Best Practices for Using Microsoft Outlook from a Sales Perspective

Arrow-Tip #23 Could a Plug In Increase Your Outlook Efficiency?

When my friend Josh Tabin President of Mosaic CFO and co-Author at StartUp Houston asked me to write a blog post about my favorite Outlook Add-ins I was only too happy to oblige. The only problem is that I really don’t use that many Outlook Add-ins so I recruited a couple of people to add their input to this post including my old friend intellectual property attorney and author N. Stephan Kinsella and my new twitter pal Henk-Jan van der Klis. There were several other folks who wanted to contribute, but were pressed for time so if you are one of them (or even if you are not) please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts!

I’ve arranged the plugs into four categories: those I have used and can’t live without, those I have used and like, but are not must-haves, those I have used, but do not find vital and finally, those I have not used, but I know other people really like.

Outlook – Can’t live with it, can’t shoot it…

One quick note before we discuss Outlook plug ins and please don’t be shocked by this statement – Outlook is not perfect. I know it is hard to believe, but Outlook does in fact have its limitations and plug ins can some times exacerbate the situation. Here are some common issues to be on the look out for if you use Outlook plug ins:

  • Disabling messages before start up – Sometimes when Outlook crashes it likes to blame plug ins (I’ve seen this happen with several) and it will give you a message like the one in the following screen print. For plug ins that I have a lot of experience with and trust, I usually click the “No” button. If you do click the “Yes” button, it is easy enough to get your plug-in back (coming soon: How To Re-Enable and Outlook Plug In).

Disable Message at 75

  • Outlook has a nasty habit of hanging in your computer’s memory even when it looks as though it is closed. If Outlook is actually still in your computer memory when you restart it, some of your plug ins may not load properly. To make sure that Outlook is really closed before you open it, open your Windows Task Manager and check the Processes tab for “Outlook.exe” in the Image Name column – if you see it, then Outlook is not really closed and out of your computer’s memory. In this case, you may want to select Outlook.exe and click the End Process button at the bottom right corner of the Task Manager window. Be advised that in some cases this action can potentially corrupt your data file.

Can’t Live Without It Plug Ins

HuntressPro – Yes, I actually use my own software. I won’t pontificate here about how much I love my own application, but I really would be lost without my Huntress Referred By button and New Appointment auto-population of company and contact names and location. For more information on HuntressPro – check out our product web site.

LinkedIn – I love my LinkedIn plug in for one main reason – the Grab button! The Grab button allows the user to highlight information in an email signature and automatically create a contact record populated with all the signature information (coming soon: How To Use the LinkedIn Grab Button). I do a lot of networking and receive a lot of introductions via email so this tool is a big time saver for me plus it helps prevent typos in entering information.

Other than the Grab button, I really don’t use any of the other LinkedIn features. I find that the browser button which launches the LinkedIn website in my Outlook Explorer window can sometimes crash Outlook so it is just as easy to launch LinkedIn inside a regular internet browser. The Dashboard is interesting, but I find that my HuntressPro call back lists are much more effective for staying in touch with people. And finally, I find some of the update features to be flawed – for example I’ve found that the tool sometimes replaces new email addresses with older ones that it found in old emails.

SimplyFile – This is one of my favorite new Outlook plug ins which I like so much that I have begun installing it for clients. SimplyFile allows the user to file emails in sub folders with one click and to automatically file sent items as you are sending them. I was actually very surprised how much time clicking saved me over dragging and dropping or using the Outlook Move to Folder function. For my clients who handle large volumes of email, this tool has given them additional hours per week from increased productivity – one client actually hugged me the day after I installed it for her because she liked it so much!

One potential issue with SimplyFile arises during mail merges which will be slowed down due to the file approval message for each sent email. Since I tend to use Constant Contact for mass emails (see Arrow-Tip #7 Mass Emailing Campaigns), this issue has only arisen once for me and it was well worth the trade off.

I Like It

OutTwitOne of my favorite social media sites is Twitter which is a micro blog site that allows users to post in 140 characters or less what they are doing at the current time (see How Can Twitter & Plaxo Help Increase Your Sales). OutTwit is an Outlook plug in that allows you to update Twitter from your Outlook Explorer tool bar as well as receive posts from other twitter users directly into your Outlook Inbox or whatever folder you designate (see Track Your OutTwit in a Separate .pst file).

I like OutTwit because it gives me a lot more flexibility in how I review tweets as well as allows me to link them to Outlook items including Contacts and Tasks. There are some other great benefits like auto-population of the Twitter update window with the user name of a selected tweet sender which helps prevent misspelling and saves time. Another benefit is the ability to use the Tiny URL function to minimize the size of URLs as you are composing a tweet instead of after it is posted (see screen print below).

OutTwit Tiny URL BUtton

The only reason I would say OutTwit isn’t a must have is that there are several other options for updating Twitter including Google Talk and the web site itself, but it is still an awfully nice convenience.

