Let’s assume you have good investing skills. You didn’t get shorted when they passed out personality. Your prospecting and selling skills are right up there. Your presentation skills are excellent. And your closing skills are smooth and polished. Yet you still might not survive the business for lack of a lowly skill — contact management.

For years I have preached “The Law,” which states: “Every contact with a client or prospect produces an updated record.”

I know lots of people alive in business today because they followed The Law. When a client had a recollection of reality different from what occurred, these teams were able to prove otherwise.

But The Law, as stated, did not address an increasingly crucial issue: “No contact.” Complaints have been filed alleging advisors have failed to contact someone on an important matter.

But what if this is you and you did try to make contact, but did not document it. You’re cooked, aren’t you? Therefore, given the increasingly litigious climate, it’s time for a slight but vital modification in The Law:

“Every contact or contact attempt with a client or prospect must produce an updated record.”

There are two reasons why your business depends on contact management:

1. To prove you did or did not do something.

2. To make sure all opportunities are captured and tracked.

Contact management is the process of managing every aspect of your relationship with an individual, family or business group. The goal of contact management is to develop lasting client relationships and turn client satisfaction into client loyalty. Contact management is done one client or prospect at a time.

By way of comparison, campaign management uses a database based on contact management principles to send targeted messages and phone calls to groups of people. The goal of campaign management is to move people into the selling cycle and to gather information about them so that more targeted marketing campaigns can occur. Until you gather the data, usually one client at a time, you can’t do the higher-level marketing tasks.

But once you have created a record of a client or prospect, data updates, messages, notes, actions and appointments are vital.

Data updates, generated whenever any new information about a client or prospect appears, keep key data current and build an actual database to use in marketing to clients and prospects.

Personal messages, sent one at a time, keep your name in front of the client and sustain goodwill.

Notes, especially, will save your business if you, the FA, meticulously enforce The Law.

Actions ensure you keep a record of what you and your staff have promised to do.

Appointments, of course, are the lifeblood of your business.

You build your database, piece by piece, one contact, or one “no contact” at a time.

How Does Contact Management Get Done?

There are four ways to get notes, actions and appointments as well as other data into your program:

1. Type it in by hand. This is certainly not recommended for team members with primary client contact responsibilities. This is ultimately why you need a computer operator — generally a part-time person whose primary responsibility is data entry and backup of your database.

2. Write it on a RUF (Record Update Form).

Basically, what you need is three different RUFs. You can cobble these together from screen prints. (With a blank record from your database on screen, press the Print Screen button on your keyboard. Open a Microsoft Word document. Press “Control V” to paste the screen image. Print the MS Word document and you have a RUF of sorts.)

NewRUF: Use this one when you open a new client relationship. It would contain a place to fill all the key fields from your database.

QuickRUF: This is a form with space to identify the record, and a place to add notes, actions, messages and appointments.

Routine Contact Management RUF: This one just has more information on it than the QuickRUF. It contains a place for notes, messages, actions and appointments as well as places to write down frequently updated information.

3. Dictate. Your two choices are:

a. Dragon Naturally Speaking. This is the premier voice recognition program on the market. Following my recommendations, countless clients of my firm use it to dictate their notes. I now use it for long documents.

b. Copytalk is now my personal favorite for managing client and prospect relationships. This is a mobile dictation service where I simply speed-dial Copytalk after a call or meeting. After I dial, I just dictate meeting notes, action items, e-mail and letter drafts. A few hours later, an e-mail (including the text) of my dictation hits my basket with a copy to my assistant (she proofs it). In less than a minute or two, I have done a very thorough job in documentation. If you’ve not tried Copytalk, call and ask how to get a free month. I’ve arranged a $10/month discount for readers of this column. Go to www.copytalk.com?BillGood or you can call Deidre Zervos at 1.866.267.9825, extension 405, and mention my name.

4. Use business processes to update frequently recurring contact management events.

According to a glossary at the Georgetown University website, a business process is “the complete response that a business makes to an event. A business process entails the execution of a sequence of one or more process steps. It has a clearly defined deliverable or outcome.”

Most modern software has the capability today to launch a business process. You can send a letter on day one, have an item appear on your calendar three days later to call, etc.

By making your software launch processes, you can automate business events that recur. Here are just some of the events for which you can develop a process:

a. Client calls with a referral. Don’t you want to send the client a “thank you” and send the referral a letter explaining that you have been referred? A week after these two letters have gone out, you call. Odds are referree and referral will have spoken.

b. You make several attempts to reach a client or prospect and they won’t return your call. For each attempt after the first one, send a clever “call me” e-mail, fax or letter.

c. You are talking to a client. The client asks, “Will you send me some info ….” Your steps are: Send the info, with an engaging cover letter of course. Call back in seven days.

d. You open an account with a new client. Naturally you send a “thank you.” Three days later, your service manager calls to introduce herself. A week later you call again, just to follow up to see if there are any questions. Ten days later, your computer operator prepared a notebook for the client to organize statements and correspondence. And on and on. I believe about 15 contacts should occur in the two to three months after opening a new account.

e. Client calls in with a service problem that will take more than 24 hours to solve. If you were the client, wouldn’t you like to receive a note from the team’s service manager with full info on who will be solving the problem? Then beginning two days from the day the letter is sent, a note should appear on the Service Manager’s calendar to call and leave a voice message on the status of the issue. That continues until the item is solved.

f. You learn a client has been appointed chair of the local Rotary Club. Don’t you think the client would appreciate a “congratulations letter” and even a phone call a few days later?

What To Do

1. Decide on the best method of reliably getting data into the computer and implement it.

2. Enforce on yourself and your team The Law.

3. Over time, build business processes.

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Columnist Bill Good is chairman of Bill Good Marketing.

See www.billgood.com .