Project Management

How To Create An Automated Sales Pipeline

As a 21st century entrepreneur, you have to accept that you are replaceable. But that isn’t a bad thing. Not by a longshot.

With all the technology freely available to modern entrepreneurs, being replaceable is a fantastic thing.

You get to hire and delegate, freeing up your schedule, and with a little automation, you can accomplish absolutely anything.


Because you get to focus on the most important things.

As Steve Jobs once said, “If you want to achieve a goal, you have to learn how to turn down the interesting work that distracts you from your priorities. You have to have focus, and say no to the thousand other great ideas you have.”

Now, some things are easier to automate than others.

Want to automatically submit invoices? Get an accounting software.

Want to send out awesome email campaigns? Piece of cake with all the email marketing providers out there.

However, all of these automation hacks rely on something happening.

But what if nothing happens?

Is it possible to trigger an automation when something doesn’t happen?

Every automation software, IFTTT, and Zapier relies on something happening. The action then serves as a trigger for the actions that follow.

If you used them for sales automation, you could trigger an email when a prospect responds. Trigger a notification when they say yes to your offer.

But what if you need to follow up with someone who never responded?

Fortunately, I’ve found a way to create an automated sales pipeline.

A complete pipeline solution; regardless of whether your prospects get or don’t get in touch with you.

And because sales automation is one of the most important things we can do to grow our businesses and achieve our goals, we’ve decided to create a new sales dashboard.

Why Sales Pipelines Are Better than Sliced Bread

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need some $10,000 solution to completely automate your sales pipeline.

Often, providers will charge you exorbitant amounts because they know the success of your business depends on your sales pipeline.

Without a sales pipeline, you don’t have an organized way of receiving new leads and advancing them through your funnel until they’ve become customers.

Without a sales pipeline, your sales reps are forced to jot down lead information on post-its. They don’t have a structured way of assembling information on every single lead and figuring out the best way to convert them.

To put it simply: without a sales pipeline, you have no way of understanding your sales process, opportunities, and all the deals you lost and won.

And if you want to succeed from month to month, growing your sales numbers and your revenue, you need to understand your sales intimately.

I’m talking about understanding your sales process as intimately as you understand your best friend.

You have to know its strengths (what your product, reps, and leads are good at), weaknesses (the objections you have to address), opportunities, and threats.

When you have a sales pipeline, you can accurately predict your results.

Additionally, when your sales pipeline is automated, your reps don’t have to spend time on mundane tasks an algorithm could accomplish. Instead, they’re free to focus on the things only they can do.

That sounds a lot like the idea of the replaceable founder, right?

Well, they share something in common: they clean tasks off your plate, so you can focus on the most important ideas and responsibilities.

The same thing happens with your salespeople when you’ve got an automated sales pipeline.

Automated sales pipelines are even more important if you’re still in the growth stage of your business.

You can’t spend hours chasing down leads or poring over analytics to understand what you’re doing wrong. You have to get the best results you can. Fast.

How We Created Our New Sales Dashboard

Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to talk specifics.

When I was working on the sales dashboard, I knew I wanted one thing — one thing that was really hard to come by:

Automation triggered by inaction.

Typically, your sales pipeline actions will only be triggered when leads do something. But what happens when they don’t do anything?

This is a common scenario.

You’ve got dozens of really important leads, but you’re sending automatic emails every day. You can’t manually track everyone who never responded.

I mean, you could — but then you wouldn’t get a 4-hour workday. You’d get a 24-hour workday.

Usually, the leads who don’t respond after the first email drop out of your sales pipeline. Regular tools don’t provide a way of getting in touch with them again. If they don’t respond, they’re out.

This obviously sucks. You need those leads.

Maybe your email just got lost.

Knowing that we set out to create an automated sales pipeline that could be triggered by inaction as well as action.

Here’s what we did:

1. The Brain of the Pipeline

First, we built a spreadsheet.

(Spreadsheet hate aside for a second, they’re great at helping you organize your work. You can get and feed them data, and gauge all the insights you need to boost your numbers ASAP.)

Our spreadsheet serves as the backbone of our sales system.

It’s our back-end giving us all the information we need.

On the front end, we set up a Trello board.

If you’ve seen some of our previous boards, you’ll notice that it’s expanded quite a bit. Cue the need for a more structured, automated sales pipeline.

We don’t want to be leaking leads, but maximizing the profits we get from them.

2. Leads and Actions

We’re using our Trello board as our HQ for this one.

We’ve set up columns for:

  1. New leads
  2. First contact
  3. Attempted second contact
  4. Attempted third contact
  5. Attempted final contact
  6. Attempted and then contact or appointment made
  7. Scheduled appointment
  8. Completed
  9. Follow-up call scheduled

As you can see, we follow up quite a bit. In sales, it takes at least 5 follow up efforts on average to successfully close a deal.

