Handle Your Overflowing Inbox With This Two-Step System

When you’re dealing with a lot of email, you absolutely have to have a management system in place. Without a system, you’ll drown in a sea of messages…and it only gets worse as time goes on. You aren’t able to prioritize, and things fall through the cracks. You make mistakes, you forget to follow up and you might even lose some business.

Fortunately, there’s a two-step system to handle your overflowing inbox. Step #1 is implementing Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix, which helps you prioritize and delegate from within your inbox. Step #2 is using TouchingBase.io’s Dashboard, which shows you a big picture view of the emails you’ve tagged to follow up with later.

Let’s start with the Time Management Matrix.

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Here’s how it works:

Your first priority: emails that are important and urgent. You know, like when your long-time client needs your help on a crucial problem right away. You should respond to these kinds of emails in a timely fashion. Hopefully, there aren’t too many of them! Many issues that fall into the “important/urgent” category can be avoided by planning ahead.

Your second priority: emails that are important but not urgent. For example, someone is interested in working with you in the future, but not right now. You don’t have to deal with this right away, but you have to decide WHEN you’re going to deal with it. That’s where TouchingBase.io comes in. You assign a follow-up date for later on, and the email disappears from your inbox. It’ll reappear when it’s time to deal with.

Your third priority: emails that are urgent but not important. These are the emails that clutter up your day — questions from clients, feedback on projects, low-priority requests, newsletters you’ve signed up for, etc. Set aside 30-60 minutes at the beginning and end of your day to read and respond to all of these emails at once. And whenever possible, delegate to your team.

Your last priority: emails that are neither urgent nor important. This can include emails that don’t require you to respond, annoying reply-all chains that have nothing to do with you, and communication from Nigerian Princes. Whenever possible, archive or delete these.

That’s how you prioritize your email. But for the savvy emailer, there’s one more step to add to your email system. And that’s the TouchingBase.io Dashboard.

For some of us, working within our email inbox is sufficient — all we need to see is what’s in our inbox at the moment. But if you’re handling large amounts of email, and you’re tagging lots of messages to follow up later, you need to be able to see more than what’s in front of you right now. You need to be able to see what’s on tap for the future…your big picture view.

That’s where the Dashboard comes in.

With the Dashboard, you can see all the follow-up reminders you’ve set in one place. So, you can see what emails are in the pipeline for this week, this month, next month, etc.

The Dashboard also shows you all your follow-up reminders across multiple projects and email accounts. So, if you use one email address for your web development consultancy, and one email address for your web design consultancy, you can see your upcoming follow-ups for both businesses in one awesome view.

When you look at the Dashboard, every row is a person you’ve tagged to follow up with. You’ll see the date of your last communication, and when you’re slated to talk to them again. When you click, it opens up that email thread directly in your Gmail so you can see your previous conversation, which is crazy helpful. The data is also sortable, so you can easily see what’s most helpful to you. All of this information helps you understand what’s on tap so you can make informed decisions.

I’ve spoken with lots of TouchingBase.io customers who handle big quantities of email across multiple email accounts, and they absolutely love the Dashboard. They deal with a lot of “important but not urgent” emails, so they’re tagging a lot of messages to follow up later. The problem is, once the emails leave their inbox, it’s easy to forget about them entirely. That’s why the Dashboard is so great. With one click, you can easily check in on all of your “for later” emails.

Combine the Time Management Matrix with the TouchingBase.io Dashboard and see how much time you save. You’ll have a clean inbox AND you’ll always know what’s in the pipeline. No more drowning in a sea of messages!

Stop Pitching Clients And Start Listening To Them

Don’t you hate trying to convince someone to see things your way?

Politics, religion, current events…it’s really hard to discuss a heated topic with someone who has the opposite opinion. As soon as you start arguing your point, it can feel like a losing battle.

The same thing happens when you’re trying to close a deal.

Have you ever tried to convince someone to buy your product or use your service, but they just aren’t interested? You can tell them again and again about the benefits you’re offering, but it doesn’t matter. They’ve already decided. Their mind is closed off.

