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Contact Management Software

Use a contact manager to stay in touch with business contacts

Ever wonder how Joe Blow, #1 salesman for a key pharmaceutical firm, always remembers the receptionist's name. And when he speaks with the Doctor, he knows that his 18 year old son is the quarterback on his high school varsity team.

How does he remember such mundane information for hundreds of clients?

Blow does not have a photographic memory. His secret weapon is his trusty contact management software where he scrolls away such tidbits every time he visits a client. Because his contact manager is linked to his financial software he knows the doctor is one of his top clients.

In this day of one-to-one relationships when personalization and customization are so critical to a sale, tracking what you know about a client can make all the difference. A good contact management system lets sales people, business executives, or anyone record key conversations and other salient facts in one place to be recalled when needed.

Features vary so you need to assess your needs before you buy

Whether its such basic information as address, phone number and email address or critical reminders about the samples you promised to drop in the mail, contact management software lets you record all the details and then links them to your daily to-do list providing a timely reminder when you sit down at a desk to follow-up.

Most have a calendar for scheduling appointments, complete with electronic reminders to insure that you leave the office in time for your next appointment. Most will dial the number for you if the computer and phone line are linked.

Contact management software: business women talkingMost contact managers have a notes section where you can record the key details of every client phone call and then link the note to the client's records.

Some of the more advanced models geared towards sales professionals let you feed prospects into a sales funnel, with steps leading to the first sale, and up-sells, to maximize the lifetime value of each customer.

One of the most powerful features in some contact managers lets you schedule a series of activities. Similar to an autoresponder, online, you can schedule a series of activities, like a postcard mailer, a sales letter, phone call, followed by a sales letter and another postcard. You add the series to a new prospect and the contact manager reminds you to take the appropriate activity.

Larger companies and corporations use elaborate contact management systems known as customer relationship management systems, CRM, that let hundreds or even thousands of workers access and enter data about customers in elaborate data bases to insure that no one drops the ball.

There are a variety of great products so how do you determine which one is right for your needs?

Here are some things you might want to consider:

  • How many people need to access the data? A very small company with five or fewer people is going to want a system that is easy to use.
  • How many clients are you trying to track? A company with fewer than 50 clients needs a different system than a product company that depends on sales to hundreds or thousands. Products that are used up and need to be refilled on a predictable schedule might need to be tied into a sophisticated data base.
  • What is the skill level of the person who will use the system?
    Does your solution need to synchronize with a mobile device? For busy people on the go, the software you choose may depend on how easy it is to download the information to a pocket pc.
  • Does your solution need to synchronize with Microsoft Outlook, or your financial data? QuickBooks offers a Customer Manager that synchronizes with QuickBooks. Most of the popular contact managers will share data with Microsoft Outlook but it may take an additional step.
  • What types of reports do you need?
    How much time are you willing to spend to learn a new solution? You can be up and running with some contact management software after taking a turn through a video tutorial or spending a couple of hours with a manual. With others you may face a steep learning curve.
  • Do you need a contact manager that is customized for a specific job or industry? For instance, ACT provides versions specifically for sales people, executives and small business owners.

by Marcia Ming -

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