In the course of your everyday social life, the address book you keep in Microsoft Outlook or on your smart phone is probably all you need for collecting the names and numbers of your friends and acquaintances. In business, however, you really need to manage much more information about your contacts. Not only do you want the basics—name, address, company name, email, phone number—but you also want to make notes about the interactions you’ve had with your contacts at different touch points, such as at meetings or via email correspondences.
This is where a Contact Relationship Manager (or CRM) comes to the rescue.
With a Contact Relationship Manager, everything interaction with a client can be logged in one spot, right alongside their essential contact info. Any time you want to look up anything that has happened with a particular client, you simply click on their name and see everything related to them. It’s a really comprehensive way to make sure that you’re staying on top of all the things that are related to that person.
CRM programs come in a couple of flavors—one is a program you install on your computer, while the other is a web-based application. CRM programs you install on your computer, such as ACT, can sync up with Microsoft Outlook or whatever else you use for contact-related tools. Outlook itself can be a very powerful contact manager because it integrates tasks, calendar items, and emails all together. You can set reminders inside of Outlook or ACT for when it’s time to call someone, and you can take notes about the different meetings you’ve had with your contacts. You can also get add-ons for Outlook that offer more full-featured contact relationship management.
Cloud or web-based Contact Relationship Management apps are secure websites where you can view all of your business contacts, and within which you can dig really deep into each contact’s information. You can take notes about every meeting or interaction you’ve had with them. You can connect each tool to your calendar, especially if it’s an online calendar like Google Calendar, so you can directly link reminders related to each contact.
These apps can also link into other online tools you might be using. For instance, if you use an email program like Constant Contact to send out e-newsletters to your followers, the data from your email client can hook into your CRM, so you can see whether or not a client opened your email. So when you’re on the phone with a client you can open their record in your CRM and you can see if they read your last newsletter. If you know they did, that might open a door to a conversation about your product or service.
A few CRM apps I recommend are Salesforce, Zoho, and Highrise. Zoho CRM is great because typically it’s free, especially for individuals and small businesses. There are also paid tiers, but if you’re looking to get started on the cheap, that is a good option. Salesforce is a big application, designed for big companies that have large sales forces that need to collaborate with each other on making a big sale. That said, they do offer tiers of service. A couple of the lower tiers, the group addition in particular, are really great for small businesses because they let you do a lot of the things that a bigger business would use Salesforce for without a lot of the cost.
CRMs require you to be diligent about keeping data on your contacts up to date—if you don’t, it’s a
wasted opportunity. If you do maintain a CRM, however, you’ll quickly see the many benefits they provide to your business.
If you’re wondering how to choose and use a CRM, we’d be happy to chat with you. Contact us for a complimentary strategy session by going to http://www.customlivingsolutions.com/Apply
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