I Could Live Without It

FBLook – FBLook gives the user a quick look at what is going on with their Facebook account from the Outlook tool bar. I admit that it is kind of nice to be able to glance up and see if I have new notifications in Facebook since I don’t have Facebook set to email notifications to my Outlook email account. However, I tend to keep an internet browser up and check for updates to Facebook on a regular basis anyway so I haven’t gotten as much use out of this plug in.

Plaxo – I often longingly look at the enticing “De-Duper” button on my Plaxo tool bar and wish that it actually worked! After months of having the Plaxo tool bar installed I have yet to get it to synchronize my Outlook contacts with my Plaxo profile as I did with the original version of Plaxo years ago. So far the only feedback I’ve gotten from Plaxo support is that I need to disable my firewall which is not going to happen. Still, I hear other users talk about how much they like the Plaxo tool bar so here is my plea to the Plaxo folks – please help me!

Xobni – One thing I will say about Xobni Corporation is that they are phenomenal marketers. When I started hearing people talk about receiving their Xobni beta invitation – I wanted mine as well (see Check Out Xobni). I’ve had Xobni for several weeks now and although it has some cool functionality, I can’t really say it has done all that much for my productivity. Features that I do like include statistics regarding who I email the most – it was very interesting to see that many of my clients ranked above my beloved husband in emails sent to and received from me. But really, my Inbox is so well organized that I usually don’t have much difficulty finding emails so the advanced search functionality is somewhat lost on me.

On the other hand, I see a lot of Twitter traffic praising Xobni so I interviewed Henk-Jan van der Klis to learn more about the reasons he likes Xobni as listed below:

  1. The ability to view threads of emails together and seeing with whom conversations are being held.
  2. Being able to see which files were exchanged with email senders and recipients even after they have been detached
  3. Being able to see email senders’ phone numbers in the Xobni window and points out that picking up the phone is often a more effective mode of communication that email.
  4. Because Xobni displays related people to email senders and recipients, it serves as a good reminder for other parties you might want to include on a reply email
  5. Henk also uses the Stay in Touch pain to connect with people he has not contacted in a while (I of course use the Huntress Today’s Call List for this purpose).

I Don’t Use It – But Others Swear By It

Getting Things Done (GTD) – Even though I’m not a user of the GTD plug in (I’m a FranklinCovey girl myself and have spent a lot of time customizing my Outlook Task Folder for that purpose) I’ve heard nothing buy rave reviews from those that are so I asked my good friend and avid GTD user Stephan Kinsella to list some reasons he loves the GTD plug in as quoted below.

“What I like about the Getting Things Done Outlook Add-In is that it has helped to teach me, and allowed me to implement, the GTD methodology in my professional life. Since all of my work life now centers around email and the computer, and since I’m largely paperless, I could never do the paper-based “43 Folders” version of GTD. The GTD Add-In allows me to use Outlook and email as my “trusted system” to implement the GTD approach. The Add-In is simple and seamlessly integrates with Outlook, greatly increasing its functionality. Before this Add-In, I would use my In-Box as a giant to-do list, which is unorganized and unworkable as the number of tasks multiply. Now, I use Outlook to schedule tasks in a more organized and coherent fashion. This Add-On is one of the main reasons I am still using Outlook instead of Gmail for work purposes (Gmail has its own GTD hack, but it is terrible).”

The Others

Yes, I know there are several other Outlook plug ins, but these are the ones that I have the most experience with. If you have another plug in that you love, hate or anything in between, please leave me a comment and let us all know about it. Also, please feel free to provide your take on any of the plug ins listed in this post.

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

Comments

I have a lot of these installed…

GTD – i use this daily. it helps me stay on track with business and life. since i have very little physical paper cross my desk (except for bills :( ) the paper version of the system never really worked for me.

OutTwit – i’ve been getting more involved in Twitter, and this helps since i am in Outlook all day.

FBlook – same reason as you. so i dont have to leave outlook to know about my facebook.

I removed Xobni, when i realized why i got rid of it the last time; it just doesn’t work the way i do. also it takes up too my screen real estate for my tastes, and if you minimize it then it provides no value.

I’m going to try simplyfile, and i want to try huntress lite when the outlook 2007 version is available. both look very helpful.

  • Kurt Greiner
  • 14:18
  • March 20, 2008
  • 1.
 

I should mention that I would kill for a WindowsMobile version of the GTD plugin. That’s a missing link IMHO.

  • Kurt Greiner
  • 21:14
  • March 20, 2008
  • 2.
 

Great post and thanks for the plug. A few comments:

1) I remove the LinkedIn toolbar becuase it crashed Outlook too often. Instead, I bought Anagram 2.8.2 from Textual for $29.95, which is the exact sme software LinkedIn uses but is better. Anagram lets you grab contact info from any text-based application (Word, web pages, Pwerpoint, PDF, etc.) They also have plug-ins for Jigsaw, NetSuite, SalesForce and others.

2) I like Xobni only for the speed in which it lists other email communications I have going with the email’s sender. The hidden social grpah underlying my email is not valuable to me. For free, it is great; for a price, I would drop.