I recently read a great book called “The Secret of Selling Anything” by Harry Browne that explores this phenomenon.

According to the book, there’s no such thing as convincing a buyer. Buyers already see things a certain way, and they aren’t likely to change their minds. It’s up to you to figure out their unique point of view — what REALLY motivates them — and adjust your approach accordingly.

Because, let’s face it, you can’t close a sale unless you understand your buyer. Sales pitches are like baseball pitches: Every batter is different, so every pitch has to be different. You have to constantly adjust your game.

A good example: If your client believes the world is flat, don’t waste your time trying to convince them that the world is round. Save that pitch for someone else! Instead, show them how your product will keep them from falling off that pesky edge of the earth.

Another example: Let’s say your product solves four problems: A, B, C and D. Your buyer is only motivated to solve problems A and B. But your entire sales pitch focuses on solving problems C and D. Even though the product is right, you’re selling it wrong.

The tricky part is figuring out what motivates your buyer. Many times, even your buyer doesn’t know! But there’s a way to help them figure it out, and once you do, you’ll have a deeper understanding of what they want and how to deliver it.

The key to cracking the motivation code is actually really simple: You stop pitching and start listening.

When you’re talking with a new prospect, it’s tempting to ramble on and on about your product or service. Resist that temptation! Ask questions instead, and let them do all the talking.

You’ll never go wrong with broad, open-ended questions like “What’s the biggest issue in your business right now?” or “Tell me a little about the problems you’re facing.” You’ll get 100x more valuable information and psychological insight than you will from launching into your sales pitch without any background information.

Then, keep the conversation going with follow-up emails.

Whatever you do, DON’T follow up with “I’m just following up to see if you’re ready to buy my product.” This is dangerous because it’s a yes or no question, which is extremely limiting. If their answer is “No, we’re not ready to buy,” the conversation stops dead in its tracks. And the chances are really slim that the answer is “Yes, we’re ready to buy right now!”

So, what do you do? Keep talking about your clients’ problems or issues. “Hey, I was wondering if you could tell me a bit more about [that thing we were talking about]” is a way smarter approach. It keeps your clients talking, and as long as they’re talking, your services are still on the table.

One thing you can’t do during this process is fake it. You have to be really invested in your clients’ success and truly interested in their problems if you’re going to suss out their motivations. You have to be empathetic, authentic and helpful at all times. Don’t look at it as playing mind games…think of it as building a trusting relationship.

Then, when you figure out your client’s perspective and motivation, you can start telling them about your product or service.

Talk about the stuff you know they’re interested in, and leave the other stuff out. If they’re super focused on one problem, tell them how you’re going to help them fix it. If they have dozens of problems, let them know that your product handles all of them. This is your opportunity to connect the dots between what motivates your clients and what you’re selling.

And what if you CAN’T help with their issues? If you’re doing a good job being empathetic and helpful, you’ll go the extra mile and point them toward a better solution. Be blunt and upfront about it, and don’t worry about the lost sale. It’s a sign of a smart freelancer / consultant / salesperson when you’re willing to forgo a sale because it’s a bad fit. Your client might be so impressed that they recommend you to someone else. It’s good business karma.

When you stop pitching and start listening, amazing things will happen!

Never miss an another opportunity to uncover your clients’ motivation with easy email follow-up reminders from TouchingBase.io. Click here to sign up now.

It’s Time To Stop Automating And Start Communicating

I moved to Japan because I wanted to start a business. I didn’t know anyone other than my girlfriend when I moved, and I thought that was the perfect scenario — without a big social network surrounding me, I would have lots of extra time and energy to devote to growing my new business. Then, once everything was up and running, I could go out and starting making friends in Japan and having hobbies and doing all the “normal” things you do in life.

And that’s exactly what I did. I focused my life entirely around work. I didn’t make any effort to meet new people or take care of my social needs. I spent the majority of my days working from home, sitting in front of my computer, alone.

