Other industries prefer email.

          We’ve had success with our “request a consultation” form as described in this article. That form requires all of their contact info, including their phone. So we can call them. Surprisingly, very few enter bogus phone numbers. I guess they wouldn’t bother if they’re not remotely interested to begin with.

          *Brian Casel*

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  • real great input this is!

    ever thought about adding a slack team account to your sauce? this could make a real difference for sales team communications …

  • Kevin VanDeWalker

    There is genius in simplicity. I love your simple system. Let me share one with you.

    an old school guy. Thirty years ago I talked my way into around 5000
    houses one year while attending college…selling door to door. I
    would average three sales of every ten doors I knocked on in an hour. I
    made 100 to 200 dollars an hour in commission back in 1980.

    first thing I did after I knocked on a door, was I looked for, listened
    for and even smelled for anything that I thought was important to that
    person… Then while I was introducing myself, I would interrupt myself
    in the middle of a sentence… look startled and then I would ask a
    question about the thing that I thought they valued most in life.

    I might say, is that a french poodle barking?

    Then I would look to see their reaction by the tone of their voice and the look in their eyes.

    If I guessed right, I’d say I love french poodles and start asking questions about it.

    found out that people can’t talk about the things they love a lot and
    still maintain a defensive posture. I gained instant rapport with them
    by listening to them talk about the things they loved.

    Then they
    would invite me into their house and listen to me make a quick pitch. I
    would knock on ten doors in an hour. Make three sales and I averaged
    150 dollars an hour in commission.

    Here was the thing that made me a success.

    I listened with my heart instead of hearing with my brain.

    will tell you what is important to them, but they often do it quietly
    and are subtle about it. I had about a ten second window of
    opportunity to catch it and make a sale by using that hot button to
    close the sale. If I continued talking about any other features or
    benefits of what I was selling then I would lose the sale.

    It’s a little like telling a funny joke. The timing has to be right or it’s not funny.

    I would lead them to a sale by asking powerful questions and listening.

    I had a system for selling door to door… It didn’t work every time, but it worked well when I worked the system.

    Let me tell you a secret about marketing and selling successfully.

    There are no secrets.

    You simply have to learn how to sell systematically….step by step.

    create systems that move the conversation forward instead of it dying
    trough a lack of interest due to the way you communicate.

    You automate the systems and then you work the system.

    I’m an old school guy that just joined the 21’st century last month when I got an IPhone.

    I was looking for a way to automate a simple sales system and you did it for me.

    Thank You !

    let me reciprocate the favor and let me show show you how I talk to
    total strangers and easily convert them to clients on the spot.

    you are selling a service, it is better to focus on effective ways to
    open relationships, than it is to be worrying about strategies to close

    You must learn how to grab and hold their attention with relevant stories that
    engage, entertain and educate… their hearts, minds, and souls.

    Let me demonstrate how to have any effective business dialogue with any

    I was at a wedding and I asked a photographer a question.

    I said, “What do you do for a living and she said, I’m a wedding photographer.

    That does very little to spark any interest or to capture a persons attention because it satisfies their curiosity and then their A.D.D. kicks in and they want to talk about something else and the conversation goes off in a different direction.

    By the way…This is what most people say when they are asked what they do for a living or they say something lame like…

    We are passionate about taking perfect photographs on one of the most special days of your life…

    We work to guarantee…., etc……as the conversation quickly dies off because it’s
    all about what we do and how we do it. It’s not about them.

    It’s all about the process and not about the end result. It’s not about the dream.

    To illustrate the point, if you were a carpenter and someone asked you what you did for a living would you say…

    I’m a carpenter and we work with quality built hammers and saws that cut wood and hammer nails to guarantee you a sturdy well built home. ( Process )

    or would you say…

    We build ideal homes in quiet neighborhoods with flowering cherry trees that provide a luxury lifestyle at an affordable prices. How many people do you know that would like to live in an ideal home in a quiet neighborhood? ( Dream)

    Okay, now let’s get back to back to my conversation i was having with the wedding photographer.

    I said, “ Can I hold your camera for a moment?” She gave it to me and I said, “Now ask me what I do for a living?”

    She responded, “Kevin, what do you do for a living?”

    I said, “I Guarantee Emotions!”