After the ninth column, we give up on leads. They’re either unqualified or they went cold, which is a problem for another dashboard.

Right now, we’re using this dashboard to focus on our sales efforts and maximize the efficiency of our processes.

At the top of every column, we’ve put instructions on what should be done in that phase.

This way, we’re streamlining follow-ups and sales processes. Whoever logs into that dashboard knows exactly what they need to do. There’s no second-guessing or wondering.

You log in and you do the work.

A lot of our follow-ups here are automatic.

When a card gets put into “first contact attempted,” the sales dashboard automatically adds a one-day due date.

Then, the salesperson assigned to it will see that ping, and they’ll follow up.

Now, this in itself is quite efficient. However, I have a Zapier zap for each stage.

The trickiest zap of them all (and the most important one) is the new lead zap.

3. The New Lead Zap

Now, the goal of our dashboard is having an automated sales pipeline and by God, we’ll have it!

The next part of the dashboard includes using Zapier.

I’m a huge fan of it. It just took a while to create a workaround for zaps that had non-triggers (i.e. leads didn’t respond and action was queued).

First of all, you need to set up a way for new leads to come into your Trello dashboard. From there, Zapier can handle the rest.

In our case, our leads come to the “New lead” column from either:

  • Intercom
  • Land bot application
  • Calendly session booking

You’ve got to cover all your lead entry points and ensure that they’re all added to your Trello dashboard to create an automated sales pipeline.

Once a new card (representing a new lead) is added to Trello, the next step is sending a Voxer message to our sales Voxer group.

Then, the message actually goes ahead and tells our salespeople that they have a new lead, with all the relevant information.

This is our system’s specificity. We have a system where the first salesperson that gets the lead goes after it throughout the funnel, so it’s very expandable.

However, if you have a different system, you can absolutely mix & match.

For example, if you have specific sales reps for different points of contact (columns), you can schedule automated messages to be sent to the right channels/reps.

Make sure your Trello, spreadsheet, and Zapier dates match.

You may need to format dates like I did. When a Trello card is created, it includes a full date, time and time zone shtick. However, you can’t use that in a spreadsheet, so you have to simplify the date.

The details really matter when you want to create an automated sales pipeline.

Organize your rows.

Since Zapier is going to be pulling data from your spreadsheet, you have to make sure that not only dates match, but that you don’t have any duplicate rows.

Specify which row Zapier should be using to pull data, and ensure that it matches the Trello cards and columns.

Zapier is going to be looking up everything that’s in the spreadsheet row you specified, so take the number that is in the spot there.

Then, add a number function to your spreadsheet.

When you get a new lead, the spreadsheet row Zapier is using has to be updated.

4. Know Your Numbers

You can also have Zapier look up different rows.

We chose to focus on our stats row to help us understand how our process is performing, and how many leads we’re getting on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

You can pull data for the past 7 days and the past 30 days.

I personally think it’s best to understand your 7-day lead totals and your 30-day lead totals.

Since those are moving targets (and the spreadsheet will treat them as sums), you’ll always get the freshest data, provided that the spreadsheet is updated in real-time.

It’s a lot more useful to be able to reference a Trello card in a meeting, instead of manually pulling data from a huge spreadsheet.

The best way to organize your sales pipeline is to add a status update card with stats to every Trello column.

It’ll give you the most accurate data on the current number of leads in that stage, which can later alert you to any problems with your sales pipeline or stages you should further optimize.

Again, automation is all about efficiency.

If you notice that, after a while, the leads really get stuck in the “third contact attempted” column, you can devise a way to improve it.

However, if you don’t see the data, there’s no way of understanding what’s wrong or improving it.

With an automated sales pipeline, you’ll know exactly what’s happening at any given point.

What Does It Look Like from the Client’s POV?

Obviously, we don’t want our clients to see the gears behind the process.

We just want to make sure our automated sales pipeline is efficient and smooth.

In my case, whenever a new card with a new lead is added to the board, a client gets an email from my Gmail address:

“Hey, thanks so much for your interest. One of our enrollment specialists will be in touch ASAP. In the meantime, if you want to book a call, you can…”

If the clients left a phone number with their contact info, we’ll make sure that the contact info is formatted properly and send them a text message notifying them of the email we sent.

So as you can tell, there are quite a lot of apps in our process.

But all it takes is 12 zaps.

12 zaps, and you’ll have created an efficient automated sales pipeline.

Cool, right? Want to get in on more of this replaceability stuff?

  1. Join our FREE Facebook Group — The Replaceable Founder
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  3. Come to our One-Day Intensive “Becoming Replaceable” Workshop in NYC.
  4. Want to work with us privately? Just answer a few questions and find out if you’re a good fit. Apply Now

9 Growth Accelerators Every Founder Needs

Honestly, who among us doesn’t want to unlock our constraints, unleash our team, and create a business that’s unstoppable? I mean, that’s the goal, right? That’s the day you get to say, you’ve become a Replaceable Founder.

