Prior to the Smart Phone age, when I was originally sales trained, people in the national company I worked for had a variety of methods for keeping up with customers and prospects with the most common being index cards, notebooks with contact sheets, files in a portable file basket, and an accompanying appointment book or planner.
The basic problem with those methods was how to sort data. You could list them alphabetically and count on notes in your appointment book to alert you when to do something with a particular prospect. You could sort them by date; i.e. contact these people in February, these in March, etc., but then if you need to find a particular prospect, that is a challenge. Some sort by group type, to go after the big customers first, then smaller. Or how about location? I used counties for a while, good for calling in an area or around an appointment.
In addition to prospect records and calendars were those evil “To Do” lists. It was exciting to rank tasks and check them off, but there was always the hassle of transferring the last two from one nearly completed sheet because now you’re on page 2 or 23. There were the time management experts who would convince us in sales school that if we did everything he/she suggested to get our materials organized – that we would have zero time to sell.
If you have ever failed to follow up because you lost that piece of paper, or failed to contact the prospect in time because you forgot to set or ignored a timer…….OR, if you’re a fire fighter, putting out fires, getting burned by your lack of organization or getting burned by your more organized competitor, then you are so ready for Contact Management (CM) software.
I became thoroughly committed to CM after reading David McCullough’s 1996 book published by Transamerica Microsearch Inc. “Assembly Line Selling®” uses a brilliant comparison of Henry Ford’s assembly line to organize a sales approach.
|Henry Ford &||Transamerica|
|His Continuously Moving Assembly Lines||Its Assembly Line Selling Process|
|1.||a simple process||1.||a simple sales process|
|2.||perfectly targeted to buyers’ needs||2.||perfectly targeted to prospective customers|
|3.||constructed with interchangeable parts||3.||using an interchangeable message|
|4.||Which arrived with flawless timing||4.||which arrives with flawless timing|
|5.||to be assembled on a continuously moving line||5.||processed in continuous motion|
|6.||powered by motorized conveyor belts||6.||powered by contact management software|
|7.||staffed by a division of labour||7.||staffed by a division of labour|
|8.||that worked on various stages of manufacture||8.||that works on various stages of selling|
|9.||to meet a compelling demand||9.||to generate a compelling demand|
For more about Assembly Line Selling®, visit www.transmicro.com. In his email giving me permission to quote him and reference his site for this article, McCullough says,
“Any CM software can be used for Assembly Line Selling®. I have put those user-defined fields into Outlook, ACT!, Maximizer, and GoldMine. And soon, we are beginning a project here using the same process in Salesforce.com.”
- Unlimited Contacts, or until the storage drive is full. Watch for the capability to tie multiple people to a ‘company’. For example, can you enter the high school with the principal as the contact person and then also enter the band and band director with separate information, but connected to the same school….and then the band parent president connected to the band and also under the school banner?
- Import/Export Capabilities. Import an Address Book from another program or use data to export to Word Processing for personalized email or hard copy blasts.
- User-defined fields. This is one of the most important tools within CM software. Watch for the words “unlimited” and “user-defined”. Outlook, for example, seems limited in user-defined fields. Also, can you determine the type of field; i.e. a date field (so the program can automatically remind you 3 days prior to your customers’ birthdays so you can be the one who remembers those important dates or when the last time was that you had a contact), a numeric field (so you can search for groups within certain size ranges), selections from lists such as type of group, numeric entries or misc text.
For fundraising, I track whether a group is public or private, type: Pre-K, Elementary, Middle School, High School; whether it is a total group (total elementary school) or a partial group (high school band), a geographic area (county, territory), size, ranking (current customer, previous customer, hot prospect, etc) decision month, product / company used last year….. With that setup, I can print a call list of public high school bands in Marion County, Indiana with 100+ members who have a September sale and who have a prospect ranking of 1 or 2.
- Calendar. Most calendar programs I’ve seen are comparable. You should be able to have some notification parameters; i.e. remind you a week before an event.
- To Do Lists with reminders. Certain things should be recurring, such as birthdays, contact months. You should be able to set a series of meetings that happen on a Tuesday evening between Sept and Dec, such as a college night class. I have a financial advisor and an insurance rep who never fail to send me birthday and anniversary cards.
- Make Calls / Take Calls. Most will open a window for notes when you either make or receive a call – with a timer running in the background. Some will dial the phone. The idea is that you can type notes as you talk. When you terminate the call, you should be prompted for the potential of scheduling a follow-up activity. And the note stored for that customer should be date and time stamped with a record of the length of the call and your next step action plan item.
- Action Plans / Sales Procedures. You should be able to set up a plan of action to follow every time you encounter a first time prospect. Perhaps that plan is to:
- Send email with complete contact information on the initial contact date. This should be a generic email that you wrote one time and it is automatically sent when you start the action plan.
- Send a thank you card 1 day after initial date. This should be a generic template that you can personalize – or not.
- Send a proposal or quote 3 days after initial date. Perhaps the sending of a quote or proposal starts a new “proposal” action plan….
- Send a follow-up email 5 days after initial date
- Phone 7 days after initial date
- Email 10 days after initial date … Etc.
So, when you enter a new contact into your CM software, you initiate the “new prospect” action plan and all of the above steps are automatically put into play. Some programs allow you to design the templates of each message, which are then personalized automatically by the software which could be especially helpful to use on Past Due Accounts where CM automatically inserts dates and dollar amounts in a series of progressively aggressive notes.
Other action plans you might utilize could include Board Meeting Presentations. Do you have the brochures, the samples, the quote, the information about the group, etc? Or Sale Start Kick-Offs. Don’t get caught having to overnight brochures, order forms, etc.
Whether a program calls the process the pipeline, the assembly line, the sales funnel or some other description, most CM software includes tools to help you move prospects through the decision-making process.
- Synchronization/Backup. Years ago I had a pre-Palm PDA that I loved…until it died and took my whole business life with it. Palms and other PDA enable syncing data from the hand-held to the computer. Most CM software will sync with a PDA and with an increasing number of phones. As more people utilize their cell phones for email, it becomes more important to sync between the phone and the CM software. Watch out for over-synchronization; syncing Yahoo with Outlook, with your smartphone.
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