Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 15 years, you have probably kept track of your contacts using a tool like Microsoft Outlook, Google Contacts, or maybe just your phone’s address book. Those types of tools are called contact managers and they’re great for storing basic contact details such as phone numbers, email addresses, and birthdays.
But if interacting with others is a part of your job, contact managers can fall short. Business is all about relationships, and the most successful businesses are the ones that put extreme care into how they nurture and develop their relationships. This process takes a lot of time, and if you’re working with several different customers and prospects, it can be really hard to keep track of it. That’s where a CRM (customer relationship manager) fits in.
Here are five ways a CRM can help you manage your relationships in ways that Outlook or Google Contacts can’t:
#1 - Chronological history with each contact
Google and Outlook have a “background info” field where you can type notes about your contacts. The problem is that it’s just one big text field that doesn’t track changes over time. With a CRM, you can enter a new note every time you interact with someone so that you have a complete history of how your relationships develop over time. These notes are automatically date and time stamped so you can easily retrace your steps.
#2 - Store all your information in one place
Both Google and Outlook offer email and calendar/task features in addition to the contacts. But for some reason, these different features aren’t really tied together. When you look at a contact’s profile, don’t you think you should be able to see all of your emails, events, and tasks (past and present) related to that contact? With a CRM, everything is automatically pulled together and displayed on one page so that you don’t have to go searching through a bunch of different systems to find out what you’ve done with a contact.
#3 - Manage relationships with groups of people
Contact managers are designed for individuals to use as a personal address book. But when it comes to professional contact management, you might also need to track more than just one-on-one relationships. For example, you might be trying to sell something to a company with multiple points of contact. A CRM makes it easy to track the group relationship in addition to your personal relationship with each individual contact.
#4 - Track processes and workflows
Most businesses have ongoing relationships with their customers, and it can be really tough to keep track of the status of each customer or lead. CRMs allow you to set up simple processes (we call them “pipelines”) which allow you to move contacts through the various steps until you’ve reached your goal. This makes it easy to ensure that you’re following up with each lead at the right time so nobody slips through the cracks.
#5 - Collaborate with colleagues
Even if you don’t think you need any of the benefits listed above, there’s one critical limitation of both Outlook and Google Contacts: sharing is almost impossible. Basic contact managers are meant to be used by individuals, so there’s basically no way for a team of people to share information when working with the same contacts. Even if you’re currently the only person at your company, one day you may want to bring on help, or sell your business, and that is much more difficult to do if your contact histories aren’t being stored in a CRM.
Hopefully that sheds some light on why a CRM might be more useful than the normal contact managers you’re used to. CRMs aren’t for everyone, but if you own or work at a small business and could benefit from stronger relationships with your customers, then a CRM can be a huge help.