How Do You Manage Your Contacts?

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<center>"How Do you Manage Your Contacts?"</center>

By: Scott Stone


In any business, there are multiple ways of building, managing and using a contact list. Properly used a contact list can be one of the most efficient ways there is of building and maintaining a customer base, especially in the commercial and industrial aspects of business.
One of the first challenges of building a list is finding people to contact. There are many different possibilities in this area. The first is the ten-foot rule. Anyone that is within ten feet of you is a potential customer and gets your business card. If you are in a corporate setting you will also want to get their business card for future reference.
The second is any business gathering. I am in the fleet washing business, and it is a very competitive market in my area. I make sure that I go to every truck show in my area to pass out my card and associate with people in my specialty area. Other possibilities are business lead building breakfasts. You can often find them listed in your local paper along with a contact number. They are usually a diverse group, and you cannot expect to get results immediately. You will still have to build a relationship of trust with these fellow business owners.
Social gatherings are a prime area for building relationships without really trying. You just need to make sure that people know who you are and what you do. Any of these techniques will not result in immediate success, usually. It is building a relationship and reputation, two things that are very important in the establishment of an ongoing business concern.
There are also many pieces of information that is important to record. Personal and family information can be recorded and be used in the future. You need to be careful with this information though. If it is too personal, it could be thought that you are prying into the contacts personal affairs. This could be very detrimental to the efforts that you are making. Any personal information should be used judiciously, after a personal relationship has been established. Personal information that can be recorded and commented on is anything that is in open view in their office. They might have golf trophies, a collection of trucks, or pictures of their last fishing trip. Anything along this line is always safe to comment on. It is also information that is worth recording.
Business information is a different story. Most people are very proud of the business they are in and the success that they are having in the business world. If they are telling you that they are adding more equipment, new locations, or reorganizing or moving their warehouse, this is information that is worth recording. It can tell you about future growth of your customer, let you have a heads up on when you should make sure you should contact them about more business, and when you can offer them free help.
There are also a lot of people that are influential in any business, as well as people that have knowledge of what is going on with the current cleaning practices. The first one is the person that is directly in charge of the cleaning services. Whether it is the equipment manager or the warehouse manager, they will know what is going on in their plant. They can be hard to contact though. There are other methods of getting in the back door, too. Fleets of trucks have fleets of drivers as well. These drivers can usually tell you who the responsible person is and will often walk you right to the office door to make that important first contact. Another group is the janitorial and security personal. You will always want to make friends with this group. Learn and use their first names. Learn personal things about them, and use it. This is one of the few areas that you can use personal information as soon as you can get it, and prosper from this information. The reason that you want to get this information is two fold. The first is that there is not a single group of people that knows more about all aspects of what is happening in a business than the Security and Janitorial staff. They can hear and will hear information from all sides. Who else has almost complete free access to the office of the manager when he is not there? Who else sees the memos that are passed around, on every level? That is right the security guards and janitors. Who else can intercept competing bids and refuse entry to competitors, without a problem? You definitely want to make the effort to be friends with these people.
Now you have all of this information out there and have been gathering this information. What do you do with it? There are many different contact managers out there. ACT!, Microsoft Outlook, and others are all good contact managers as long as you can learn and use them to their full potential. One of the prime things that you want to be concerned about is that you can use the information now, in the future and after you make the sale. You will also want to make sure that it is readily accessible, and Data can be received from multiple sources. Nothing is more frustrating than having multiple people contacting a customer and not know what your other representatives are talking about with your customer, and what promises have been made.