It’s serious work, moving toward replaceability and maybe, just maybe, it’s not the same kind of work you’ve been doing; the relentless, indefatigable march of self-reliance that got you where you are. (which is fantastic, BTW, you killed it!)

Still, it can be both a great and terrifying day when a founder realizes she’s no longer shepherding a start-up; when she must manage rather than create; when she must relinquish control to drive the business forward; when she must stop working in her business and begin to work on it.

So let’s break it down into nine critical accelerators every successful entrepreneur needs for sustainable, measurable growth.

CAVEAT: this isn’t apple picking with kids; grabbing the ones you like, throwing away the ones that look a little weird, ignoring the ones that seem too hard to grasp. Nope, you’ve got to put ALL the apples in your basket. What you make of them is up to you. (We’re attempting pie tonight. Wish me luck. I have four kids. Under 8.)

The 3Ds

Most entrepreneurs lack a system for making effective decisions. They believe this is an innate skill, but most allow the sheer volume of choices they have to make in a day overwhelm them or derail their productivity.

Hard truth: You are the bottleneck in your business if your decision-making isn’t fast, informed, or precise.

The Remedy: Limit everyone (you included) to 3 decisions. Really.

  • Do: Complete a task now or assign it to someone else
  • Delete: Decline a request
  • Defer: Determine the best time to focus on the task


Most businesses lack intentionality around communication. They either don’t know that they should or don’t know how to be intentional. As a result, their businesses are plagued with noise: people are constantly bombarded with information and requests that are neither timely nor relevant. What’s worse is that people’s most productive times are often interrupted by this noise.

Hard Truth: You need a framework (yesterday) for how, when, and why you communicate with both your team and clients to stop the noise and encourage action.

The Remedy: The Less Doing Communication Mindset

  • Be intentional and purposeful about what, how, and when you communicate
  • Use multiple tools, so people know where to go for what type of information
  • Minimize interruptions at all costs

The 6 Levels of Delegation

Most entrepreneurs have experienced failures when it comes to delegation. They have asked people to take responsibility for a project and have not received the results they were expecting. It may be because they do not know how to delegate appropriately and lack experience in accurately communicating their intent.

If you’ve said on way too many occasions, “I got this.” You are not a master of delegation.

Hard Truth: You must accurately and effectively communicate your intent to others for them to operate successfully.

The Remedy: The 6 Levels of Delegation

  • Level 1: Perform — Do as I say
  • Level 2: Investigate — Look into this, and I’ll decide
  • Level 3: Recommend — Give me your advice, and I’ll decide
  • Level 4: Conclude — Explore, decide, but check with me
  • Level 5: Decide — Explore and decide within these limits
  • Level 6: Achieve — Take care of it for me

The External Brain

Entrepreneurs are full of ideas, but they lack a system and a plan for turning those ideas into reality. They either fall into the trap of letting a new idea hijack their time, or they completely forget about it and never apply it to grow their business.

Hard Truth: Your ideas are the fuel of your business. You must have a system to capture those ideas whenever and wherever you have them so you can act on them appropriately.

The Remedy: The External Brain Pathway

Capture Ideas — There’s a different time to have ideas than there is to process them. It would help if you had a way to keep them from distracting you.

Process Ideas — This is when you sit down to go through your ideas and determine what you’ll do with them.

Turn Ideas into Action Items — A method of getting your ideas from your capture point into your project management system.

Radical Transparency

The goal of a project management system isn’t just to have a place to dump an endless pile of to-do items. An effective project management system enables the leader to see precisely what is going on in the business so they can quickly, accurately, and effectively bring resources to bear to prevent bottlenecks.

If you look at your project management system and can’t tell what’s going on, can’t see where projects are in danger, or have to hunt down updates, then it is a hindrance.

Hard Truth: You need to have a bird’s eye view of what’s going on in your company at any given moment to identify bottlenecks and break log jams.

The Remedy: The 5 ITs of an Effective Project Management System

  • It defines phases — some form of “to do,” “doing,” and “done.”
  • It is dynamic — shows tasks moving through phases.
  • It shows ownership — There is some way to indicate who is responsible.
  • It sets deadlines — The owner knows when a deliverable is due.
  • It allows work to happen — It tracks conversations and details.


Many entrepreneurs fear accountability. So they don’t have a system to ensure projects get completed on time and to standard. Without a system, successful completion is left to chance or sweat or throwing more people at the problem. None of these tactics is a solution.

Hard Truth: You must be able to hold yourself and your team accountable for accomplishing the mission.