3) If you want to be listed on every spam blacklist, get the Plaxo toolbar. It serves no purpose other than give you the illusion of an updated contact list.

Keep the great posts coming.

 

I actually like using Xobni, but I’m kind of a newbie when it comes to email volume and plug-in’s for that matter. My email volume has steadily increased over the years, and I felt there was something missing to how I accomplish things in email. When I heard about Xobni, I excitedly found an invite and installed it.

It opened up my eyes to a world of possibility. I enjoyed this post because I now have some ideas on trying out different software.

As far as the slowness issues with Xobni, I haven’t experienced much of a slowdown. I’m also using Outlook 2007 so that might be a factor. The coolness factor of Xobni is nice.

 

Hi Misty,

Posting here after your pointer from Twitter (although I actually bookmarked your post in del.icio.us a few days ago)

I only use a handful of the Outlook plugins you reference: LinkedIn and Xobni. I like the LinkedIn plugin largely because it goes part way to solving the pain of having to recreate my graph of connections in a web app when it already exists in my email client. The grab function is also useful, although I find it interesting to note that this is not LinkedIn technology – it’s licensed from another company.

I find Xobni useful in a number of ways, but I also agree that they’re really good marketers, and have managed to gain a *lot* of visibility recently, perhaps more than their product is really ready for at this stage. For me the key useful points of Xobni are:

* Having all the conversations for each person easily accessible (and viewable through the Xobni conversation view pane) in a single place
* Having all the attachments exchanged with a user in a single place. (For me, this is actually surprisingly useful)
* The analytics app – though this is arguably just interesting to people like me who love seeing graphs and statistics!

Two Outlook plugins you haven’t mentioned that are worth a look are Taglocity (http://taglocity.com) and ClearContext (http://clearcontext.com). Taglocity allows you to tag messages in Outlook like you might in an email client like GMail. I’ve never made use of the categories in Outlook, and I’m still a new user of Taglocity, so it’s not yet clear how useful this is. I haven’t tried ClearContext, but it seems to have useful features, and the company’s CEO, Deva Hazarika is a smart guy who has lots of interesting ideas about improving the email experience.

Some ideas for thought.

Cheers,
Andrew

 

If you are using older versions of Outlook and prefer to use it as the client for your RSS feeds, then plug-in’s are available (see below). If you are using Outlook 2007, you might still want to use a plug-in from these vendors even though Microsoft includes a feed reader within Outlook 2007. The Outlook 2007 implementation (in my opinion) is not all that great, and I’ve experienced performance issues since I subscribe to a large number of feeds (over 100).

http://www.attensa.com/products/
http://www.newsgator.com/Individuals/Default.aspx

 

Apologies for blatant self-promotion here, but I think it’s relevant to your readership that the technology behind the Grab feature in the LinkedIn toolbar is actually licensed from my company, Textual. It is a technology called Anagram and we have a number of products based on it for Outlook, Salesforce.com, and other software, with more to come.

We’ve worked long and hard on it, so I’m glad to see it getting some positive attention!

Take a look around our web site!

Cheers,
Nicholas

 

Oops, web site not visible :) http://www.getanagram.com/

 

I feel that the more you add on to Outlook, the higher the potential of crashes….I have LinkedIn toolbar, did have the google toolbar (uninstalled it), and also had Xobni installed; making Outlook take forever to start up and also to shut down.

I found Xobni great for its search capability, and also for examining email threads (80% of the email traffic is generated by 20% of your population; Pareto Principle). But it really slowed my system down, so I had to uninstall it.

 

My $0.02:

– Plaxo: can’t live without it. I haven’t experienced the same issues as you; it works perfectly. And the de-duper is flawless. The two greatest aspects are instant updates to my address book in the background, and Pulse, which offers a whole perfect way to see all activity from all of my contacts. For more, see http://www.tretakoff.com/blogs/2007/08/closed-is-not-new-open.html

– LookOut. Uber power search for Outlook, making the built in search pathetic by comparison. Simply no better, but I have high hopes of Xobni, which I just installed (more later).

– Cloudmark’s SpamNet. I wish every e-mail account I have was as good as Gmail about eliminating spam, but if not, there’s SpamNet. Costs $40 a year, and offers the benefit of crowdsourcing: if a few people mark a message as spam, then the rest of SpamNet’s 500K+ subscribers all get it automatically marked as spam. You can also override it, and review messages, but wow, what a powerful tool.

– Salesforce for Outlook. Kludgy, cumbersome, and the word “sync” is not really in their vocabulary, but for getting emails into Salesforce, can’t find better.

The one I’m now playing with is Xobni. I like a lot of what it does: it automatically creates linkages between Outlook contacts, and offers great inline search. One of the best parts is it’s ability to show recent attachments exchanged with the contact in a sidebar; that’s 90% of what I want when I am looking for a contact. Great graphics, smooth installation, and more. Lots of potential. I do wish it looked at my Outlook contacts’ photos and imported them instead of asking me to do it manually, and I wish the search was more powerful, but I’ll give it time to see if it can displace LookOut.

 

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