Top Tools for Managing Pipelines: A Guide for Startups

April 24, 2015 at 12:44 PM Vivek Reddy

tools.jpgAt startups, pipelines are lifeblood.

If you're part of a small company, you probably have at least two pipelines right now: investors and recruiting. And many startups, especially SaaS and enterprise software companies, have a third pipeline: sales. Manage those pipelines well and you’re on the road to great success.

Over time at Entelo, we’ve talked to hundreds of companies about their pipelines (primarily their recruiting pipelines) and we’ve discovered some cool tools people are using to keep their pipelines healthy. Whether your primary function is selling, recruiting or raising capital, these are well worth looking at.

Simple CRMs and Pipeline Tools

Asana – We use Asana, a project management and task organization tool, to manage a number of pipelines. The software’s simplicity and speed make it a joy to use compared with many heavier and more complex CRMs. Asana has a few weaknesses (including a frustrating amount of downtime), but we find ourselves putting more and more of our workflow into it.

Highrise – Highrise is a dead-simple CRM for a fraction of the cost of Salesforce. Later on in your company’s lifecycle, you’ll want the analytics, reporting, integrations, and other features that Salesforce offers. But in a company’s early stages, simpler is often better. Highrise offers a good balance of power and usability. (Tip: we get even more out of Highrise through the relatively unknown Rapportive-Highrise integration.)

Other good CRM and pipeline tools include Streak (a powerful CRM that works from within Gmail), Trello and Wrike. If you are looking for a recruiting-specific CRM (typically referred to as an applicant tracking system), tools like SmartRecruiters, Resumator and Greenhouse get solid reviews from folks we’ve talked to. 

Email Management Tools

Followup.cc – Everyone is drowning in email these days and part of the stress of email is forgetting to follow up on something important. Followup.cc helps us remember when someone hasn’t gotten back to us or if we have pending actions to take on a given email; since we’ve started using it, we drop the ball a lot less often. Another tool to consider to help with follow-up is Boomerang which offers similar functionality as well as the ability to schedule sending of emails. These simple email tools may provide the most bang for their buck in terms of helping you manage your pipelines effectively.

Mailbox – Mailbox is among the most-hyped of recent startups and was acquired by Dropbox in March 2013 for around $100 million. The iPhone version is particularly cool (demo video here) and there’s even a snooze feature somewhat akin to Followup and Boomerang. Another recent entrant in the space is Handle which launched at TechCrunch Disrupt in May and took home 2nd place.

Rapportive – Rapportive is a brilliant tool for gaining insight into the person at the other end of your email. By tracking down web profiles for you, it can save you time while providing conversation points that are essential to effective selling and recruiting. Rapportive, now owned by LinkedIn, is a must-have for those on Gmail or Google Apps (and if you’re on Outlook, be sure to check out Xobni for similar functionality).

Evercontact – A key element of maintaining pipelines is keeping up-to-date contact information, which can be difficult and time-consuming. Services like Evercontact take care of this burdensome task by scanning signature files in emails for addresses, phone numbers, etc. and then updating your address book accordingly. 

YesWare - Want to see if Jay-Z is reading your emails? Tools like YesWare (and the similar service http://www1.toutapp.com/) help you determine whether emails you send are being opened or read and whether any links you’ve sent are being clicked on (NSA, eat your heart out…). While some people may feel these services go too far, the hope is they help salespeople, marketers and recruiters recognize when their messages are falling on deaf ears and adjust accordingly.

TypeIt4Me – Last but not least, if you’re managing pipelines you’re probably typing out some similar sentences and phrases over and over again. Frankly, if you’re manually typing those out you’re behind the curve. A text expander service like TypeIt4Me (a Mac app; ActiveWords is a good PC-based alternative) can help by automatically converting a few keystrokes into one of your commonly-used phrases. Once you’ve memorized those keystrokes, you’ll be flying through email like never before. (Note: GMail offers similar functionality through the “Canned Responses” option available in Labs.)

Whether you are aiming to close your Series A, hire a hot new VP or land your first Fortune 500 customer, you’ll maximize your productivity by using tools such as the ones above. As you grow your company you’ll likely add even more sophisticated tools like Salesforce, SugarCRM, Marketo, and Hubspot to the mix. But for now you might be surprised by how far you can get with the free or low-cost tools I’ve described here.

Happy pipelining and please leave your suggestions for additional pipelining tools in the comments!

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