The Remedy: The Three Criteria for an Effective Accountability System

  • Clear expectations — People know what is expected of them and by when
  • Precise plan for tracking progress — Published accountability chart, Regular check-in schedule, and transparent lines of communication
  • Predictable response when things go off track — This system is applied consistently but centers on improvement, not punishment.

Optimize for Clarity

Most businesses fail to consider how and why they do what they do regularly. They rarely take the time to dissect a process to get clarity on it, work to make it more efficient, and then document it so that that efficiency can be replicated.

As a result, most businesses are fraught with wasted time, money, and resources.

Hard Truth: You must regularly review every process in your business to minimize waste, inefficiency, and ineffectiveness.

The Remedy: The 9-Step Optimization Blueprint

To optimize a process, you must:

  1. Take an inventory
  2. Choose a place to begin
  3. Make a high-level map
  4. Make a video
  5. Give the video to someone else to create a checklist
  6. Give the checklist to someone else to run through
  7. Edit as necessary
  8. Document the process
  9. Regularly update the process

Automate for Precision

Most businesses fail to use technology to their advantage. They don’t consistently examine processes, implement appropriate automation, and ensure that every team member understands and embraces the technology.

Hard Truth: You must automate routine tasks to save time, save money, reduce mistakes, and allow you and your team to engage in higher-level pursuits.

The Remedy: The Automation Code

  1. Choose a process you have already optimized.
  2. List the tools you use in that process.
  3. Choose one.
  4. See if the appropriate trigger step is supported by Zapier.
  5. If it is, determine the action that follows that trigger.
  6. Choose the appropriate tool from Zapier.
  7. Follow the prompts to create your automation.

Outsource For Empowerment

Most founders fall into two traps when it comes to outsourcing. First is the “I have to do everything myself” excuse and second is the “We have to do that in-house” justification. It’s a stubbornness that invariably leads to overworked and overtasked teams who squander their talents on task better suited to someone or something else.

Hard Truth: You should outsource or delegate as much of your business as possible because it empowers you and your team to focus on the value each individual brings to the organization.

The Remedy: The Done Method

  1. Identify an area that is outside your zone of genius
  2. Identify the skill set needed for that task
  3. Determine if you have that skillset in-house or if you need to outsource it
  4. If you have that skillset in-house, does that person has the bandwidth for this task?
  5. Next, find the right “who”
  6. Do you need a specialist or generalist?
  7. Will they be dedicated or on-demand?
  8. Now you can outsource.

So that’s it.

Those are the nine concepts every founder needs if they want to become replaceable.

We teach all these principles in darn near-microscopic detail, through our online Replaceable Founder course, at our One Day Intensives in NYC and in our Less Doing Leaders Program.

Which program do you think best serves your learning style?

Since you dutifully read to the end, I can tell you are hungry for answers. I can also tell that you understand that the only way up is through.

Click here to embark upon your replaceability journey.

Using Classic Inventory Systems in Project Management

What do inventory systems and project management have in common?

It’s all about the order in which things are done.

Not sure what we’re getting at? Have no fear, it’ll become clear very soon. And when it is clear, it could make a huge impact on budding founders and entrepreneurs and how they approach project management.

A Brief Introduction to FIFO and LIFO

When a grocery store purchases milk — or any perishable item — the oldest products are pushed to the front. This way, the food will be sold before its expiration date while the next oldest item is put in its place.

After all, if the item perishes, it generates a direct loss in profit. When items have a best-by-date, such a technique makes perfect sense.

Above, is an example of “first in, first out” or FIFO inventory management, which shows that a company’s priority is the sale of items first purchased for resale. FIFO is believed to be the most profitable inventory method because the cost of producing goods will rise over time.

Not only does the FIFO model make sense for grocery stores, but also for businesses with products that go off-trend or become obsolete such as fashion retailers.

Conversely, the “last in, first out” or LIFO method of inventory management is best suited for commodities such as petroleum, metals, and chemicals. It counts the cost of goods sold instead of what was paid for the inventory that was already in stock. Provided the goods increase in price after the initial purchase, the “cost of goods sold” metric will be greater. Thus, profits will reduce, but so will tax burdens.

However, the direction we’re going is quite different from the traditional concepts of FIFO and LIFO.

We are taking these principles and applying them to project management and workflow. Look at the ‘goods’ or ‘products’ in the above example and replace them with work from clients and customers.

Throughout this post, we’ll be discussing where FIFO and LIFO can be used respectively for project management. In these examples, it will become apparent that FIFO is the ideal choice for assembly and service-based project management, while LIFO is conducive to sales conversions.

Let’s delve deeper below:

LIFO and Assembly-Based Tasks

There are plenty of reasons why FIFO is better for assembly-based businesses looking to efficiently manage projects.

