Contact management quickly evolved from Rolodex and Filofax systems into desktop-based contact management software and email clients with built-in contact management tools.
Yet despite these significant technical advances, many businesses found that their contact management systems fundamentally amounted to little more than a simple database containing names, phone numbers and notes.
As the categories of sales management and contact management software have grown closer in recent years, enterprises started to appreciate the benefits of unified processes and systems capable of capturing a wider range of business data.
By combining the tracking of contacts, their interactions with the business, and their preferences and service issues, it became possible to create a single, unified view of the customer -- vital data not only for a successful sales team, but also for the delivery of excellent customer service.
To maximise the value of this data, what was needed was a fundamental move beyond a sophisticated contact book, and towards processes and systems that track the entire customer journey from start to end – and then connect those to products.
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Contact management evolved into customer relationship management as a result of two key developments:
- The shift in focus from contact details to relationships.
- The move from individual desktop databases to sharing information business-wide.
Free contact management software, or packages that came bundled with other business utilities such as spreadsheets, made it easy to store and retrieve contact information.
But contact management tools and programmes have been integrated into and superseded by CRM systems that can track everything from customers and sales leads to marketing campaigns and sales team performance.
Every interaction with a contact can now be tracked and connected to actions and reminders for follow-ups. And doing this through a single, shareable database cuts confusion and keeps everyone in sync, automatically.
CRM systems make all that contact management information instantly available to others, to the benefit of the whole organisation. For example:
- Salespeople and customer service teams can present a joined-up presence to prospects and customers.
- Sales managers can monitor the effectiveness of individuals or whole teams.
- Marketers can measure the effectiveness of their campaigns.
The net result is an amazing customer experience and stronger customer relationships that keeps them coming back.
- Access to data in real time from anywhere
- Integration of customer information from other sources
- Integration of social information
- Smart collaboration with colleagues
With a traditional desktop-based CRM or contact management system, information is only available via a workstation with the software installed – people have to rely on an obsolescent database snapshot.
Cloud-based CRM software provides up-to-the-minute information that is available to all instantaneously via any connected device, anywhere. This is because it uses multi-tenancy cloud architecture, which means all users and applications share a common infrastructure that is centrally maintained and updated.
When a customer is at the centre of a cloud-based contact management system, it’s easier to fill in any missing gaps about them, using other, compliant sources.
Connected to other cloud-based data sources such as Data.com, the contact management system can automatically fill in the blanks in customer information.
The cloud can also easily be used to analyse the social interactions and conversations that contacts are having on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks.
Is there a problem that a customer is having with a product that they are discussing with others socially? A connected contact management system can give organisations a real-time view of all those interactions and proactively find a solution.
But social networking goes far beyond handling support issues and dealing with problems any contacts may encounter. By integrating social networking and contact management, it’s easy to see who the contacts' contacts are, who they are talking to, who the key players and influencers are who ideally should be contacted, along with an indication of who can provide introductions to them.
While salespeople are often ambitious individuals who’ve developed a personal style that works for them when it comes to pitching, selling and closing, there are times the business needs to pull together as a team to get a deal over the line.
This can especially be the case when:
- a deal is complex
- a deal is in danger of stalling
- the primary account rep isn’t an expert in some of the key aspects of the deal.
At times like these, salespeople need to lay aside their egos and find ways to work smartly together, harnessing their strengths in a complementary way for the good of the whole team. Advanced CRM and contact systems are designed to support just this kind of collaboration.
No two deals are the same, of course, so the sales manager must work out who’s best to play which role to achieve a pitch win or secure a long-term commitment. This will vary between accounts: someone who is ideal as the relationship lead on one account may do better on the delivery side with another opportunity.