“Being organized is not a one-time event, it is a state that requires a sustained effort. An effort that is not such when you have absorbed it as a habit.” – Francisco Saez
How many times in your life have you cleaned up your garage, closet, or any other part of your life and found things that you forgot you had? For me, countless times.
Now think about your network of contacts. How many people do you know, with whom you have lost contact? For whatever reason, these are people who could be former clients, or prospective clients who have simply slipped through the cracks. Out of sight, out of mind. Many of them for years!
As your network grows, it is easier to lose track of everyone you know without having some organized process of keeping track of them all. Many say they use LinkedIn or Outlook, but how effective is it really when it comes to tracking your development of relationships?
When it comes to growing a business, effective business development starts with being organized. Transferring your important contacts from various storage areas such as LinkedIn, Outlook, and your head into one main vault, can make a tremendous difference if your relationship development effectiveness.
Find a tool that you deem to be user-friendly that includes:
- Location of your contact – This can make a difference when you travel for business and might want to pull up the list of contacts who reside in a city you are visiting.
- Last Contacted – Tracking when and how often you reach out to your contacts can make a huge difference when building relationships that will eventually turn into business. Contacting someone once a year typically won’t cut it!
- Comments – What stands out about someone is important, especially when it comes to finding reasons for staying in touch. “Hi Susan, I came across this article on nutrition for triathlon training. I thought you would appreciate this since you are training for your first ever triathlon.”
- Action Items – Follow up is important, especially as your network grows.
For those who are "old school", the Rolodex or 3x5 cards just won't cut it today. Not if you want to include all of the important information I listed above. That said, there is no need to over-engineer a document that is so complex where you will rarely use it. Keep it simple and easily accessible for you to maintain on a regular basis.
Keep it simple and easily accessible...
I use a proprietary tool that I created called the Relationship Tracker. It’s Microsoft Excel based. Simple, organized, and easy to maintain. Most of my clients use it as well. Most all of them claim that this step alone made a tremendous difference in improving their overall business development effectiveness. They have clearer visibility of their relationships and don't lose sight of those contacts that may have fallen through the cracks in the past.
Other people use a CRM (Client Relationship Management) system that is often provided by their company or firm. This can be effective as long as you understand how to use it.Whatever you choose, keep it simple and straightforward. Just be sure to use it!
This may all seem like basic, common sense advice, but you will be surprised. Most professionals have no organized process when it comes to building and maintaining relationships. The ones who do have a leg up on their competition.
Doug Ott is an executive coach, business development and leadership trainer, facilitator and speaker. He helps professionals and their firms accelerate revenue growth by teaching them how to build meaningful and long-term business relationships. Connect with him on LinkedIn.