Another method of contact manager is a Palm Pilot, or something similar. There are many advantages to this method that I find attractive. You can keep an active To Do list with you at all times, so that you can discern when the next contact that is needed with a potential customer. You have an active calendar that lets you see quickly when you have available free time. You can immediately record any information that you receive from a customer. It is discrete, looks professional, and you can track any personal and business information that you receive. The best part is that it can be downloaded to your computer at your home or office. I also use mine for billing purposes. I estimate that my palm pilot saves me a minimum of 5-6 hours a week, and keeps me better organized. One word of caution with this is to make sure that you back up the information that you receive often. Nothing is worse than losing all of the information that you have because of a system error of some kind.
Note cards or a notebook have been used for years to track customer information. One of the advantages of note cards is that you can file them in any order that you want, and multiple people can make a record of what has discussed with a customer. The disadvantage is the bulk. A box of note cards is not easy to take with you and is hard to take into a meeting, compared to a palm pilot. However, it can easily be maintained in your office. Another advantage to note cards is that Business cards can be attached to them directly so that they do not get lost. I keep business cards that I receive in my old Daytimer. This keeps them readily accessible and puts an additional picture in my mind.
Many things can be tracked in the sales process. You will need to keep track of the last contact and when the next contact is due. I try to make a contact at least once a month. This way you are more easily remembered and if a contact is missed, you won’t miss the next one.
You will want to track what happened and was discussed at any sales call. Nothing is more embarassing than being reminded of a promise that you have made in the past, or getting something confused with another potential customer. You can also use information that you receive to ‘accidently’ run into a potential customer at a location that you know that they frequent. It can be at a car show, restaurant, or somewhere else. If you do run into a future customer or a current customer at one of these locations, it is important that you say hi, remind them who you are and leave. You just want the customer to realize that you have similar interests.
These records will also let you know about continuing problems and let you discover a way to improve the current service concerns. If a customer comes to you about a service concern, it is nice if you are able to have an action plan already in place to help a customer overcome that problem. This will help you to overcome potential objections, and improve the service that they are receiving. It also lets you remember specific information. You need this information because you want your customer to feel and know that you are concerned about their business and willing to help them progress in their business.
One thing overlooked is that you need to keep the relationship going with you customer. It does you very little good if after you get the account or sale you never contact them again. You have already spent many hours building the relationship with your customer; you also need to spend time to maintain the relationship. You need to maintain the information that you have already built the database for, and review it often.
It is good to review any promises or commitments that you have made and verify that you are following through on them. It will also let you track and analyze the future needs of a customer. This includes items that could lead to market expansion as well as needs in the market that you currently target.
It is important to remember that all sales are personal sales. If you represent yourself or your company poorly, it will make your sales call much more difficult. It is important to remember that you must present yourself in a professional manner at all times. This means that you need to present yourself in a positive manner.
Many things help a customer’s perception. Do you look like a professional when you make the sales call? Do you feel good about yourself? Are you clean and neat? Is your vehicle clean and neat? Anything that gives a customer a bad perception of you is ten times worse than you think. People remember dirty personal habits and will let that influence their decision. If you are concerned with getting a premium price for the service you are providing, you need to give the impression of premium service.
Proper use, management and establishment of sales contacts will make your sales efforts more effective and successful. One important thing to remember is very few sales are made on the first call. The biggest sales take many calls and a lot of effort. The advantage is that your customer and you will know what to expect when the service you are providing is sold.

Scott Stone
Also published in the Oct issue of Cleaner Times

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Dan Flynn
Timberland Power Wash www.powerwash.net
Houston, Texas.
 
#2
Scott,

Thanks for donating this article to the library. Well done and informative.

Anyone willing to write or donate an article is more than welcome. Please submit them to us for review. In this section you may post replies to any articles on this board. How ever the submission of articles or topics is not allowed. So please feel free to comment and or add any additional information you feel would be helpful to this section.

Thanks

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Dan Flynn
Timberland Power Wash
www.powerwash.net
Houston, Texas.
 
J

Jim&Shirley

Guest
#3
HEY SCOTT
GREAT ARTICLE THANKS.
This is the first time we have been here,Other than reading dans above, dont know how we have missed this wealth of information, by looking at the views and post we beleave its not getting the attenion it deserves,
just our thoughts.

JIM & SHIRLEY

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