    She looked a little bewildered and asked me, “How do you do that?” ( Spark Curiosity )

    I responded, “Have you ever walked into a museum and looked at apiece of art on the wall that was so beautiful that it seemed to take your breath away?

    She said, “Yes.” I continued, “Some say the purpose of art is to stop time, beauty
    hijacks our attention and sometimes it leaves us breathless. The moment that we seem to lose our breath… that is the moment… that time seems to stand still.”

    “That’s what I do.”

    “I capture precious moments in time with my cameras that are so beautiful and magical that they seem to take your breath away.

    I capture expressions that touch every level of the mind, spirit, and soul.

    And just for a moment…time seems to stand still…as you recall a heartfelt memory
    that you will cherish for a lifetime.”

    She gazed at me with the look of surprise and child-like wonder in her eyes, and said, “
    WOW ! ”

    I then said to her, “I specialize in teaching smart business people just like you on how
    capture the attention and interest of people with engaging conversations like the one we are having now.

    She then asked me, “Kevin do you have a business card and when can I call you?”

    That is how you can effectively start a business building dialogue with a stranger.

    Your first ten words count a lot more than the next one thousand words.

    You have to measure the effect of your words.

    Then remain silent and observe their reaction to your first ten words.

    Last, but not least you must mirror their response.

    It’s easy and simple to do when you know how.

    I will be making cold calls today using my IPHONE.

    I can run my business using my smart phone.

    I’m selling financial equipment leasing programs for a brokerage firm.

    My system uses the following programs…


    Thanks for making my it easy for me to build a customized sales system.

    • wow – thanks for sharing the details of your process!

      *Brian Casel*

      • Kevin VanDeWalker

        Hello Brian:

        That was my very long way of saying thank you Brain for being a
        narrow flash light and cutting through a thick fog of useless information.
        I was lost in the 20th century until last month with a land line phone and today I’m going mobile with an IPHONE.

        I realize it was rather long post… I could have made it shorter, but I only had ten minutes to write it….LOL.

        I’m excited about getting started…

        I just imported a contact list from Sales Genie, “C.S.V. format” into MYPHONER which is a Free Software Program for Campaign Management and tracking leads.

        It is tailored to freelancers and small teams doing B2B cold calling. I think they are stationed out of Denmark. I live near Seattle Washington, USA.

        I got great customer service from a guy named Jeppe.

        It takes a little time to learn how to navigate around the MYPHONER program, but once Jeppe helped me figured it out, then I clicked on a name in a list and it auto dialed the IPHONE for me, plus I got a dashboard view of my contacts with the information I needed at at my finger tips.
        It may take me a little while to iron out the wrinkles in my cold call system, but so far things are going smooth.

        I love it when people say cold calling doesn’t work. It works for me… I’ve been doing it for around 40 years and now it just a got a lot easier for me.

  • Roman Storm

    One suggestion: I use Mandrill.com and all my form emails are sent to Mandrill and then it sends to email. You just have to install wp-mail-smtp plugin for WP to setup default SMTP server to Mandrill. Then, I track if we ever opened an email or lost it. It also gives me ability to have all Database of all emails. It can also convert any link you have to be able to track Open links, etc. You can also set Mandrill as your default email server to have Inbound emails. I use Contact Form 7 plugin and it has feature to use Mail(2) which send email directly to trello (to avoid 15 min wait from Zapier) http://help.trello.com/article/809-creating-cards-by-email

    • Roman Storm

      You can also setup bunch of Webhooks in Mandrill if you want to, it’s highly developer-friendly platform for emails.

  • Great stuff here! Love the thought and process and interesting use case re: Trello. One thing you might want to try is contacting leads sooner than 1-2 days. Like within 5 minutes. There’s some research out there (maybe inside sales or salesforce?) that shows the quicker you contact folks, the more likely they are to respond and close.

    • Hey Jason,

      Yep – We’ve called leads that fast before, when we can. When it was just me doing them, I called within 20 minutes, and yes, that clearly made an impact. It’s a bit more difficult when my team (who handles the consultations) only works part-time, but whenever possible I try to get these calls made ASAP.

