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Contact Management Solutions Aren’t Just For Corporations

Contact Management Solutions Aren’t Just For Corporations

    Whether you run your own business or you’re trying to keep your extended family organized — or maybe even both — having a robust system able to keep your contacts organized is important.

    Organization isn’t enough, though. An electronic Rolodex isn’t really enough, though that’s pretty much what most of us rely on these days. Instead, we need to be able to tell when we last talked to a given contact, if we promised to handle any tasks or any other details that our address books don’t track. That means we need some sort of contact relations management. CRM isn’t just for the folks with big fancy corner offices anymore.

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    GMail’s Contacts Just Aren’t Enough

    It’s very easy to fall into the habit of syncing everything to GMail. After all, Google is kind enough to automatically add anyone you communicate with to your address book, keeping the whole process pretty simple. But when it comes to managing your contacts, GMail just falls short. Say I want to find a doctor in the hundreds of contacts that call my GMail account home: I have to know the name of the doctor I’m looking for. Searching just for ‘doctor’ only pulls up the emails that have that word in them — far too many to sort through.

    It goes beyond missing job titles, though. Aside from very basic notes, I can’t really add information to my contacts. If I want to remember a birthday or a project that my contact is working on, I add it as a note, and hope I remember that it’s there. We’re talking about a less-than-ideal approach to contact management.

    The Practical Reason Behind CRM

    By the time you add up your second cousins, the guys you met at that networking event last year and all of the various maintenance people that keep your home in tip-top shape, you have a stack of business cards that that could rival the height of a small office building. Would you be able to lay hands on the exact phone number you need in an emergency, even after you’ve added all those numbers to your address book?

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    I don’t think I could. It’s a matter of how we remember who we’re looking for. If I needed a plumber, for instance, I’m probably going to remember who I got his name from or when I last called him long before I remember his name or company. The same can hold true for business contacts and a lot of CRM software makes allowances for the way our brains operate. Highrise, for instance, allows users to search through notes, emails and other data for keywords, like ‘plumber’ or ‘programmer.’

    Putting Business and Personal Together

    CRM software is generally developed with a sales team in mind: rather than ‘contact,’ the C in CRM usually stands for ‘customer.’ That’s why you’re able to add so much information. Anything that can lead to a sale, from remembering a birthday to a preferred work out time, has to fit.

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add your personal contacts to your management system. CRM solutions can help you make both your personal and your professional life more productive. That statement assumes, of course, that you’ve managed to keep them separate. I know I haven’t, and the thought of trying to keep them separate is more than a little scary.

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    But why should we have separate programs notifying us of family members’ and sales leads’ birthdays? To manage two systems requires double the work — perhaps even more for that cousin you regularly do business with. With the advent of social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn — where most people have connected with both personal and professional contacts — it seems more than reasonable to start managing all of our contacts from the same place. I get the feeling that a lot of companies discount the value of maintaining a system for personal contacts — despite the number of leads and networking opportunities that come from outside the office. Luckily, once you’ve actually got CRM software, no one can stop you from adding your personal contacts as well as those people you know professionally.

    The Sticking Point

    Your contacts of all kinds are valuable. If you’ve ever done sales for a large company you know how hard employers work to keep a Rolodex when an employee leaves. A good CRM file is worth money — it’s a matter of deciding how valuable your file is.

    The real sticking point for CRM software and those of us without companies willing to pay for it has to be the price. Joel wrote about some of the online options yesterday and none of them had a price tag I could justify for personal use. Sure, there are some free options, but they do have some serious limitations.

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    The solution isn’t precisely simple: it’s worth our while to be more productive, but much are we willing to spend on CRM? Perhaps we aren’t able to justify a high price for our personal use, but what about managing the contacts that can help us improve our careers? Our own businesses? Our outside projects? The price I’m willing to spend goes up with each group of my contacts I think about managing — how about you? How many contacts outside of your 9-to-5 job do you have? And what are you willing to do to manage them effectively?

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    Last Updated on August 6, 2020

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

    “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

    Are we speaking the same language?

    My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

    When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

    Am I being lazy?

    When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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    Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

    Early in the relationship:

    “Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

    When the relationship is established:

    “Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

    It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

    Have I actually got anything to say?

    When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

    A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

    When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

    Am I painting an accurate picture?

    One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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    How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

    Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

    What words am I using?

    It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

    Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

    Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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    Is the map really the territory?

    Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

    A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

    I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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