We’ll start with scheduling:

First and foremost, any given project could come with a laundry list of hiccups. Therefore, placing every new bit of work to the back of the line offers enough time to problem solve in the case of unforeseen snafus.

FIFO makes it easier to predict and promise completion dates — no matter the difficulty level of the job. In fact, it’s better to give timeframes that are in line with the tougher work.

Think about it. Say a client brings forth something so rudimentary that it’d take just a couple of hours, but the set wait time is 2 weeks. Sure, it could technically be taken care of right away. But placing it to the back of the line means everyone can still focus on completing the insanely hard project they’d been working on for the past 10 days. Pushing the easier work to the front of the line could possibly lead to a missed deadline for another tougher project.

Of course, if business is slow, there’s nothing wrong with finishing a project early — but it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver. Saying that a project will take 2 weeks then finishing it in a week comes across a lot better than guaranteeing it’ll be completed in 2 days then finishing in 3. Furthermore, with a 2-week completion promise, a project can be completed in 1 day, 9 days, or the entire 2 weeks to the satisfaction of the customer. It offers the ultimate flexibility.

A solidified buffer time for all projects gives businesses more time to appease customers, whereas randomly prioritizing could lead to unnecessarily bungled time management.

Now we’ll look at FIFO through the workflow visualization lens:

It’s easier to visualize a straight line than one that swirls, zig-zags, and spirals.

With FIFO, the workflow will be linear, making tracking a piece of cake. If an engine needs 5 machining processes, machine workers can predict their required tools and will have time to order extra parts.

It’s possible because they’ll be doing the job sequentially from the beginning until the end. If they go from part 1 right to part 5 — skipping all the steps in between — it becomes vastly more difficult to be predictive and efficient.

In a nutshell, FIFO makes it so assembly-based project managers can see what lies directly in front of them rather than picturing tasks coming from all directions.

And finally, let’s examine how FIFO impacts delegation:

Having some form of implemented FIFO process makes delegation a cinch. Technicians only have to work on the next item in line. There’ll be no fussing over what’s the higher priority or who’s supposed to do what. Plus, managers won’t need to waste time needlessly doling out tasks to their team.

Instead, the rules will be set in stone. Technicians will place their finished work at the end of the line on the next rack, refer to whichever FIFO-based scheduling mechanism that’s being used, rinse and repeat.

Since workers won’t be bouncing around mid-task to jump onto another project, it makes it far easier to monitor time and efficiency. If projects are taking too long, managers can clearly assess whether the issues are due to a deficiency in skill or because of under-charging.

With all of this in mind, why would assembly-based project managers stray from the FIFO approach?

Now, despite project managers’ immense multi-tasking abilities, they aren’t demi-gods. They are human.

And the human element is what puts schedules into blenders, sends workflows into a whirlwind, and flips delegation onto its head.

Guess who else is human? Needy customers — one of the greatest hurdles placed in front of the FIFO method. Unfortunately, a trap many businesses and project managers fall into is forgetting the need for boundaries with customers/clients.

And in 2019, boundaries have never been more important. In days of old, customers couldn’t find an employee’s home number and hound them until the job was done. Meaning, lines didn’t need to be drawn. If a customer was difficult, they could only be so until 5 pm every work day. Now, these difficult customers can run amok 24/7. Cellphones, texts, and emails make it so these demanding clients can contact project managers any time they please.

Even when it’s been decided that a client is so unprofessional that they’re one-and-done, their project often gets pushed to the front of the line in an effort to speed up the departure.

While pesky clients are a reality of any business, there are ways to offset their obtrusiveness. Start by clearly illustrating the timeline for completion. Break it down in great detail — as to avoid any confusion. Also, project managers must be very clear about business hours as well as when and where they may be appropriately contacted.

From there, it’s a matter of quality customer service. Proactive status updates will prevent clients from pestering.

If a customer is abrasive to the point where the above measures won’t quell their quirks, there’s nothing wrong with ‘firing’ them. One project isn’t worth breaking the FIFO protocol.

Another prime contributor to breaking the FIFO-cycle is prioritizing preferred work.

Work projects are always going to be a mixed bag.

Some are going to be challenging in an engaging, fulfilling sort of way. While others are going to be challenging in a mind-numbing, slamming-head-into-a-wall sort of way. And others might not be challenging at all, and just plain boring.

Regardless, the way workers treat these projects can throw a wrench into what was once a well-oiled FIFO machine.

A job may not be glitz and glamor but it’s essential to complete it before the next (far more fun) project.

For FIFO to function at its fullest capacity, discipline is of the utmost essence. Breaking the FIFO chain because something isn’t desirable has greater consequences than just one job. More specifically, if it happens once, it’ll happen again. Suddenly, boring jobs start to pile up because all the fun ones were completed. Then, deadlines fall by the wayside — along with a business’s overall reputation.

