How To Manage Your Growing Network Database of Contacts
As a creative entrepreneur, it can be tough trying to rummage through your memory bank when it comes to remembering names.
Once you move past 150 people, which is supposedly the maximum number of close relationships you can keep before seeing diminishing returns (also known as Dunbar’s Number), you’ll want to start keeping track of all your contacts outside of your brain.
This is especially true if you’re an avid networker, or need to keep track of prospects/leads for closing deals and making sales.
However, before you sink your teeth into the tools (i.e. network database/online contact/relationship management), it’s important to look at the basics.
So here’s a few tips when starting out:
1. Braindump all your known contacts into a single spreadsheet.
Try to jot down between 50-150 contacts that are swimming around in the beautiful brain of yours. If you can do more, great. But I’d do this before even thinking about tools.
I’ve created a template for you to use to help you get started.
Click here to download template
You’ll notice a column called “Type”, which is listed as: A – VIP 5 B – Top 50 C – Hot 100
These help classify your top 150 relationships within your network, and is a tip I learned from How To Be A Power Connector by Judy Robinett. Identify your strongest 150 people will allow you to focus on developing quality connections versus pure vast numbers.
This is not a fast and hard rule, but one that has allowed me to leverage my strengths and be able to pull in favors from people others take weeks or months to get a hold of. The name of the game here is trust. And trust takes time.
2. Determine the needs of your intended contact database
Ask yourself the following questions before you go out testing tools:
Do I need a CRM (Contact Relationship Manager) right now? If so, why?
Is this just for me or a team? Do I intended to grow a team in the near future?
Do I have a process in place that allows me to leverage a CRM to its full potential?
What am I willing to spend on a CRM per month?
Your answers to these questions will determine which CRM you decide to go with.
3. Now, let’s choose a CRM that’s right for you
Here are my 5 recommendations (in order of budget):
a. Spreadsheet (FREE) You ain’t got time for fancy tools at this stage When you’re starting out, you want to stay as lean as possible. You’d be surprised how many seemingly “successful” small businesses still operate without any formal tools. Yet they’re still effective in their execution. Spreadsheets are accessible via Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.
This tool I recommend because of its ability to not just hold your contacts, but also provide you with a “network health” dashboard. If you haven’t spoken to certain contacts or leads in a while, Contactually will let you know. This will allow you to keep a pulse on your community and be proactive instead of reactive.
The Japanese have a word for this – omotenashi – which means anticipating a customer’s wants or needs. This level of attention-to-detail will fly you leaps and bounds in terms of developing relationships and rapport with people.
c. InfusionSoft (http://www.infusionsoft.com) World’s #1 CRM for Small Businesses (imo)
I used InfusionSoft at one of my old jobs. I liked it for its ability to handle marketing efforts, and not just relationship management. The reason why you’ll want to invest in this type of tool is because, after you’ve built up your network, you’ll want to start having a central place do all your marketing to them from. InfusionSoft is your one-stop shop for such requirements.
InfusionSoft is incredibly popular with SMEs, but it’s also a bit more expensive and requires (in some cases) hired help to help customize the tool to accommodate your wants. If that doesn’t phase you much, great!
d. RelateIQ (www.relateiq.com) Your looking to scale your team and business up
RelateIQ is a newcomer to the market. However, ever since it got acquired by Salesforce for $390m, it has quickly become the tool of choice for sales forces who like to collaborate with other colleagues on sales. With its intuitive design, it makes the collaborative process amongst remote teams that much more enticing.
I used RelateIQ during my time at Hub Melbourne, which was great in terms of being able to actually track all my contacts and where they’re at in the sales cycle.
[iconbox type=”icon-left” icon=”fa-exclamation-triangle”]WARNING: RelateIQ is not for the faint-hearted. Although it doesn’t require much tinkering or customization (its UI/UX design is superb), it still requires a basic knowledge of sales funnels, reading reports correctly and group accountability around constantly updating their sales calls/meetings/efforts. [/iconbox]
Now, the above recommendations are based on my own personal experiences.
I love experimenting with new productivity tools.
However, over time, I’ve learned that it’s not so much the tool, but more so the wielder.
Sounds common sense enough, but when you’re inundated with “work”, you can sometime lose a bit of that good ol’ fashioned common sense logic.
At this stage, if you’re still unsure about the above options, I highly recommend this article from Zapier. They’ve done their own research around CRMs and provide a comprehensive summary of what the market currently has to offer. You’ll a notice a list far larger than mine.
So there you have it. What CRMs do you know that have worked for you? Post your recommendations below!
[Featured image courtesy of Hans Põldoja via a Creative Commons license]