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What to Consider When Selecting Contact Management Software

By Charles Hopkins Published 10/23/2007 | Business and Finance
In business, what you know about your prospect or customer could determine whether or not you make the sale. So tracking that information is paramount. Contact management software is designed to help you stay on top of all of your valuable contact information.

There are two types of contact management systems -- the personal ones designed for the individual or sales person who needs the contact's name and other essentials at his fingertips while on the road or phone. The other type of contact manager allows a number of people in a company to share and update information about prospects and customers. For larger companies, there are customer relationship management (CRM) systems with many features tied to a large data base.

What are the benefits of Contact Management Software?

Manufacturers say they are designed to improve the efficiency of your business by making your people more productive. A good contact manager can cut costs while increasing revenue. Also, contact management software can make it easier for a company to satisfy customer needs and provide better reporting for management oversight.

Typically, a contact management system lets you automate some customer relationship tasks. Some programs let you create a series of activities that are carried out in sequence as prospects are added to your sales funnel. For example, you can specify that a prospect receive a postcard on day one, followed by a sales letter, three days later, and then a phone call followed by another postcard.

All contact managers include a calendar system. And most let you attach a word document, spreadsheet or sales presentation, so you have everything in one place when you are communicating with a customer or prospect. More powerful CRM systems provide tools to improve a company's ability to forecast sales and integrate the sales and marketing function.

You have a choice between software that runs on your desktop or web-based solutions that you can access anywhere. Most solutions let you synchronize your data with a Blackberry or Pocket PC.

With so many options, how do you choose the right contact management software for your needs? Here are some questions to consider before you shop:

1. What functions would you like the system to perform?

2. How many employees need to be able to share the information? A Desktop solution might provide everything you need, but it might be easier for a far-flung sales force to stay current with a web-based solution.

3. Are you using some other system currently?

4. How soon do you need to implement the new system? Some contact management solutions have a steep learning curve or require programming expertise to implement properly.

5. Will you need the contact management system to integrate with your accounting software, Microsoft Outlook, or a data base?

6. Can you customize the system to fit the way your business is organized?

Armed with the answers to these questions, you should be able to find the contact management software that will work best for you.