      *Brian Casel*

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  • Nathan

    I really appreciate the time you took to create this post! Go you! 😀

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  • Hey Brian, it’s a great system, but also a lot of steps. I don’t know if you’ve seen Streak for Gmail, it’s basically a CRM which lives in Gmail and is shareable with multiple users. I have a tendency to complicate things.. and decided to use this and it’s been great so far. You can set automated follow ups, move lead status easily, have attachments, etc. I was using Trello, Buzzstream, and spreadsheets but now use only this. It can’t do Gravity form integration (to the best of my knowledge), but it’s worth a look.

  • Saved, saved, and saved! Well done. I was already kinda there, but nothing put it together as comprehensively. I know companies that would pay for a service that got this setup for them. 😀

  • Scott

    I tried Trello twice and it’s not as intuitive or automated as Cloze. You should try it. Close will learn how often you contact someone and remind you, and it will automate reminders for certain groups of your contacts like Clients (Active & Inactive), Prospects, etc…

    Cloze CRM is multi platform and browser based too. There’s nothing like it.

    Also, it’s a collaborative (team) inbox and Social CRM. It’s very flexible and easy. The automation alone will blow you away.

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  • Graeme Pyle

    Great post. We’ve built a visual cards product similar to Trello, but specifically for CRM. You’ve given me some great ideas for broadening the reach of our product using integrations. Thanks a lot!

    FYI: Here’s why we think our product is better than Trello 😉 https://taskputty.com/crm/trello-alternative

  • Boris Sondagh

    He Brian, great article! A question, part-time sales people, do you employ them as actual employees or like freelancers?

    • Thanks Boris! Every business is different, so that really depends. But for part-time people, I typically go with an hourly freelance structure.

  • MJ

    Thank you for this post!!! My husband and I own a service based business that has grown faster than we could have ever imagined! I’m trying to figure out what would be the best way to keep up with all the incoming leads. Our business is the only one of it’s kind in at least a 150 mile radius and even even further in one direction.

    I know we are missing many opportunities with our pink slip system and I refuse to do so anymore!!! We also have many more leads from Facebook and in text messages and I need them all in one place!

    Your post has helped me wrap my brain around the lead management process and made me realize other things I need to consider, so thank you again!!

    Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    • I, Am Magneto

      What type of business do you run?

  • Brilliantly simple solution!

    I’ve been running a software company for 14 years. When I started our new project, I wanted to first clear my mind of the baggage of the business with thousands customers and 20 employees. I’m glad I came across your post.

    Thanks Brian!

  • shar
  • Hi Brian,

    Thanks again for this great content! I’m currently using Insightly CRM but looking to make a change to Trello or PipeDrive. My concern with PipeDrive is what happens after a deal is closed and transitioning into a project management sequence. My concern with Trello is a lack of tracking sales #’s. Any thoughts? (Maybe using both is an option too, event though I’d like to keep it simple like you)

    Thanks again!

    • Hey Luke –

      Well, I wrote this when I was running my previous company. There, I used this Trello CRM system… Now in my current company (Audience Ops), we’re using Pipedrive CRM.

      I like Pipedrive because it’s similar to Trello in layout (KanBan).

      Let me answer your questions based on what we currently do at Audience Ops (it was different back when I wrote this article):

      Transitioning to Project Management… Basically, when a customer signs up, we get alerted in Slack and SMS text (thank you Zapier). At that point, the sales person manually puts the new customer’s info into our “Customer Onboarding” Trello board and pings our manager to take over from there.

      Tracking sales #’s… Surprisingly, Pipedrive doesn’t do a great job of this (at least I haven’t figured it out). We basically track sales numbers manually using a Google Spreadsheet. Not ideal, but it works, and it’s still manageable for now.

  • Hey Brian, I love when I stumble into past podcast guests through Google searches 🙂

    So I love your flow here, and I am building out something similar for my business. Here is my main struggle though.

    Have you found anyway to link an email thread with a Trello board? Or have an email automatically pop into a card for that client as a comment?

    I can’t seem to figure out a good way to do this but would love to be able to see email history on the trello cards vs having to search my inbox for conversations.

    Any thoughts?

    • Hey Jake – I wanted the same thing, but couldn’t find a direct integration… These days I have our VA handle some manual tasks like adding the helpscout link to the lead card (my current company uses Pipedrive, but you can do the same with Trello).

      • Thanks a ton Brian, I just checked out Pipedrive and it looks great. Just like trello but with those extra sales features. I am going to give that a shot. Thanks for the recommendation.