Article

Contact management 101: A guide for sales and support teams

Leverage contact data to win over new customers and strengthen your relationships with existing ones.

By Stella Inabo, Contributing Writer

Published July 29, 2021
Last updated August 5, 2021

You’re at a party nibbling on cheese when someone who looks vaguely familiar strikes up a conversation. You’re doing a good enough job faking your way through it, until your partner joins and asks for an introduction ... and you don’t know the person’s name.

Sales and support conversations aren’t so different from chats at parties. A great call with a customer will end badly if you don’t remember their personal details—whether that’s their name or their most recent purchase.

You can try to store customer information in your head or on a messy spreadsheet, but you’ll run the risk of details slipping past you. To stay afloat in a sea of data, you must have a clear way of organizing, accessing, and tracking your customers’ information. A contact management system may be just what you need.

What is contact management?

Contact management is the process of organizing and managing details about customers, leads, and prospects. Think of it as a cloud-based address book filled with contact information.

Some businesses rely on convoluted spreadsheets for their contact management needs. While this system might work for small startups, large companies will likely struggle to keep up with all their customer information using spreadsheets alone.

Enter: contact management systems. They’re invaluable for teams that conduct external communication. With these tools, businesses can automate the collection, storage, and management of contact data.

To stay afloat in a sea of data, you must have a clear way of organizing, accessing, and tracking your customers’ information.

Contact management systems house customer information in a searchable database so it’s easy to access details. Using automation to gather and store contact details is also much more reliable than manual methods.

Sales and support teams rely on contact management to access information about customers—from their contact details to their pain points—in order to better understand and serve them. Support agents can identify the customer and solve their problems in less time, while sales agents can easily send personalized messages to customers and anticipate their needs.

Marketing teams aren’t left out, either. Marketers use details—such as age, job roles, industries, location, and interests—to plan their marketing strategy and attract more customers.

Although contact management solves many problems for businesses, its powers are finite. Contact management systems, for example, do not offer advanced functions (like reporting and pipeline management). This is where customer relationship management (CRM) software comes in.

What’s the difference between contact management systems and CRMs?

Although it’s easy to mistake one for the other, contact management systems and CRMs are very different.

A contact management system is purely for storing information about the customer. CRMs go beyond the limitations of contact management systems with extra features such as reporting, pipeline management, email automation, and activity tracking.

CRMs are better suited to handle the demands of omnichannel communication. They’re best for large organizations needing widely accessible customer data.

What’s the difference between contact management and opportunity management?

Opportunity management focuses on tracking opportunities that may lead to potential sales. Contact management is all about organizing and managing contacts.

Not all contacts are opportunities, either. Contacts consist of leads, prospects, opportunities, customers, and (in some cases) vendors. Opportunities are qualified prospects who have shown interest in your product or service and have interacted with you.

Why is contact management important?

Without contact management, customer communication becomes chaotic. An organized system of storing and tracking contacts empowers you to quickly find accurate customer information and personalize your communication.

  • You can personalize the customer experience

    Contact management helps support teams personalize customer interactions. While speaking to customers, support agents can make internal notes about customer pain points and interests. They can then reference these notes in future conversations.

    Meanwhile, sales agents can record the contact’s level of readiness to buy and the key discussion points. They can also take note of the result of the call, so they know what to say during the next interaction.

  • Your data stays organized and accessible

    Contact management systems pull customer information from various sources and can automatically segment this data based on common characteristics. These systems are cloud-based, so sales and support agents can access customer information from anywhere with Wi-Fi at any time. Cloud-based storage also keeps customer information more secure than storing it locally over hardware.

  • Your sales and support teams will have more time

    Normally, team members would have to spend hours scouring spreadsheets for the customer information they need. But with a contact management system, agents can quickly find the data they’re searching for, enabling them to respond faster and have more customer interactions.

    Contact management also saves time by automating day-to-day contact management activities—searching for contact details, data entry, and more. Sales and support agents then have more time to build relationships with customers and close deals.

What are the key features of a contact management system?

Just like a CRM, a contact management system provides context for external conversations. It also automates repetitive tasks and eliminates manual processes, among many other functions.

  • Import and export contact information

    A contact management system collects information from different sources—email, business cards, spreadsheets, and more—and stores it all in one database. Some systems can even find missing customer information by crawling social sites and automatically adding details to the database. The tool can detect and delete duplicate contact information, too.

  • Record notes

    Contact management tools let users input important information from conversations with contacts. These notes help team members know how to prepare for their next interaction.

  • Set reminders

    Contact management systems let you set reminders to reach out to a new contact or to follow up with a contact after a conversation. The system can also send notifications that prompt you to send an email or make a call.

  • Use search and filter options

    Contact management systems have a searchable database. Filters streamline results and reduce time spent searching for information. You can also add tags to specific contacts—like location or position in the sales cycle—that are searchable.

Go beyond contact management with a CRM

Contact management is an invaluable tool for your businesses. With it, you can win over new customers and strengthen your relationship with old ones.

With that said, a contact management solution may be too limited if your business is growing. For a more scalable solution, consider upgrading to a CRM tool like Zendesk.