No matter the mundanity of a job, it must be done well and punctually. Set aside the time to get it done. Provided the process was awful enough, use the experience as a lesson and reminder to avoid similar jobs in the future.

The lure of a quick buck can also throw FIFO project management for a loop.

We’ve all salivated at the idea of a few hundred dollars in our pocket at the blink of an eye.

Still, just because something seems profitable, doesn’t mean it is. A shop that’s backlogged with engines can’t afford to shift everything around for sake of an easy dollar. It could throw operations into complete chaos.

There is a compromise, however: some businesses will under-schedule daily workloads and leave a couple of hours open for walk-in appointments, as to not disrupt the FIFO flow.

Another business using the FIFO model for workload management was a maid service called Maids by Trade.

While cleaning homes and machine assembly are drastically different things, they are equally task-based. And completing first tasks, in both cases, removes the inefficiencies that stem from allowing new jobs to interfere with the old.

It’s a straight-forward concept. Multi-tasking means wasted time. Whereas, completing one job at a time — in the order that’s been promised — is far more productive.

Why LIFO Works in Sales

We’ll be honest, the LIFO model section isn’t as long as FIFO.

Part of the reason is that LIFO’s purposes are far more limited than those of its counterpart. Placing top priority on the newest task is counterintuitive. Why would a project manager neglect old tasks for something newer and shinier?

Comparatively, the FIFO model fulfills the needs of project managers in a multitude of industries — not just machine shops and maid services. From web designers to construction workers, the FIFO model has its place.

However, LIFO is a good fit for sales-based tasks — particularly for big-ticket items such as homes.

Why? Because the likelihood of converting a real estate lead decreases as time passes. Or, the lead ‘cools down,’ as they say in the industry.

So, it’s proven to be more fruitful for real estate agents to focus the bulk of their efforts on new leads because they’re ‘hot.’

Perhaps it’s the amount of money being spent on a real estate purchase that makes LIFO the model of choice for those in the industry. The more people can stew over such a large investment, the greater the chance for hesitation and second-guessing.

Therefore, we hypothesize that the LIFO model might be effective for other big-ticket items like automobiles. Much like real estate agents, car salesmen must strike when the proverbial iron is hot.

Can FIFO and LIFO Work in Harmony?

FIFO and LIFO by their very natures seem like they could never exist within the confines of the same company.

But there are businesses out there with both service/assembly-based facets and sales facets.

Consider an advertising agency, for instance, who must first sell its high-priced services to viable businesses. From there, it needs to manage projects for those businesses where they must produce (or assemble) campaigns on a deadline.

It can be surmised that in order to acquire new business and sell themselves to clients, this hypothetical agency should utilize LIFO methods to capitalize on leads when they’re hot.

Then, once the client has been onboarded and projects are underway, the FIFO model can be put in place to ensure streamlined workload management.

Putting Process Management into Practice the Easy Way

We all hear that automating and outsourcing tasks are the best way to grow a business. It sounds pretty easy, right? Just let someone (or something) else handle all your tasks without you having to lift a finger…and watch your revenue soar.

But it’s not quite that easy.

Anyone who has tried to hire a new employee or contractor understands that other people don’t always have the same vision of a process that you do.

I know I’ve been frustrated before at hiring someone who ends up completing a task entirely different from how I would have done it. And then I just have to redo everything anyway.

That didn’t save me any time or money at all.

And guess what?

It wasn’t the other person’s fault. It was mine.

Here’s why. I didn’t have a good process map in place before asking them to complete the workflow.

Sure, I knew exactly how to do the job myself. But that’s not the same as relaying the information to someone else in an efficient manner.

So I’m going to save you from making that same costly mistake.

Here’s the most important information you need to know for putting process management into practice easily, and getting your workflow completed…

You need to set your intentions

Process management is a beautiful thing because it essentially means you don’t have to do a lot of people managing. You’ve set the process in place so well that recurring workflows just get completed.

In order to get to that place of beauty, you need communication.

And before you can communicate to your team successfully, you’re going to need to set your intentions.

You cannot lead well by making assumptions that everyone else will automatically do things the way you do.

So be very clear to your team about what you expect and how you expect it to work. They’re not mind readers. It’s your job to set intent.

Let’s talk about how that works when it comes to process management tools…

Communicate better by choosing tools intentionally

You cannot manage a process well if everyone is not on the same page about how you intend to communicate.

If you have the process set up in a particular task management software, you need to make sure everyone on your team is using that software all the time.

So if you have a project with tasks outlined on cards on Trello, your team needs to know that you expect them to communicate via Trello regarding that project.

Make sure they know that is the intent.

That way you don’t end up with important questions about a project going to a cluttered inbox, for example.

You want to avoid the common trap of using 5 different applications to communicate about the same project or workflow.

