For networking to be effective, you need a way to document, store, and access contact information and your notes. You need an organized CRM system.
My brain can only hold a few bits of information at any given time. I'm pretty good with dealing with what's right in front of me but I'm awful at remembering things from last week or last month; forget about last year. By storing the relevant information into my CRM System, I let my brain focus on what it's good at. This concept is similar to David Allen's GTD Methodology but while he focuses on projects and action items, I focus on people and places by using a well designed CRM System.
A CRM system is more than a contact list. It's more than an address book. It's a dynamic system that has structure and logic. And it is flexible enough to grow with you over space and time.
A well designed CRM System is a tool — and like any other tool that you invest in — the more robust that your tool is, the more that you can do with it. CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and most CRM Systems are designed for business use; however, I strongly suggest using one personally. Your personal CRM System will become a map of your social and professional landscape. It will be a way to view how all the people in your network are interconnected.
I have invested in my own personal CRM System now for nearly 15 years and I can easily say that it is the best investment I've ever made. It has paid more in dividends than I can imagine. I can trace every sale I've made — every contract I've landed and every salaried position I've had — back to my system. I personally use Norada's Solve 360 and as this site develops, we will evaluate the various CRM systems on the market and will make recomendations based on their functions and integrations. But for now, let's focus on the framework that any good CRM System needs for effective networking.
- It needs to be able to sync with or to serve as your main communications platform. It needs to work with your email, your phone, and your calendar.
- It needs to be able to make complex connections. It needs to be able to map who knows who, who works where, where you met someone, and how all the various companies are interrelated.
- It needs to be able to track the degree of the relationship — so that it can help you turn contacts into friendships.
- It needs to be able to track and sort groups of people based on mutually shared interest.
- It needs to personalize mass communications.
- It needs to be lightweight and useful — only requiring the minimum amount of data to be entered so that you enjoy using it rather than feeling the burden of having to.
Going forward, we'll take a step-by-step approach to show you how to build out your own personal CRM System based on our Authentic Networking principles.