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Your vendor, prospect and customer contact information is like the oil in your business’s engine. It enables your outward-facing team to keeping humming along efficiently. But like motor oil, your contact information degrades over time. You need to be regularly topping it up to ensure everything is accurate and up-to-date.

Maintaining clean, accurate contact information can be really challenging, however, when those contacts are fragmented across multiple Excel files, or Gmail and Outlook accounts. These disjointed records lead to duplicates, mistakes, missed follow-ups and lost opportunities. While managers find it almost impossible to forecast accurately or get visibility into their team’s performance.

Rather than relying on employee memory or piecemeal records, businesses turn to contact management software to bring everything together and get clean, pure contact information flowing through their engine. But with hundreds of solutions out there, how do you know what’s right for you? And how do you ensure the best bang for your buck?

In this article, we’ll give you a rundown on the 7 qualities of a rock-solid contact management — and how you can use them to get the most value from your contact information.

Contact Management (CM) vs Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

The first question you should ask yourself is whether you want to get a Contact Manager (CM) or a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution. Some vendors use these terms interchangeably, creating confusion. But there’s an important difference that can determine what sort of solution you ultimately select.

A contact manager, like Google Contacts, helps individuals or teams manage basic details about their contacts, opportunities and accounts. It’s generally suited for where relationships are short-lived or shallow. If you’re an individual or a small, agile startup — a CM may be all you need.

However, if you’ve got a long or complex sales cycle with many touch points, and you require extended communications histories and process automation — then you’ll want a CRM.

A great CRM solution empowers you to build stronger relationships with the tools to monitor, manage and track your contacts across their entire lifecycle.

An all-inclusive CRM should come packed with sales, marketing, service and support tools, plus tools for scheduling appointments, task management, document and template management, and business process management. It enables you to track all correspondence related to a contact, including emails, calls, meeting notes, documents, contracts and more — and renders that stored information easily searchable and retrievable.

Proven strategies for rock-solid contact management

When shopping for your CRM solution, it’s vital to find something that can support your efforts to get everything working together. Here are the items that should be on your checklist:

  1. Easy-to-Personalize: First, you’ll want a solution you can quickly make work like you do (i.e., follow your terminology and workflow steps). This minimizes the need for costly and time-consuming external consultants.
  2. Email connections: Snappy integrations with popular apps such as Gmail and Outlook will help you centralize contacts with minimal fuss. Ideally, these integrations not only let you sync contacts, they let you track emails individually or by thread from inside your CRM — creating a searchable conversation history.
  3. Pre-built integrations: Being able to effortlessly flow leads, quotes, estimates and invoices into and out of your CRM is another asset that will save you and your team a lot of time. Check if vendors include pre-built connections with your critical marketing, finance, and invoicing programs.
  4. Note-taking and call-logging: Context is critical when on a support or sales call. Note-taking and call-logging features empower staff, while giving managers useful data for measuring team performance — such as call frequency and duration.
  5. File-sharing: A CRM with a document library will save you having to sift through DropBox and Google Drive every time you need to send a piece of collateral. Staff can instead share and send documents directly from their CRM without switching apps. Some CRMs will also let you append documents directly to an Address Book contact, letting you create individualized document histories.
  6. De-duping, import and global edit tools: Having a database riddled with dupes and missing entries will impair your ability to forecast and plan ahead. Save hours otherwise wasted on manual entry correction by using a CRM with robust data management.
  7. Mobility: Finally, you’ll want to unshackle staff from their bricks-and-mortar office. A CRM with a mobile-friendly interface or mobile app ensures they have complete contact intelligence at their fingertips while on the fly.

Build your single version of the truth

Now here’s how you can exploit these seven strategies to get the biggest bang for your buck out of your CRM. Unlike CM, CRM is more than just a place to stow information; it’s about processes: your sales funnel, service queue and sales cycle. It’s only by thinking holistically about how contact information flows through their organization that businesses are able to leverage CRM to achieve the highest return on investment. This is through what we like to call a “single version of the truth”.

An example of this truth in action is provided by one of our customers, Mayfield Plastics. As its name suggests, the company specializes in custom plastic products, including made-to-order enclosures and medical device shells. Mayfield takes pride in delivering each product on-time and with amazing customer care.

Meeting its customers demanding expectations order after order requires a lot of discipline — and effective management of the blizzard of correspondence and paperwork. That includes request documents, blueprints, photographs and contracts. Customer service staff would spend days searching across multiple databases.

Once Mayfield recognized the value of their CRM as a single version of the truth, however, they were able to bring everything together, reducing service response times to “immediately or just a few hours.” They now say their use of a stellar CRM tool is indispensable to their operations. We have a full CRM Case Study on Mayfield Plastics elsewhere on our site.

What’s your experience with contact management? What features do you think are the most important for success? Have you struggled with duplicates and erroneous entries? How did you resolve the issue? We’d love to hear from you!

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