You know what happened next? I got incredibly sick. So sick that I actually left Japan for a short time to rest and recover. After I felt better, I realized that my isolation was the main reason for my physical illness. People aren’t supposed to exist in a vacuum. We need other people around us to stay happy and healthy.

So, when I got back to Japan, I rearranged my priorities. I made sure to get out into the world instead of isolating myself in front of my computer. I took a night class to improve my Japanese, I played hockey and I got out and met people.

I felt SO much better. My life was back in balance.

This might sound like a cautionary tale for people who work too much, but I think there’s an even deeper meaning to my story. The meaning is this: people need people. As much as the Internet, email, cell phones and texting have made it easier to stay virtually connected, there’s just no substitute for real communication, real connection and real relationships — in life OR in business.

Here’s what I mean.

In my line of work, I see more and more entrepreneurs touting the benefits of automation. They want you to automate everything you possibly can: lead generation, email marketing, sales funnels, you name it. Automation is the big buzzword on everyone’s lips, and it’s clear that the pendulum keeps swinging in that direction. It seems like no one will be satisfied until every single aspect of their online business is fully automated and can take place without their involvement.

I have a problem with this automation trend. Here’s why I’m over it: because relationships are valuable. They are the crux of every healthy business. Relationships grow out of one-to-one personal communication, not automated emails. And you absolutely, positively can’t automate a real relationship.

Fortunately, I don’t think the automation trend is going to last. Pretty soon, the pendulum will start swinging away from automation and back toward the other side of the spectrum, towards one-on-one human relationships. I can’t wait for this to happen. In fact, I’m happy to lead the charge.

Even Internet marketing gurus who have been on the automation boat before are changing their tune now. If you know Brennan Dunn, you know he’s a great entrepreneur — a real inspiration — and he’s all about smart automation. I was listening to Brennan’s podcast the other day, and he announced that he’s going back to personalized consulting.

I was really surprised to hear this, but the more he talked about it, the more I understood. He said that everything was going great with his productized consulting business, but he was just bored. I happen to think boredom is a clear outcome of automation. If everything in your business happens without your involvement, where’s the connection? Where’s the room for passion and excitement and problem solving and communication? I don’t know Brennan personally, and I can only speculate about his reasons for wanting to consult again. But it makes perfect sense to me that an outgoing, intelligent entrepreneur would want a more stimulating day-to-day than tweaking his automated funnel to increase sales, or coming up with more ways to generate huge numbers of leads.

As people, we crave conversation, involvement and interaction with others. As entrepreneurs, that need increases tenfold. We’re born to talk to people, not hide behind our automated sequences. We want to nurture customer relationships, not deploy a series of fake-sounding “personalized” emails with the hope that whoever’s on the receiving end will like us. We want something bigger and more meaningful than a series of faceless customers we’ll never meet, who will never meet us.

Okay, I’m just going to come right out and say it: I’m anti-automation. I’m anti-anything that gets between you developing a strong, personal connection with your customers and clients.

I’m against automation, but what am I for? I’m pro-people. I’m pro-relationships. I’m pro-conversation. These are the building blocks of a successful business that can grow and expand over the long term. It’s ridiculous that your success should hinge solely on the effectiveness of your automation, instead of the quality of your services. It’s crazy to believe that clients prefer being treated like cattle instead of like people. It’s weird to trick customers by sending out a mass email under the guise that it’s a personal message.

All of that nonsense needs to stop.

What I propose is this: Let’s get back to the basics. Talk to each other. Focus on nurturing individual relationships with clients. Value personal communication over mass communication. Have actual email conversations with people, like we used to do in the old days. Hop on the phone once in a while and say hello.

Now, I want to be clear about one thing. I’m not saying you shouldn’t automate certain aspects of your business. Of course you should. It would be impossible to write every client invoice by hand, for instance. All I’m saying is, the things you choose to automate should not create a barrier between you and your customers. Choose automation tools that help you forge an even stronger connection with your customers.