Stay organized with documentation

As you’re going through the processes you are going to optimize, automate, or outsource, you’ll likely find that there are several different areas of your business that require this kind of attention and mapping.

So sit down and document them.

Note which processes you have in place. List all of them. And put them in a queue for mapping.

You can do this with whatever app works best for you. I like to use Trello so that I can see each process on a card, and all of the processes on a board together. I can also use it to group related process under columns. It’s pretty nifty.

Asana is another similar app that allows you to use cards and boards.

Both of these platforms allow you to invite your team members to access the boards.

And to be clear, I think you can benefit from process mapping every aspect of your business. We even optimize the process of showing gratitude to one another. Seriously.

The first step is writing down your current process

You can’t optimize until you have a working process in place.

Here’s the real trick though:

You have to write down every single step. Every. Single. Step.

Sometimes you’re going to mess this up because you know exactly what the step means. But the first time your contractor misses a step you’ll realize that it’s not as clear to everyone else.

When that happens, you know you need to add in an extra step to make everything understandable. Don’t expect them to make the leap in thought of: “If I’m told to do X, then that clearly means I have to do part Xa and part Xb.”

Mapping out a process

The purpose of setting up a mapped and efficient process is so that you can ideally begin using that process for OAO — optimizing, automating, and outsourcing.

You’re going to break each process up into two areas on the map — main phases and individual steps.

Let’s take a really simple process as an example:

You need to check and organize your email.

The main phases might look something like this:

  1. Open the email application.
  2. Address new emails.
  3. Address old emails.

Each phase has its own individual steps.

To be fair, opening the email application is pretty straightforward, but let’s go ahead and map it out anyway.

  1. Click the shortcut to your email application.
  2. Click “sign in”.
  3. Type your username.
  4. Type your password.
  5. Click “log in”.

Even a short, straightforward process has multiple steps when you break it down. (And even this process can be optimized/automated. One way is to use a password saver like True key.)

You will then go through each of the other phases to break them down into individual steps.

Optimizing the process

An optimized process map is one that you can give to a person who has never been through the process before, and they can complete each step without making a mistake in the process.

That is, the optimized process map is precisely clear on what tasks need to be done and in what order.

Automation can take care of process steps, but…

Once you have your process in place, you absolutely can build in automation using software.

There’s one thing I want to warn you about though:

After meticulously marking down every little part of every step of your process, your mind may be stuck in that step by step mode.

And that is not the way you want to automate.

Yes, you want the automation to complete all the steps. But you do not want to set up 20 different automations for 20 different steps.

As you look for automation software, keep in mind that it’s much more helpful to be able to integrate multiple steps into one automated process.

For instance, if you need to send a post to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, that is 3 individual parts of a process that need to be completed. But instead of manually going to each platform and making a post, you want to find software that will post to all 3 platforms for you.

Then, you only need to make the post once, and you’ve done 3x the work. Automation. It’s a beautiful thing.

Again though, you have to have a working plan in place before you can automate anything.

Just get started

The step that usually trips people up the most in process mapping is making a decision. If you’re like a lot of people, maybe you’re wondering right now, “But which process do I start with?”

Here’s the big secret:

It doesn’t matter.

It really doesn’t matter which process you start with.

Pick one area to create a process map for, and work on it until you have the entire process mapped out. Then start optimizing, automating, and outsourcing that process.

When you’ve finished that one, then you can pick another.

The real key to success is momentum. You’ve got to keep taking action, follow through and make process. Because with the help of automations, progress can lead to perfection.

Project Management vs Process Management

When we’re talking about running our businesses to the best of our abilities, there are two terms that stand out:

Process management and project management.

Since they sound alike, a lot of people use them interchangeably. However, they’re not one and the same.

Each is used for different things and comes with its own set of benefits and tools.

Fortunately, you can automate both.

What Is the Difference Between Process Management and Project Management?

Project management is managing a lot of tasks that are going to help you achieve your goal.

So let’s say your company has a big marketing campaign for the spring of 2019 planned. Project management means managing all the things that need to get done:

  • Ad creatives
  • Channels and campaign distribution
  • Task delegation

Or, to put it simply, project management answers the question: What needs to get done in order to get where we want to be?

Process management, on the other hand, manages standard operational procedures at your business.

For example, customer onboarding.

With process management, you’d define, organize and standardize all the different steps of the customer onboarding process such as:

  1. Customer signs this document.
  2. Customer is added to the CRM system or internal records.
  3. Customer is sent a follow-up email.

And so on.

In order for the process to be completed, certain steps have to be taken. With time, they also have to be optimized and improved.

Or, to put it simply, process management answers the question: How do things need to get done in order to get where we want to be?

Now, people commonly confuse the two because there’s a lot of tasks in both. Which software do you even use to manage and automate it? Would you use Trello for process management, and Process Street for project management?


