Best Practices for Using Microsoft Outlook from a Sales Perspective

Arrow-Tip #21 Let Your Business Process Determine How You Use Outlook

You can install the best software in the world, but it won’t do much for you if you don’t have a good business process behind it. Microsoft Outlook is no exception – even if you just use it to manage your email. And if you use Outlook and HuntressPro for contact management, then having a good process is even more critical. Over the years I have seen several organizations try to substitute a good business process with software automation e.g. you can not click on this button until you have filled out that field. These constraints often annoy the user forcing him to work around the software and eventually thwarting the system. To learn more about matching your software to your business process read on.

When Zee and I conduct Microsoft Outlook efficiency consults, one of the first things we do is ask the user about their job – what are the most important things they need to get done every day? Who do they need to communicate with to get their job done? What current methods do they use for communication? What is working for them and what is not. Until we have the answers to those questions, we might be able to show the user some cool Microsoft Outlook how tos, but we won’t necessarily be showing them the right how tos for their job function.

Likewise with a custom HuntressPro installation, I almost always recommend we start with a needs assessment (and am usually sorry when I don’t). In the needs assessment I outline the business processes that are driving the need for Huntress and in some cases we actually create a business process map indicating the places where Huntress will be used to complete process steps. (see snippet of sample process map in below).

Sample Business Process Map

As you can see in this snippet, Huntress is being used as a part of a bigger process of qualifying and disqualifying prospects which is a function that every sales person needs to be involved in – typing and clicking in Huntress is just how the process gets executed. When a sales person understands the overall process and why it is important, sales software not only makes more sense, but is easier to learn how to use.

One process that I discussed briefly in my Tuesday morning BNI group is my process for following up with my network. Take a look at the process maps below.

New Contact Process Follow Up Process

These steps may seem simple and self explanatory, but for a new sales person they may not be. In addition to helping bring new employees up to speed, business process mapping can also help even the most experienced networker maintain good habits or re-establish them if their work flow is temporarily interrupted by a big project or vacation.

Some other benefits of business process mapping include spotting inefficiencies, establishing roles and responsibilities within an organization and helping define requirements for software solutions. Once while working as an Environmental Consultant at ARCO Chemical, I put together a business process map for equipment leak detection and repair to help flush out evaluation criteria for a new software solution the organization was considering to help aid in fugitive emissions calculations. As a result we were able to evaluate the software not only from the perspective of the manager who was performing those calculations by hand, but also from the perspective of the technicians collecting fugitive emission data and the maintenance engineers scheduling repairs.

The real key to success with any software implementation is getting people to use it and use it correctly. If software does not match the business process it was designed to enhance, users will have to incorporate work arounds and not only will data input be inefficient, it will likely be highly flawed. On the other hand, if a software enables users to work within a process more efficiently and in a way that makes sense to them, the information coming out in the form of reports (such as daily follow up reports) could be invaluable.

One final thought on matching software with your business process, if your employees really understand your process, you may find that you actually need less software customization instead of more. Because the user understands the context the software is being used in, they will not require constraints that keep them from moving forward in a process before certain data is entered. In general, the more of these types of restraints and dependancies that are programmed into a software solution, the less stable the solution usually is.

This post was written by MistyKhan and published on February 20, 2008 in the following categories: Add-ins, Arrow Tips, Front Page. You can leave trackbacks on this post at this address. To follow the comments on this post subscribe to the RSS feed.


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