Contact management – why this is fundamental for effective selling

Who are your contacts and what do you do with them?

Selling is about developing relationships, but when time is finite, competition is fierce, and buyers and decision-makers and extremely busy, there are real dividends to be gained from effective contact management.

Contact is defined as a noun and a verb

con·tact

noun A person who may be communicated with for information or assistance,

verb Communicate with (someone), typically in order to give or receive specific information

A Contact is a person

Holding contact details is the first and cornerstone function of a CRM system. It allows you to record key profile information about a person, whether they be a buyer, a customer or a prospect. Then the activity with that person can be recorded, so that a history of letters, phone calls, emails, meetings etc. builds up over time. Future activity can also be scheduled, such as meetings and phone calls. The system will then prompt the user with their to-do tasks at the scheduled time.

Contact Management is great for a business to consumer (B2C) or high volume, low value B2B sales model.

Most CRM systems now also support the higher value B2B sales model by providing Account Management capability. This is where several individual contacts can be associated with a company, and maybe several companies or divisions associated with a holding company. Identifying the key data you need to hold about people and organisations, their relationship structure and your contact activity types will help you when you start to look for a new CRM system.

Key measures – how many contacts do you have and are they the ‘right’ contacts?

You may have some metrics in your business that helps assess the value of your contact database, but gaining and recording new contact details is an ongoing need for every business.

To contact is an activity

The ability to record previous activity and schedule future activity is the second core element of CRM systems. Customer and prospect segmentation, based on profile, purchase and activity data is the starting point. This feeds into outbound contact via letter (mail-merge) email, call-centre, etc. when combined with the creative and copy / scripting of the sales messages. Responses are then recorded as the basics of campaign management, and in some cases leads can be allocated to the appropriate salesperson automatically. More advanced systems will move beyond single step broadcast campaigns and support multi-step campaigns tailored to the response of each recipient. For example, a multi-step email campaign may send an awareness email to a target group, about an event or new product, and, depending on whether the email is opened and links clicked then different follow-up emails can be scheduled to be sent at differing times.

The objective is a higher conversion ratio and a reduction in sales effort, by focusing on the most interested prospects. Identifying your current and potential lead generation activity and follow-up processes will help when you come to review CRM systems.

Key measures – how often do you contact people, and is the contact effective?

Providing you say something that your contacts and potential customers find valuable, then regular and frequent contact will generate much better results than occasional contact. A little and often is a good approach, as it is easier to create and quicker to read, and by sending more frequent messages there is an increased chance that at least some will read.

Contact Management Systems

Computer systems make it easier to manage contact information and to communicate with contacts. However, there is still a basic need to work out who the right contacts are, and then what the right contact strategy should be. There is value in reviewing this on a regular basis, especially in faster moving sectors, or where there are changes taking place in the markets in which you operate.

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