This is a major reason why I created TouchingBase.io in the first place. I wanted to build an Gmail tool that uses a little bit of behind-the-scenes automation to manage your inbox, but still leaves the personalization part up to you. All you have to do is tag an email for follow up at a later date, and it disappears from your Gmail until it’s time to respond. Then, when it’s time, you write your own follow up message — an authentic message that’s directly from you. No mass email. No fake personalization. Just good old fashioned one-on-one communication.

I hope you’ll join this movement with me. I hope you’ll commit to stronger customer connections. Better personal communication. Being a person and not a robot. Because you can automate a lot of things in business — but the one thing you can’t automate is a relationship.

Why Your Brain Stops You From Following Up

Following up can be scary.

It seems easy enough in theory. After all, you send dozens of emails every day without thinking twice. But when it comes to follow-up emails, a lot of people freeze in their tracks.

Even my most successful clients face this problem. We’re talking about high-earning, outgoing, well-spoken businesspeople who don’t know what to do when faced with a follow-up reminder in their inbox.

What’s the big deal? Why do people suck at following up? What makes it so intimidating?

I believe it’s firmly rooted in our brains — a biological phenomenon that dates back to prehistoric times. I also believe that if you can understand it, you can overcome it.

Here’s the backstory:

In the ‘80s, a world-famous anthropologist named Robin Dunbar made a discovery. He found that human brains are wired to accommodate only 150 people in their social group.

A look at human history supported his theory. Hunter-gatherer tribes from the caveman days were usually 150 people. The same with company size in armies ranging from ancient Rome to the Soviet Union.

In modern times, research confirms that most of us still have 150 main people in our circles — despite the proliferation of social media and instant connection. Although the makeup of your circle can change throughout your lifetime, the number stays the same.

To sum it up: Because of how your brain works, you are only equipped to handle a finite number of people in your life. When a new one comes in, a new one has to go out…for the most part. Some of us can handle more, some can handle less. A few folks can run with a pack of 1,500, but that’s rare. Most of us have limits.

And that’s exactly why following up with new contacts is so hard.

As a freelancer, consultant, or entrepreneur, chances are you already have a circle of 150 firmly in place. Probably more! In addition to family, friends and acquaintances, you have dozens of co-workers, colleagues and clients.

When you try adding new contacts to your circle, your brain starts messing with you. It shuts down. It’s a self-defense tactic — your brain’s way of saying “Hold on! I can’t handle any more people! We’re headed out of my comfort zone.”

That’s the exact moment when you procrastinate on your follow-up.

You make excuses for why you can’t email this person just yet. You tell yourself you have nothing to say to them. You worry that they’re going to be annoyed at you. You feel like you’re bothering them and that maybe you should wait a week, a month, or six months before you talk to them.

Your brain is trying to protect itself at a biological level. But you can override it on a psychological level.

You can do this by establishing a mindful thought process that pushes past your brain’s desire to keep your social group small and safe.

Let’s say you’re worried that your email is going to annoy someone. The prospect of getting in touch makes you feel vulnerable, maybe even scared. You don’t even know what to write, because you’re convinced that whatever you say will just piss them off.

Don’t let that feeling stop you.

Instead, focus on your goal. Remember, your brain’s goal is to keep your social circle limited. But that’s not YOUR goal. Your goal is to connect with people, establish new relationships and grow your business.

Can you grow your business if you stop connecting with people? Nope. Not a chance.

It’s up to you to fight past your brain’s long list of excuses to get what you really want. Even if the excuses seem logical, they won’t help you get to your goals.

Look, networking is overwhelming even on a good day. I think we all wonder how we’re going to keep up with our many connections. Every new client takes up valuable mental space, and your brain will do anything to prevent that. Even if it means messing up your business.

You’ve got to give yourself permission to reject this self-sabotage impulse.

When you feel like you just can’t send that email, say to yourself: JUST SEND THE EMAIL. Write it on a Post-It note and stick it to your desk. Write it on the back of every business card you get at a conference. Make it your desktop wallpaper.

Do whatever it takes to JUST SEND THE EMAIL.

For once in your life, it’s okay to ignore your brain. Do whatever it takes to keep going. Keep growing. Keep connecting.

Get the reminders you need to help you follow up better. Sign up for TouchingBase.io.

