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CRM: You’re Doing It Wrong!

There are CRM apps for all devices, some specific to certain industries, some that are built-to-order and others customized by the user to suit their needs. However, no tool on the market is a substitute for effective, consistent use. Even the most cumbersome of paper systems can work well, if the individual implementing it has enough dedication.

As the co-inventor of ACT! Contact Management, the software application credited as the catalyst for today’s billion-dollar Customer Relationship Management industry, I am not a proponent of CRM for CRM’s sake alone. Instead of a tool that focuses on helping build and maintain strong relationships, it’s often little more than a reporting mechanism meant for management to have a sense of work performed during the different stages of a sales cycle. Even when they attempt to foster genuine relationships, so many CRM users get it wrong. But how? It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of viewing CRM as a sophisticated, searchable database. In so doing, they miss out on two important elements of relationship management.

It’s What You Do with the Data That Counts

We’ve all been there. You show up at an event, meet new people, prioritize a few connections, enter some data into your system (probably from an exchanged business card), and then schedule some kind of outreach. One of the fundamental mistakes people make when employing a CRM system is to emphasize the data for the data’s sake.

The true value of having a place to record the information you’ve learned isn’t in the data you’re collecting. It’s about the perception you foster in the other person’s mind. It’s about establishing an opinion about you based your attention to what matters to them. People do business with people they like. And people tend to like those who express genuine interest in them, not just what they have to offer to you. Recording preferences or needs, then tailoring your message accordingly puts the power of a CRM system to shape their perception of you as a professional.

Cold Hard Facts Can Lead to Warm Feelings

Whether it’s the family photos on their office walls or the profile and cover photos on their Facebook “wall,” people show you what matters to them. Shared hobbies or interests can lead to the kinds of conversations and even encounters that build stronger bonds. Paying attention to details and being diligent to make note of those details in my relationship management tool doesn’t necessarily translate to any real action. However, if I’ve noted when new connections play golf, for instance, I can search my database for local connections who play golf and might be available to complete a team for an upcoming charity golf scramble. Not only do I demonstrate that they are important enough for me to remember their hobbies, but I will have the opportunity to connect over a shared round of golf. The life events people post about on social media are easy to mention in casual settings, but those are the same types of conversations they could be having with every other person in their networks. Those kinds of posts can be great conversation starters, but it’s the intimate or at least more personal information you two exchange privately that cements your relationship.

I met a fellow speaker at a conference a few years back who during the course of her session mentioned her mother’s health was failing. In the exchanges we had after the conference, I’d ask how things were with her family and ask about her mother in particular. She mentioned how of all the people she had met at that conference (and all who’d attended her session had the information about her mother), I was the only one to inquire about her. Beyond our shared interest in entrepreneurship and relationship management, it was the emotional bond that bolstered our relationship and even opened doors for further opportunity to work together.

Data Is Only Data

It can be the starting point for a relationship, but strong relationships are built on much more than that. Information may lead to conversation, and conversation may lead to genuine connection, but it’s difficult to proceed to anything lasting without striking an emotional bond. CRM users can sometimes fail to see the value in all relationships, not those strictly classified as customers.

Building a robust network requires valuing every type of connection. If your system doesn’t include connections beyond customers, it’s shortsighted. To get the most from your relationships, treat them all with the same level of professionalism and care. Even if he may never be a customer, you never know when a poker buddy could turn into your best source of referrals.

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