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Shopping for CRM Step 2: Contact Groups

Step twoMost of us look at CRM and think about how we’ll fit our prospecting, sales and other needs to it. This often begins with mentally sorting our contact groups as per what the CRM shows us.

But most of us have more types of contacts than we find in many CRM. If we do not recognize this in advance some of our contacts will be ignored by the CRM’s functions, making the CRM less valuable as a tool. The best way to avoid this over-arching problem is simple: Make a list of your contact groups and use it as reference as you shop. This article gives you an example list along with things to consider. Three tips for completing this step:

1: Do not create your list using the names and groups you know are in most CRM (do not use “lead,” “opportunity,” and so on).

Using those means you’re already following the CRM’s lead instead of the other way around. Instead, identify your groups using simple titles and descriptions.

2: If you want various people with various jobs to use the same CRM, create one all-inclusive list. Do not indicate who needs which contacts, and do not create separate lists.

Creating and using an inclusive list makes it more likely you’ll find one CRM that meets more needs.

3: Put your list on paper and use it as you shop.

If you try to complete the shopping process using a list in your head, what the CRMs show you will lead your thoughts…probably in the wrong direction. A paper reference helps keep your focus where it should be: your needs and wants.

Before I go into the example I want to clarify your finished list is not a file containing all of your contacts with a type or group assigned to each. Your list should only show the types or groups of contacts with any notes of detail. Now for the example list and things to start considering.

Not about B2B versus B2C

As you create your list of contact types, put aside notions about selling to businesses versus selling to consumers. Focus instead on who and what you want to keep track of, starting of course with the humans involved in any kind of sale.

On the list: People

It’s probably a given you will want and need your CRM to handle all kinds of human contacts. This type of contact probably includes humans who are prospects; if so, be sure to note it on this part of your list. Who else belongs in this part of your list?

  • What about people you’ve met networking, people you know from past jobs or projects (including former bosses), people who represent vendors or service-providers, recruiters, etc? If you want the CRM to cover these humans, note them on this part of your list.
  • This group would also include current and past clients or customers of the human kind. For example: Richard Jones, who happens to be CEO of ABC Industries, and Jessie Smith, who leads the HR department.
  • This group may also include people you know socially and there is some sort of business flavor to them. For example: Your buddy who’s also a real estate agent, colleagues who are also friends, any mentors, and others. Including these is a personal choice. Some of us like to keep personal contacts completely separate, some of us prefer to have all contacts in one source.

Important: Do not assume any CRM will surely handle all the various humans. Include possible variations on the list so contacts are not accidentally left out while shopping.

On the list: Organizations

There are probably many types of organizations that are also contacts. For example:

  • In the B2B world, this group would include organizations that are prospects–active or not — as well as accounts.
  • In the B2C world, this group would include organizations in which your prospects and clients work. For example: Companies owned or managed by prospects and clients, organizations where known prospects (and customers) work, and organizations in which unknown prospects probably work (e.g., you target the company’s executives).
  • This group would include networking organizations and professional groups (e.g., the Portland Chamber of Commerce, and the Western Independent Bankers association).
  • This group might also include events; for example, trade shows or charity golf tournaments.
  • This group would include vendor and service-provider companies; e.g., your bottled water supplier, web hosting company, and dry cleaners (if including personal contacts).
  • This part of your list may also include placement and recruiting agencies, as well as current and past employers.
  • And this group would include current and past customers of the organizational kind; for example, ABC Industries.

Which of those contacts would you like your CRM to handle? Write ’em down!

On the list? Active Projects, Current Customers, and Others

This set of contacts is suggested because too many CRM do not cover them.

  • Do you deliver services as well as prospect and sell? Or do you have different people in your company doing those things? Then you probably need to manage contacts in terms of current projects, accounts, etc. Include this group on your list, including notes to remind you of details.
  • Are you or others in your company responsible for renewing accounts? Or do you like to stay involved even though others provide support and services?
  • What about customers who have intermittent need for your products or services? If you have customers who are not necessarily always actively buying but they’re not dead to you, either, that belongs on this part of your list, too.

Important: These may look like duplicates of what’s shown under People and Organizations. Listing them separately makes it easier to test how a CRM meets your needs for handling customers as opposed to prospective customers — which they often refer to as “customers.”

On the list: Archive or Misc.

There is one more type of contact too many CRM leave out:

  • Maybe your prospect and customer organizations regularly undergo mergers or fold and you’d like to keep a record of the old organization name.
  • Perhaps some of your contacts are retiring, you plan to stay in touch and you want a reminder of where you met.
  • Maybe you drove by a building that’s got a new business name on it and you want to check it out sometime.
  • Maybe you want a place to note “dead” accounts or proposals.

All of these don’t-fit-elsewhere contacts need a home in your CRM and that’s what this group is for. Be sure to include this “Archive” or “Misc” on your contacts list, even if you don’t have details of what would be in the category.

List Complete ~ Next Step

The above is just an example list; use it or create your own. Either way, get that list on paper and leverage it once you fire up a CRM trial–using the list to test the CRM’s ability to map to your needs.

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