If you handle the majority of your sales process via email, there’s a relatively new tool that can help. Streak is a CRM-app created for integration with gmail. The concept of Steak is simple—it’s essentially a filing system for your emails (one that works much better than Gmail’s built in “label” system).
How It Works
Streak’s basic purpose is to make process management simpler. It allows you to break down a complicated process, such as Sales, into steps. You can group emails together, add files or contacts and then move that group—called a “box”—through the steps you’ve created.
Then it creates a spreadsheet that lists all the projects you have and which stage in the process each project is at. From your spreadsheet you can click on any project to see all the content you have associated with it.
The app comes preloaded with 8 default business processes, called “pipelines,” plus the option to create a custom pipeline if you have a process you want to manage that doesn’t fit in one of those. It also comes with several “personal” pipelines (for a full list, check out Streak’s website).
Streak also comes with a bunch of other helpful tools designed to make handling business emails a little easier, including sharing tools (when you share a pipeline you can see who emailed a contact, when, and what was said), a snippet tool (much like Gmail’s own canned responses, except it allows you to associate snippets of text with a pipeline and then share it), a “send later” option that saves scheduled emails in your draft folder and reminders (extremely helpful with the CRM pipeline).
My Favorite Features
I’ve been using Streak for just under 2 months now and so far I’ve used 3 of it’s 8 pipelines: the Sales/CRM pipeline, the journalism pipeline and the custom pipeline.
I use the Sales/CRM pipeline to track the both my general sales process (lead, contacted, pitched, etc.) and a specific project I have in the works that I have lots of leads for (50+). I’ll admit I don’t do as much pitching as I probably should, so I haven’t played with this one too much. But so far it’s been great; once you put an email in a “box” all additional correspondence in that chain is also automatically placed in the same box. That makes it easy to see exactly what you promised in a deal or to pull up a contract from a project you already closed.
I’m also using 2 iterations of the journalism pipeline. One is for projects I’m writing; the other is for managing Moxy Magazine’s editorial calendar. It’s extremely effective for both. I had to edit the pre-named stages in the pipeline a bit, but doing so was simple (you just change the name in the spread sheet). I can see where any story I’m working on is at a moment’s glance and I can associate any email interviews I do with the story the interview is for.
I’ve also had luck managing Moxy Magazine with the journalism pipeline. Since we publish an average of 12 pieces a month by 10-12 different writers, that are then edited by one of 3 editors, there is a lot of relevant information (deadlines, to-be-published dates, etc.) that I need to keep track of. This neatly keeps everything together.
However, I have had a few problems with the journalism pipeline. Several times now I’ve gone to move a project from one point in the pipeline to another and had it show me an error message; I’ve notified Streak and they suggested a temporary solution (namely, deleting the box and recreating it—annoying!) but no longer term fix has been made available yet.
I used the custom pipeline to create a general project management system for my copywriting and editing projects. This is by far my favorite use of Streak; before implementing Streak I was struggling to keep on top of which projects I had in the works, which I was currently working on and which I had sent to the client for approval, etc. Several people had suggested hanging a huge white board in my office and listing all the projects there. Personally, I hate white boards—I just dislike writing on a vertical surface, so I never keep them up-to-date—so Streak saved me from that alternative. Plus, because Streak is in my inbox, it comes with me wherever I go—no need to wonder what stage something is at just because I’m working out of the office for the day.
My project pipeline has the following stages: new project, in progress, draft to client, edits, approved and billed, paid. And, again, because it allows me to keep all the emails together I can quickly find the original details on an assignment, compare them to the edits a client requested, double check a contract for what revisions were included in their contract, and get to work.
I’ve also found I like Streak’s “Send Later” feature. I used to have another plugin installed that offered just that feature; however I stopped using it after several contacts told me they hadn’t gotten the emails it was supposed to send them (not good). Unlike that older plugin, I haven’t had any complaints when using Streak. I like the ability to schedule emails to go out during the times they are most likely to be read (so they go out at 10AM on Wednesday instead of 2AM on a Tuesday, when I happened to write them).
The other important thing to note about this feature is that it works seamlessly with Gmail in a really intuitive way: emails that are scheduled to send at a later date appear in your drafts folder until they are sent. You can edit them there and make any changes necessary, up until the time they go out.
Since I’m not currently sharing any pipelines, I haven’t found the Snippets feature to be any more helpful than Gmail’s existing Canned Responses feature (which may have to be turned on in Google Labs, if you don’t already have it enabled).
One of the features the company added recently was the ability add and resize spreadsheet columns. This essentially makes it unnecessary for you to track anything on a separate spreadsheet; you can just include any notes or other important information right there in your inbox.
I love that Streak is free; essentially, instead of using Gmail’s built in “labeling” system (which frankly drove me nuts), Streak organizes things in a way I find more intuitive and helpful. However it does require you to be using both Gmail and Chrome.
All that said, there are a few things I think the app could do better (they’re still making constant updates, so I have hopes that these things will show up in future iterations).
I wish they’d fix the error message I’ve gotten a few times when using the journalism pipeline.
I wish you could put the same email into two different boxes simultaneously. I find myself having to decide if I’d rather keep an email in the “sales” pipeline or move it to the “project” pipeline in the early stages of a project.
This is purely personal preference, but it would be nice to be able to alter the color choices in the pipeline. Currently they’re a VERY bright sampling of the rainbow. I’d much prefer something monochromatic that went from light to dark or vice versa.
While you can also create boxes to track calls or other “non-email” functions, I think for people who don’t use email as their primary sales tool, the application would be less helpful. Otherwise, I think Streak is a great tool for managing and organizing email and it’s significantly improved my workflow process and efficiency.