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Dealing with Inquiries

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  • Dealing with Inquiries

    I am working on implementing GTD but one type of inbox item keeps holding me up.

    I am a photographer so a regulary (i.e.) daily inbox item I receive are inquiries. Either by phone or most often by email. Calling these inquiries (prospects) typically takes more than just 2 min so then it becomes an action. The problem is how to do that.

    I could put

    Call john smith

    However, since I don't actually know this person I have to go through all my inquiries (I get several a day) and find this person.

    I've tried

    "call inquiries'

    but that really is more than one action

    Here is what a typical inquiry looks like that is sent to me when someone requests information from my website.

    Full Name: Munirah Abdullabhoy
    Phone Number: 908-517-9143
    Email Address: munirah_na@hotmail.com
    Service: Wedding
    Additional Info: June 3rd 2007 in Eagle, ID


    Often the person inquiring won't actually give me the additional info

    Any ideas?

  • #2
    I stretch my two minute rule to accommodate items like these. I lump inbox processing together with returning phone calls and answering emails.

    This isn't strict GTD, but it works for me. I only do it for calls and emails that are "atomic" actions, by which I mean that the email or the call requires no prep work or additional information, and that the phone call is inherently closed-ended.

    In your example, for instance, I would guess that a "standard" inquiry response involves verifying that the date is open, discussing the nature of the shoot, and giving a ballpark estimate on your fee. You then might follow up with a detailed quote, or with a rate sheet and brochure. Or you might set an appointment for a face-to-face meeting. Responding immediately isn't likely to take a huge amount of time -- even if more than 2 minutes -- but both moves the project forward and shows the prospect how responsive you are. Once you've made the call, you can identify the *next* Next Action and put that on your list.

    Plus, in my experience, I'm about 75% likely to get the other person's voice mail anyway, which reduces it back to a 2 minute task *and* puts it in the other person's inbox instead of mine.

    Katherine

    Comment


    • #3
      Are you using Outlook for your e-mail, tasks, etc.? If so, consider using an app called Anagram. It allows you to select text in an e-mail or any other document, then click on the Anagram icon in the system tray. Anagram parses the selected text, and decides whether it's a task, a note, an appointment or a contact, and opens the right entry dialog in Outlook.

      You then confirm, and it adds the item to Outlook. In your case, you could select all the text in the inquiry, then Anagram would create a task for you, with all the info you selected in the task line or in an attached note.

      Anagram is very, very useful. I have no connection to the product, other than as a long time, satisfied user.

      I believe the website is www.getanagram.com. Although I use it with Outlook, I believe there's a version available for the Palm desktop software as well.

      It's not free, but I don't recall the cost. It's been worth whatever it cost, many many times over. It's a huge time-saver.

      Randy

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      • #4
        Well the doing at the time makes since except for that the time that I actually empty my inbox alot of times is late at night beyond normal calling times. Also what happens if I don't reach them and leave a voicemail. Is this now a project?

        And you are right about what happens next, usually I call and confirm the date, verify if I am open or not and schedule a face-to-face meeting. Does this now become a project? What do I do with the original inquiry? Should I copy the info to something else and delete the email?

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by crcossel View Post
          Well the doing at the time makes since except for that the time that I actually empty my inbox alot of times is late at night beyond normal calling times. Also what happens if I don't reach them and leave a voicemail. Is this now a project?
          One thing you might do is use an email filter to automatically separate out inquiries from other email. Block out time during the day to work through the inquiry box.

          And you are right about what happens next, usually I call and confirm the date, verify if I am open or not and schedule a face-to-face meeting. Does this now become a project? What do I do with the original inquiry? Should I copy the info to something else and delete the email?
          All of this sort of depends on your workflow, and is pretty much up to you. For instance, you might have a standard form (paper or electronic) that you use to track capture all information about prospective clients from the initial inquiry through to completion of the project. Then you could populate this form with the information from the initial inquiry, and reference it for all further dealings with that prospect. Each of these forms would represent a project, and each might spawn off tasks as necessary. With sufficiently sophisticated software (which may already exist, for all I know), the data capture forms could also provide links into your image database.

          But all of that is project support material, and therefore outside the scope of GTD. For GTD purposes, you need the Next Action: "Call John Smith 555-1212 re: wedding March 10. Left him voice mail 2/9." And you need the project: "John Smith and Mary Jones, wedding March 10." And both of those can be kept in whatever system works best for you.

          Katherine

          Comment


          • #6
            I have struggled with similar issues myself and seem to have finally come to an answer that works well for me.

            I treat each person (or inquiry) as a project. It may be one step - call them back and that's the end of it. Or it may lead to a booking and so forth which is multiple steps.

            In my business it is more me taking the initiative than responding, but once I've taken the first step, I want to follow-through to completion. Thus I keep a Moleskine with my "contacts" in it. Each page gets one contact - their name and number is at the bottom with a line above it.

            At the top of the page I start my notes, which in your case would be the date/time you received the inquiry and details as to the inquiry. Then when I have a chance to sit down and make some calls (and it is an appropriate time of day), I just flip through my book.

            I use a circle to denote a next action that involves an attempt to contact the person. A square is for a next action done without contacting the other person (such as mailing a brochure or filling an order). A star is for an idea I have regarding that person...a particular product they might be interested in, for example.

            When I make the call (with the circle), one slash indicates that I made the attempt. Two slashes or an X indicates that I actually spoke with the person. A star within the circle (four slashes) means that I got some kind of positive response but still need to follow through. When the contact is complete - there is no more reason for them to be on my current active list of people I'm trying to connect with or working with - I fill in the circle. I have a circle for each attempt to connect with them (each time I call them or speak with them). If I need to call them back at a certain time, I put the letter T and circle it and put a note in my tickler. If I am waiting for them to get back to me, I put a W and circle it. The key is to have a next action for each contact unless the interaction (aka loop) is complete.

            The nice thing about using the Moleskine is that it serves to tell me how much effort I am putting into my business. When you have a business that deals with people, it's a numbers game. This record simply tells me how many attempts I'm making and how hard I've tried with each one.

            This exact system may not work for you, but perhaps it will get some ideas rolling in your mind as to what might in fact work for you. Good luck!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by randystokes View Post
              Are you using Outlook for your e-mail, tasks, etc.? If so, consider using an app called Anagram. It allows you to select text in an e-mail or any other document, then click on the Anagram icon in the system tray. Anagram parses the selected text, and decides whether it's a task, a note, an appointment or a contact, and opens the right entry dialog in Outlook.
              Thanks for this recommendation Randy. I have just downloaded the 45 day trial and am very impressed with it. It's not perfect, but it definitely looks like it's going to be of use to me and save me a lot of time.

              The cost btw if I remember correctly is $29.95 for one license.

              Paul

              Comment


              • #8
                Since this type of action is central to your work, you might try making it a context, e.g., @inquiries. This would allow you to move them out of your email (getting it to zero, and providing that sense of trusted relaxation that comes from being on top), while minimizing tracking chores. Of course you'd need to train yourself to review the @inquiries list as part of your daily review when you have a few minutes.

                Alternatively, you could block out regular "process inquiries" time in your calendar, and look either in an @inquiries or @action-support email folder...

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