The more information you know about a person, the more you will understand them. This is true of customers, business partners and suppliers, and more understanding leads to better relationships. If that person is a customer or potential customer, a better understanding of their needs and situation will help you ring up a sale.
So what information should you keep about a contact? Apart from the usual fields for email addresses, phone numbers, work address and so on. There are at least five types of data that will paint a fuller picture of the person you’re dealing with.
1. What are they talking about?
We spend time talking about the things that matter to us. A good place to start is in your emails with the customer, but it shouldn’t end there. Social networks can show you the business articles they find interesting in their LinkedIn updates, items that interest them in casual conversations on Twitter, or websites and products that they like on Facebook.
Social media activity is sometimes referred to as “signals” as it can indicate when a customer is researching a topic, comparing quotes or ready to buy.
2. What have you learned about them?
Not every interaction with a customer is in written form. Each phone call or face to face meeting can produce background information that helps fill out a picture of the customer. Your address book should have a way to record notes by date. Ideally it should be possible to share the notes with co-workers likely to interact with the customer too.
3. What have you done with them?
If the phone rings and it’s a past customer calling for a quote, it’s useful to know what type of projects or products they have bought in the past. Were there any projects that only reached planning stage? Could they be revived and bundled into this new request?
Any information on past dealings with your business will help you set the scope, price the deal and navigate the path to the sale.
4. Are they good to do business with?
Not every customer pays on time and in full. Repeat customers are crucial to success in business, but you want to make sure you’re giving priority to the customers who treat you well too. Has the customer paid months overdue? How much effort was required to make them pay? Did they demand a discount?
Perhaps it’s only worth doing business with that customer if they are prepared to pay half upfront.
5. How many times have you contacted them?
Time is so precious; everyone hates to waste it. If you record every type of contact made by your business with a customer you can avoid doubling up on phone calls or bombarding them with the same email.
Knowing which customers had opened any of your past 10 email newsletters would give you a good idea of their level of interest in your products or services.
This meta information tells you whether a contact is receiving too many communications from your business or if they have been neglected. It’s also useful to know exactly what you have sent them.
Most businesses try to record at least some of this information using the address book in their email program. While Outlook has expanded with plugins to capture social media, there are specific tools designed to manage your contacts more effectively.
Customer relationship management apps (often abbreviated to CRM) are built to record all sorts of information about an individual or a company. More common in large enterprises, the cloud has made it possible to rent these powerful programs by the month, per person.
In next week’s post we’ll look at why it’s worth upgrading from your email address book to a CRM.