CRM: Customer Rolodex Management

Years ago, CRM was merely the management of a Rolodex. In fact, one’s Rolodex was one’s badge of honor. Good sales people were characterized as “having a good Rolodex.” People were hired away from competitors because of their Rolodex. If you had a new boss, it was decided whether they were good or bad based on their Rolodex, and, ultimately, if you were given access. Your Rolodex became part of your bio, your CV and even your professional DNA. I once heard a colleague say that someone had a Rolodex so big it would “choke a horse”; that was a compliment.

Although technology has come a long way over the last 20-plus years, the fundamental principles are the same. Customers are the most valuable asset of any business and they need to be managed with tender, loving care. Business professionals and sales people have myriad technologies available to them to help manage customer relationships. Cloud-based CRM software, list management solutions, email marketing tools, social media resources and mobile apps are just a few. Here are a few tips on sticking to the fundamentals while still leveraging all of these resources:

Don’t spam people you speak with regularly:
I don’t necessarily mean illegal spam, but don’t email blast clients you speak with on a regular basis. It’s okay if they are on the “approved list” or the “opt in” list with your marketing team, but make sure they are only part of marketing campaigns that are relevant to them. Ensure that any email distribution sent their way is meaningful to their industry or their role in the organization. More is not necessarily better.

Don’t over-use LinkedIn:
LinkedIn, along with many of the other social networking tools, can be very useful. However, too much of anything can be a bad thing. Be thoughtful about your professional network. With whom do you really want to be “connected”? Also, be respectful of your client’s feelings on the use of the tool. Don’t try to “connect” with every person with whom you bumped into or met at a trade show. Choose wisely or else be “ignored.” Finally, do you really have 500+ connections? Once again, more is not necessarily better.

It’s okay to pick up the phone … really!:
Back in the old days of the Rolodex, there were really only two ways to maintain a dialogue with clients: face-to-face meetings and the phone. I often think that companies rely too much on technology and can lose the personal touch when managing customer relationships. Email, texting and instant messaging are all very useful tools. But, as we all know, things often get confused in translation. Tone, intonation, urgency and humor can be miscommunicated and misunderstood. Try picking up the phone (your desk phone), and call your customers regularly. A hurried phone call from your mobile phone on the way to the train or the gym doesn’t count. Remember to dial “9” to get an outside line! The technology will continue to evolve and change but the end goal remains the same. The only thing more important than your customers is the relationship you have with them.

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