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How to identify, cultivate, and organize business contacts

How to identify, cultivate, and organize business contacts

9
min read
Overview:
Overview:

A business contact is a record that includes pertinent information about someone you currently work with or wish to do business with. These contacts can be business partners, leads, clients, vendors, advertisers, contractors, and more.

The information that you keep for each business contact varies based on the information your business needs and the information given to you. This can include:

  • Names
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Physical addresses
  • Age
  • Birthday
  • Order history
  • Information requested (such as a free download)

The amount and type of information people or organizations like to keep on their business contacts varies by industry. For example, a golf coach might want to keep track of a client's handicap, whereas a real estate agent might have a field for a client's annual income.

Why are business contacts important?

Business contacts are the lifeblood of just about every business. Without business relationships, you'll be hard-pressed to make sales, raise money, or put on events or shows. Some businesses need a constant flow of new leads that they can sell to, while others cultivate a small list of high-paying clients.

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Here's a handful of professions that heavily rely on their contacts database:

  • General contractors: Every general contractor manages subcontractors (such as electricians and plumbers) and suppliers (such as flooring and cabinet vendors). Without them, a general contractor can't do their job.
  • Online entrepreneurs: While there are lots of ways to make money online, many online entrepreneurs are only as successful as the size of their email list. Their subscribers' contact information may live in a Google Sheet or a more formal contacts database, but it's the backbone of their business.
  • Real estate agents: Agents are famous for having thousands of contacts in their phones. Some of these are clients, but others are often leads who they hope will call them when it's time to buy or sell a house.
  • Trade show operators: Companies and event planners who host trade shows leverage business contacts to find venues, hire local labor to physically set up and take down the event, connect with businesses who'll pay for booths, and communicate with attendees who want to come.
  • Sales reps: Many sales reps rely on a constant stream of new leads, and their peace of mind depends on their ability to keep contact information well-sorted with each lead organized by their deal stage. Sales reps often maintain lists of clients for future upsell opportunities, too.
  • Leaders of different charities: Business contacts for a charity often include lists of people who have donated in the past or are likely to donate in the future. The charity may also host events to raise money, and having vendors at the ready who can help is essential.

How to identify business contacts

The first step in identifying business contacts is figuring out your goals. What's the purpose of your networking? Consider the different examples above — a real estate agent trying to find new business and people to represent works differently than a trade show operator finding local vendors.

In general, there are a few places that most business professionals will go for networking opportunities to build out their contacts list.

Social media

Social media is a great place to find like-minded people who are also hoping for opportunities to connect. For example, a real estate investor can find Facebook Groups with 10,000 other investors. If you're someone who wants to flip houses, but you don't have the cash, you can likely find someone willing to fund your venture.

Networking apps

While these may technically be considered social media, they have a more direct purpose of connecting professionals. The most popular networking app is hands-down LinkedIn, as people use the app mostly to find jobs, connect with colleagues, look for business opportunities, and learn more about their field or industry.

Networking events

Many industries have events that are designed to connect people and expand their business contacts database. Real estate agents, for example, often attend local events to find new business or referrals. An agent might meet someone who specializes in luxury houses while they work with mid-tier housing. These two folks might strike a deal and send each other leads.

Workshops and educational events

Many industries offer in-person continuous education opportunities, such as a conference for marketing professionals. Here, marketers can connect with like-minded people in their field and exchange business cards, especially during designated networking times within the event.

Groups, communities, and forums

Similar to the Facebook Group example from above, you can find communities across the internet. For example, many industries have dedicated forums, such as BiggerPockets for real estate investors. You can also often find local chapters for in-person meetups in many industries.

Referrals

The best way to find great business contacts is often to have someone else find them for you. Let's say you're at a networking event, and you'd love to find someone who knows how to fix roofs. Maybe you find someone who flips homes, and that person has a great roofing contact they call whenever they need help.

Whenever you make a good business contact, you can effectively double the size of your list because that business contact can refer anyone from their database to you, too.

Anyone, anywhere!

