Keeping Track of Your Customers

by Jan Jasper

Want a powerful tool for maintaining customer relationships? Start tracking your customer histories and you'll be amazed at how much more you can sell.

Choosing Between a Computer or Paper System
To serve your customers, you need to track their purchases and needs. There is no efficient way to do this with paper files that even comes close to the power and efficiency of the computer. To maximize your time and your sales, you'll have to move away from paper and use either contact management or database software.

Contact Management Software
Contact management software is often used as a calendar and phone book. But it's also a powerful tool for maintaining customer relationships. You can maintain a history for every customer and prospect, create reminders to call again on a certain date, and note their preferences and requests, and more.



The Benefits of Tracking Customer Histories
Let's say you're trying to get an order from a prospect, Ms. Bigbucks, who requested you follow up with her today. You needn't rely on memory because a reminder pops up in your software. With a click, you open her record and review it. She asked about pricing on 1,000 of your new Ultra Widget. You click on the phone icon and the software automatically dials Bigbucks's number, logging the time of the call. You tell her the information is available. With a few mouse clicks, you e-mail the spec and price list to her and the software records it. Bigbucks writes back that she'll make a decision Monday and mentions a big golf game coming up. On Monday an alarm pops up, reminding you to call for the order and inquire about her game. If you scheduled a meeting or mailed her a proposal, all of these could be recorded in her contact record. You can also log faxes, print mailing labels, and do simple reports--such as all customers in a particular zip code or in a certain industry. Contact management software brings big payoffs when used fully. You'll have comprehensive records in one place for each customer and prospect. You'll never forget to make a follow-up call or wonder which document list you sent. You can sell more to your existing customers and stay in touch with prospects. Some well-known brands are Act, Outlook, and Goldmine.

Database Software
If you need more complex reports and customized forms, look into database software. It does much of what contact managers do, but lacks the calendar and To-do list, alarms, and e-mail logging. You create whatever fields you need-- account number, date, company name, address, zip code, phone, fax, e-mail, birthday, total orders to date, payment history, and more. You can generate reports based on any of these fields. Need to see a list of which customers have bought a specific product and are due for a re-order? A list of customers whose purchases exceed a certain amount and whose payment is over 60 days overdue? A list of all prospects who are due for a call back on July 25? All this information and more is easily located. You can generate invoices and track inventory. You can even see if the blue Ultra Widgets are selling more than the yellow and red ones. Some common brands of database software are FileMaker, Access, and Approach. FileMaker is perhaps the easiest to use and is the only one that runs on both Windows and Mac.


About the Author
Since 1988, Jan Jasper has been helping clients streamline their systems, use technology efficiently, manage information overload, and form optimum work habits. Jan is the author of "Take Back Your Time: How to Regain Control of Work, Information, & Technology" (St. Martin's Press). Through her consulting, seminars, and book, she has helped thousands of people work more effectively. Visit www.janjasper.com. 

 
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