Which Mindset Do You Email With: Abundance Or Scarcity?

The other day, a TouchingBase.io customer cancelled their subscription.

I value each and every one of my customers, so I immediately reached out to him. I barraged him with questions: What were your issues? What were you hoping to get out of the service when you originally signed up? Do you want to have a call and talk about it? Continue reading Which Mindset Do You Email With: Abundance Or Scarcity?

Inbox Advisor: Smart Solutions To Your Follow-up Problems (Vol. 1)

Welcome to Inbox Advisor, an advice column brought to you by the masterminds behind TouchingBase.io. If you want to turn leads into paying clients, using email reminders is only half the battle. The other half is actually writing and sending the email! Tell us what’s stopping you from sending that follow-up, and we’ll find a solution. Email matt@touchingbase.io or leave a comment below to share your dilemma.

Dear Inbox Advisor,

A few weeks ago, I went to an event. There were lots of former co-workers and clients in attendance, and I had a blast reconnecting with all of them. I was chatting with a former boss of mine when a woman approached us. I recognized her face immediately, but couldn’t think of her name or where I knew her from. Despite my confusion, I initiated a friendly hug and gave her my business card.

I treated her like an old friend, but I had no idea who she was. Continue reading Inbox Advisor: Smart Solutions To Your Follow-up Problems (Vol. 1)

How To Beat The Competition With Maximum Persistence

Here’s a statistic I’ve been carrying around in my pocket lately:

80% of sales are made between the 5th and 12th follow-up.

And 44% of sales reps give up after just ONE follow-up.

Whether you’re a salesperson, an entrepreneur, a freelancer, a consultant, or heck, even a guy trying to sell a lawnmower on Craigslist, follow-up is vital to seal the deal.

So many of us think that the most important part of selling is what happens upfront. We spend hours of time writing our pitch emails, crafting beautiful sales pages and tweaking our products or services to perfection.

“If I can just get this one thing right,” we think, “the offers will come pouring in!”

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. It’s what happens AFTER the cold call, the first pitch or the networking event that matters. What counts is how you keep the conversation going. Continue reading How To Beat The Competition With Maximum Persistence

Don’t Let Negative Mental Scripts Stop You From Following Up

I have a problem: I talk myself out of following up.

It’s ironic, especially because I’m the founder of a follow-up email reminder service.

Following up seems like a no-brainer. You meet someone, you sense they might be interested in your consulting services, you follow up with them via email later on. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is, I get in my own way. And so do dozens of other consultants, freelancers and entrepreneurs I know. We have these negative mental scripts, these harmful thought spirals that stop us from getting in touch even when it’s the right thing to do.

Here’s an example.

I met a cool guy who was really excited about TouchingBase.io. We had a phone call about three months ago to chat about it, and he was incredibly pumped. After our call, I followed up via email.

Then I followed up again.

And again.

I didn’t hear anything back. Continue reading Don’t Let Negative Mental Scripts Stop You From Following Up

Ready To Stand Out From The Crowd? Network Like A Bad Ass

How do you stand out from the crowd?

This is a question I think about a lot. As founder of TouchingBase.io, I want my business to stand out from the competition. As a web developer, I want to stand out from others in my field. That’s human nature. We all want to be special. We want people to recognize that we’re unique. Heck, we just want people to like us.

As a freelancer or consultant, you face this challenge every day.

How do you make a splash? How can you make new leads pay attention? Especially when they’re busy meeting other people, drowning in email, and distracted by cute kitten videos?

At a conference a few weeks ago, I got some great inspiration about using your follow-up sequence to stand out. Big thanks to Ryan Meo for sharing his insights with me (and with you).

Ryan is the founder and owner of The Website Project, a really smart business that works with agencies to create custom WordPress websites for their clients.

In a field crowded with competition, Ryan knew he had to do something big to make leads pay attention. A few phone calls and emails wouldn’t cut it if he wanted to seriously grow his business.

So, he started doing something different. Continue reading Ready To Stand Out From The Crowd? Network Like A Bad Ass