June 26, 2014
In theory, it's a nice idea to follow up regularly with contacts, but for most people it never happens (including myself). Until my role at a startup two years ago demanded I figure it out.
I finally took the time to learn how to organize my contacts.
While we were growing up, no one taught us a class on "how to organize contacts." There was no instruction about it in grade-school, high-school or even college.
You would just meet someone new, get their phone number, maybe their email, and then add it to your phone. That was the extent of organizing contacts.
Now we have the opportunity to do things differently.
I'll share with you how I philosophically think about contacts, how that effects your way of organizing them, and how you can finally put them in order to make follow ups insanely simple.
Because seriously, why did you get their email and phone number if you never plan to follow up with them?
There's a concept called Outcome Based Thinking by Kevin Hogan, who wrote the book "The Psychology of Persuasion". It suggests most of us operate in a stimulus/response mode. Something happens; we respond. Something else happens; we respond.
However, it's possible to do it differently and achieve a more favorable outcome. It's called Outcome Based Thinking, and it will allow you to decide what you want and show you how to get it.
In fact, I suggest you use the same philosophy to organize your contacts.
For most of us, this is the most complex our contact list becomes.
That's because we designed it while we were in response mode. Something happens; we respond. Get phone number; put in phone.
I want you to try to design it while in Outcome Based Thinking mode. This is how I organize my contacts.
Think about this. When you have a desired outcome in mind, you will communicate with a contact in a specific way to achieve that outcome. So, when you organize your contacts by the desired outcome, you can streamline your communications to all of them.
This saves an incredible amount of time for two reasons. Number one: you will already have written email templates to follow up with them (I'll explain). And number two: you will no longer be overwhelmed with "how to follow up" because instead the outcome and communication will already have been scripted.
So think about this for your contacts. What do you want to accomplish?
Then create primary buckets for each desired outcome. For example, let's say you need to raise capital; create a bucket for "investors". Let's say you need to hire a social media manager; create a bucket for "hiring recruits".
Soon your list will look something like this:
Then within each primary bucket you can create sub-buckets:
Remember, each bucket exists to achieve a desired outcome. But here is the most important part. The follow up.
Once you organize your contacts into buckets, it's easy to think you are done. Take this extra step.
It will make your follow up insanely simple going forward. Write email templates for typical communications that will occur between you and your bucket of contacts.
You can build email templates in gmail and outlook or applications like Contactually, ToutApp and Yesware can help manage it for you.
You'll have teaser emails to investors, welcome emails to customers, interview emails to recruits, etc.
When you pre-determine email communications through templates, it not only saves time but also allows you to have a consistent message in the marketplace.
The sooner you make this change the better. Your contact list is only going to grow larger. So organize your contact now. Because it's a lot easier to add contact buckets and email templates incrementally versus one month from now.
Ian Adams is the founder of the Senator Club, a social club where entrepreneurs and sales professionals learn how to sell. Founded in 2013, the Senator Club is designed to educate members on modern day sales strategies and technologies. Learn more via his blog or twitter.