Just because your CRM’s contact screen has dozens of fields doesn’t mean you need to fill them all. That said, there are certain fields that you should always strive to complete in order to build a core database with actionable information. Rarely will you be able to get all the information at once, but you need to keep working at it until you do. Following are the fields that should be completed as soon as possible, and what you should put in them.
Without going into great detail, not having a name in every field can cause problems when doing searches, ordering names in a list, and other things you may end up doing. One of the secrets to having a good clean useful database is consistency and planning. What may now seem excessive may later become necessary.
A name in a database without an email address or phone number or address, is probably not worth having unless you know one of them is forthcoming. Always have at least one of them.
First name – Only put the first name of one person in the first name field. Do not put Bob and Karen. Karen goes into another field, which exists specifically for that person. Do not enter Mr. or Mrs. or anything else either. And this might sound obvious but it happens all the time. Always include a first name. If you do not have a first name, use the last name as both first and last until you get the first name.
Middle name – Only use the middle initial, but always use it if you can get it. It helps with duplicate names. It might be nice to have a middle name, but a full middle name can be problematic. More databases than not, do not have room for it. Most only allow for the middle initial. So if you are using a CRM that does have a field for the full middle name, but then you export that data to move to a different CRM that allows for only one letter, then you may have a mess to clean up.
Last name – Always put a name in the Last Name field. If you only have the First Name, put it in both the First Name and the Last Name fields until you get the last name. Another option is to put TBD (To Be Determined) in the Last Name field. Then, on occasion, you can easily look up everyone with TBD in the Last Name field, and work on getting those last names. Where you have to be careful is if you are doing any kind of email or regular mail that is pulling in their last name in a merge field. If that’s the case then you have to set it up such that you are able to easily remove the TBDs from the mailing.
Address – Whenever possible get a postal address regardless of what kind of contact it is. You never know when you might need it. If the City field has an auto fill feature, use it. Auto fill is a feature which allows you to key in the name of the city and it will remember it and retain it in a list. In the future, as you start to key in that city, it will complete it for you after the first few letters. It sounds trivial, but saving a few thousand key strokes over a year’s time adds up.
Company – If the person works for a company, take the time to put the company name in the company field. If it has auto fill, definitely use it. This is more important than the city field. The reason is that it is very easy and common to key in a company name differently from one time to the next. You might key in RE-ACT for one person, and RE-ACT, LLC for the next person. The problem then becomes that if you do a search for everyone in your database who works at RE-ACT, LLC, the results can be incomplete.
Referral – Always put in the name of the person who referred this contact to you if that was the case. A good CRM can show you a referral tree of who referred whom. A really nice feature of a CRM is when it tracks a commission dollar value to each referee. Then you can see not only who that person referred to you, but how much money they made you by giving you those referrals. The big dollar referrers get more than a holiday card!
Source – If it was not a referral then you need to record the source from which they came, such as Homes and Land ad call. Note that you should not call it just an Ad Call. Be specific, because in a good CRM you can generate a report to show you where your business came from. This is the kind of thing people are talking about when they say that you need to run your business like a business. If you know exactly where your business is coming from, it allows you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and where to continue to spend money, and where to stop or minimize it. Having a Source that only calls it an Ad Call does not tell you which media has been most successful for you in terms of ROI.
Mail Preference – When you meet someone and get their contact information, you should try to determine with which mode of communication they are most comfortable. When getting their email address, don’t ask them if they check it often or daily etc. That’s putting words in their mouth. Ask “How often do you check your email?” If their answer is “Oh I check it at least once a month”, then postal mail is probably a better mode for them. If your CRM tracks it, you should note their communication preference. In some CRMs, that setting can automatically determine whether or not they get an email or a printed letter when something is sent to them in their follow-up campaign.
Date of initial communication – most CRMs have a field that displays when the contact record was created. Many also have a Date last modified field as well. Optimally your CRM should allow you to search the contacts based on those fields.
Notes – Whichever CRM you pick, make sure that it both date and time stamps your notes when you key them in. This comes in handy for many things including risk management down the road. Copious and accurate notes frequently stave off hours of wasted time and unnecessary finger pointing and posturing. It is absolutely amazing how quickly someone will defer to you when they become aware that you have an accurate point by point record of date and time stamped phone calls, notes, emails, and letters all at your fingertips. In the future if you have another transaction with them, they will remember. What will happen is that eventually you will get a reputation for being accurate and organized, and other agents will sometimes recommend your offer over others because they are confident that their transaction with you will go smoothly.
Follow-up reminder – If this new contact is a lead of any kind, you should have a reminder either to call or email them at some point in the future, or you should start a drip campaign for them.
This is the bare minimum of information you should have for people in your database. In the next and last part of this series we will discuss categories. This is where most people tend to make a mess, especially if they have been using them for a long time. With some basic rules and ideas, you can do much better.