After 17 years managing and supporting companies and non-profit organizations in their fundraising efforts, here’s what I’ve learned: it ain’t easy.
More often than not in a young startup, NO is far more common than YES. The CEO is usually spending 95% of his time researching and chasing down potential investors. Meanwhile, he’s trying to figure out what will make investors click with his startup’s message in the hope that one of his leads will be fruitful.
When I meet with startups that have already started this process, they usually show me “the spreadsheet.” You know the one – a million columns wide for every conceivable parameter. Contact information, last contact, what they sent, when to follow up, their birthday, their kid’s birthday.
Why is it always in Excel? Because it’s on their computer, and they know how to use it already. Time to the table is virtually zero. It’s functional.
But all too often, important information is missed. The spreadsheet looks like a mess of data, and at the critical moment it’s impossible to dredge up.
CRMs are recognized as one of the most important tools to scaling sales in a business, but they can be just as beneficial to entrepreneurs raising money.
From the first moment you are in touch with a connector until well after an investor signs a term sheet and the check clears, relationships are at the very core of fundraising just like they are in sales. Excel spreadsheets are simply not robust enough to lead you through this process step by step.
Here are 5 reasons to work with a CRM throughout your fundraising process.
Your memory is not good enough
On average, you will meet with at least 20-30 people connected to your fundraising process throughout a single raise – and that’s being optimistic! Building meaningful relationships with them is critical and that means remembering the small stuff. With a CRM, you can immediately access the remotest detail right before a meeting or add new ones on the fly.
A CRM will give you a huge leg up in immediately accessing your data. Making sure that your CRM has a “Notes” section that you can check right before a meeting that includes all the important, crucial details will give you confidence walking into a meeting. You’ll reminder how you met them, any important quirks about them or their company, and you’ll be able to get that info in seconds.
Keeping up to date
With an average of 3-5 meetings and countless communications with a single investor before signing a deal, it is critical to understand your history together. Since Excel can’t track all of your communications – email, phone and in-person meetings, this information won’t be at the tip of your fingers when needed.
At its most basic, a CRM will let you have a complete history of your relationship – from the first intro email – all the way through the ongoing update emails that you are providing to your investors. It’s critical to log everything – from the casual call to the run in at the grocery story – all the way to the super-official meeting with the lawyers.
Remembering every interaction can be critical to the negotiation – and later down the line can make relationships even stronger. At the initial stages, I like Streak, a basic CRM that lives inside my Gmail inbox. It’s even free until you begin adding collaborators.
Understanding where you are in the cycle
As every entrepreneur knows – when raising money you can never drop the ball. When meeting with multiple investors, it’s crucial to know where they are in the “pipeline.” A good CRM keeps this process simple so that you can know where you stand in your potential investment cycle at-a-glance.
Keeping your co-founders informed and in sync
Many times over the course of a day or week it’s impossible to keep everyone updated by phone – and even email has huge drawbacks for recording history. By using a CRM to keep all of your correspondents’ interactions with potential investors together you are able to leverage each other’s insights and communications to know the full picture at all times.
You’ve done everything right – you have the numbers and you’re showing growth potential – and then you hear the dreaded words, “Keep in touch with us as you show greater traction/growth, etc.” All too often these words inspire dread in the entrepreneur. But, I like to think of these words as an opportunity to build the relationship. The key is not to let them pass you by.
How? By actually following up. Use your CRM to your advantage by scheduling tasks inside like, “Send a quick note to Rick at XYZ Ventures to show him July’s stats.” Not only will your CRM give you a tickler on the day, you’ll be able to keep tracking your communication all the way through. You really never know when one of those quick notes will lead to a promising deal.
So, the next time you break out that spreadsheet – consider this – are you working for the spreadsheet, or is it working for you?