Trello is a great tool — it’s a Kanban board, and it’s great for project management because it helps you visualize everything. However, it’s not a checklist.

And a workflow tool like Process Street is great at process management, but just doesn’t work for project management. Projects are specific, and Process Street excels at standardization — just like a checklist.

Benefits of Process Management Automation

Let’s say you wanted to manage a 47-step process of customer onboarding at your business. And keep in mind that 47 steps aren’t that much — it’s a standard number.

You’d have to have a documented process. It’s more efficient than just winging it every time a new customer comes in.

And when you have a documented process, you stick by it. Over time, you may even make adjustments and optimize it to better fit the customer.

The main benefit of going fully automated with process management is that you’re already doing it.

You have a well-documented process and if you automate it with tools like Process Street, you’re reducing your workload and making sure that the customer is onboarded successfully at the same time.

When you’re at the stage that automation is natural, it means that the process itself won’t feel dehumanized. Instead, you and your team can focus on more meaningful interactions that actually require you to communicate with customers.

Automation software can send automated onboarding emails, and you can get in touch with customers and help improve their experience where it matters.

Benefits of Project Management Automation

Since process management takes care of the minutiae of operations at your business, project management has to take care of the more high-level stuff.

With project management automation, the key area of focus is helping the manager or leader know where they should direct their attention to at any given time.

This means knowing:

  • What the priorities are
  • What tasks are at risk of being delayed
  • Which team members have been assigned to which task
  • Who needs help
  • What needs to change

A project management software like Trello shows the manager what’s going on, without them having to understand the specifics.

They can jump in if something needs changing or if someone needs help, but otherwise, they’re free to focus on more important things.

Can Project and Process Management Overlap?

Yes, and they often do.

Let’s say your company is hiring someone new.

In process management, the manager would see all the 47 steps, which isn’t that important unless the manager is personally taking the hire through the process.

In project management software like Trello, they’d just see that a new hire has been added, and trained at the end. If the onboarding process has additional steps like background checks, they could be set up in Trello by stages such as:

  1. Hire added
  2. Background check
  3. Training
  4. Onboarding finished

Instead of seeing every part of the process (e.g. in background check — files submitted, processed, approved), the manager viewing it in project management software would just see that each stage has been completed.

They’d see the results — which is the main goal of project management (software).

Or, to paraphrase it:

Process management is about the journey. Project management is about the destination.

Which One Do I Need?

That depends on what your role is, and what your company is like.

In some cases, you may be needed as a part of the process (e.g. interviewing new hires, or talking to new clients before they’re onboarded).

In other cases, you might just be getting in the way.

And while the two terms frequently overlap, the most important thing is understanding where you and your role fit in your business’ journey.

Do you need to be a part of the process or just a part of the project?

Hack Your Friendships…

…networking is so 2018.

I have a strategy for keeping my relationships strong with the people I don’t see very often. I guess you could call it networking, but I hate that phrase. I use Trello, but it doesn’t really matter what tool you use for the following friendship hack.

I have about 12–16 key people in my life that I just want to keep in regular contact with; not with any particular purpose. Most of them have given me business or speaking opportunities, but it’s really just that they’re interesting people. I always learn something when I speak to them.

It’s really, really simple in Trello because I just set a due date of, say, 60 days from now on each contact’s card. When we speak, I’ll put notes in there on Trello about what we talked about. It’s also really easy to do follow-ups. I can tag someone on my team and say, “Hey, I talked to this person, please send them a copy of my book.” Then, I have a record of that entire exchange.

As you know, I’m very, very much about the external brain. It’s really easy to get lazy and just keep all of your contacts and conversations in your head. But I think that it’s very helpful and way more effective if you get it out of your head, so you not only know what you and the person talked about, but what action you took afterward.

With more and more people using calendly or scheduling software in general, I realized that there are a lot of people who feel like that’s not a personal enough touch. But I think calendly is a wonderful gift you can give people. You tell them, “You can book at any time that’s convenient for you.” Of course, when they get in there, they’re going to see the parameters that make sense to you so you’re actually controlling it. I think that this old-school notion that you have to have a secretary like Miss Moneypenny who’s personally going back and forth to set a time with someone is super antiquated.

These days, my contacts send me a calendly link and I started saving them on their cards in Trello. So when the due date comes up, I go to the Trello card. I see what the last conversation was, I pull up the calendly link and I book it, which saves a ton of back and forth. So I have a calendar full of really interesting calls and conversations with people whose counsel I trust and whose company I want to keep invigorated.

I used to talk about how the average meeting takes eight emails to set up and now calendly made it possible to do in one step. Now I can make it zero steps really as I’ve taken control of my regularly scheduled contact with these people. Everybody benefits. So there’s my little relationship management hack that you can all use and set up in about 10 minutes. And I hope you do. Make it an effective week.