You've probably the phrase "always be closing," and this idea is in that same vein. It's totally feasible to find a great business contact in an unlikely place by frequently talking about what you do and being open to opportunities anywhere. Perhaps you're at a friend's party and you meet someone new. You explain that you run a charity, and you find out this new person has been looking for a charity to get more involved with.

This is all about mindset. If you're shy about what you do for a living, you're going to severely limit your ability to build helpful business relationships.

How to establish business contacts

Now you know the why, so let's talk about the how. Here are two different ways to repeatedly add people to your contact list.

Have a pitch ready

You should be able to talk about what you're looking for in a way that appeals to the type of person you're hoping to connect with. If you're trying to sell something, your pitch will look different than if you're looking for a business partner or a new subcontractor.

Also, you'll want to have short, long, and even more casual versions. Then, you can pull the right arrow out of your quiver for the right situation. If you're at a cousin's birthday party and a new acquaintance seems genuinely curious about what you do, you're probably better off having a non-salesy conversation.

Build the relationship

If you're serious about building a deep list of dependable business connections, then you can't ignore a budding relationship. Once someone is excited about working with you, follow up quickly; otherwise, their excitement level will drop fast.

Staying top-of-mind could be as simple as sending a quick text or email, or for bigger deals, sending a bottle of champagne or a thoughtful gift based on past conversations you've had.

What to look for in a business contact management tool

For most businesses, contact management looks like more than maintaining a simple spreadsheet or saving numbers on your phone. That soon gets messy and can lead to losing contact data for someone important or not knowing where a lead is in the sales process.

Over time, you'll likely also want the ability to:

  • Market to your business contacts (especially with automated messages
  • Filtering data based on varying characteristics
  • Sort data to see where each relationship stands

The best way to wrangle your contacts is with a customer relationship management tool (CRM). CRMs are online platforms designed to organize business contact data so it's easier to build relationships with business contacts.

There are plenty of CRM options on the market, but there are a few features that you should consider before settling on one.

1. Excellent contact management

The CRM you choose should display your contacts in a way that's organized and makes sense to you based on your business goals. If it displays too much (or too little) information, then perhaps you haven't found the right CRM yet.

We're biased, but Streak is a powerful and simple CRM. It automatically creates and saves a contact profile for each person you connect with via Gmail. On this page, you can see a record of all prior interactions with that business contact and even send emails or make a phone call right from their page.

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2. Data filtering and sorting

The ability to filter your business connections by different qualities makes it easier to reach out to many people at the same time. For example, if you're putting on a trade show in Atlanta, and you've done one there before, you can sort by all of your vendor contacts in Atlanta to see who's available to support your event. Or, if you're a salesperson, you could sort by all of your leads that made it to a certain stage in the sales process, and then send them a mail merged, personalized email.

Here's an example of contacts sorted by their deal stage:

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3. Integration with other tools

Your business likely uses other online tools, such as Google Calendar, Google Contacts, or Google Analytics. A tool like Streak can easily integrate with those solutions to boost your efficiency and work within the platforms you're already familiar with.

For example, you could send a Google Meet invite that shows up on your calendar. With the proper tool, you can also have that appointment show up in the CRM.

4. Mobile-friendly

With so much business happening on the go, you've got to be able to access your business contacts easily on your phone or tablet. Whether you're doing a presentation at an office, or you're on the golf course and need to make a call, ensure that your CRM can travel with you.

5. Workflow automation

A good CRM can automate repetitive tasks and save you tremendous amounts of time. For example, if you want to send all new contacts a specific email, your CRM should be able to handle that (and much more complicated behavioral-based triggers as well). Streak's ability to easily set up workflow automation can help any team become more productive with less effort.

Organize your business contacts efficiently with Streak

Streak's pipeline management empowers 750k+ happy users to manage their contact database right in Gmail and track where they are in the sales process. You can sort and filter your contacts by type (such as leads and clients), and easily move them through the pipeline so you know what needs to happen next.

Try Streak for free to revamp how you manage your business contacts. It only takes 30 seconds to set up!

Manage contacts for every stage of your business with pipelines in Gmail. Try Streak free for 14 days.

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