Robin Dunbar is a British scientist. You may recognize the name if you are aware of one of his primary insights, something called Dunbar’s number. Dunbar has studied evolution, including early humans and primates, and discovering human beings can manage about 150 relationships. The price for maintaining and managing these relationships requires time, effort, and an understanding of the connections between them.
Any complaints about using a CRM to manage your relationships must be viewed through Dunbar’s number and against the massive advantage it provides you. Before we look at why you and what you should keep in your CRM, let’s address the primary complaints.
- Data Entry: I am sympathetic to the complaints here. You do not get paid for doing data entry; you get paid for winning deals. That said, data entry is a small price to pay to ensure you manage your contacts and their opportunities and initiatives effectively. It takes time to enter data, but no more time than the time you spend complaining about it.
- Big Brother: Of all the complaints one might make, this one rings hollow. Those who gripe about their manager looking at the amount of work they do is an indication that they believe that their manager doesn’t think they’re doing enough work. If one were doing enough work, they would want their manager to see their effort, excluding, of course, the weak sales manager who can only count phone calls and is impotent when it comes to helping their team improve their effectiveness.
Having addressed and removed these complaints, let’s explore why you should embrace your CRM as a necessary tool for increasing the part of your effectiveness that requires you proactively manage your relationships, providing you with the ability to exceed the natural limit that Dunbar’s work established.
The Limits of Dunbar
Dunbar suggests that the human brain is limited in the number of relationships it can effectively manage. Fortunately, we aren’t limited to the human brain as our only available tool. We continue to craft tools to help make up for our physical and mental limitations, as well as reducing the time it takes us to complete certain tasks.
I will argue that the limit of Dunbar’s number, 150 relationships, can be improved upon through the thoughtful use of a CRM. You can extend your ability to better manage your relationship over an increasing number of connections by outsourcing some of the work to a computer. This tool is much better at remembering than you or me. David Rockefeller managed to record the record of 100,000 relationships with nothing more than index cards and a custom Rolodex (a link here for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term).
What to Record in your CRM
Let’s leave aside the obvious things, like name, phone number, email, and title. The value of these is obvious and requires no explanation. Some of what follows, however, is not as obvious, but extremely valuable.
- Priorities: Effectiveness in helping other people produce better results begins with understanding their priorities, which can and will shift over time. When you know what is essential to people and why, you can share with them your insights, ideas, and initiatives that would benefit them.
- What Is Compelling Change: There should never be a time that someone asks you about what is compelling contact to move forward with the opportunity you are pursuing without you being able to provide a concrete, objective answer. The value of knowing why your client decided to change is not only crucial to the design of your solution, but it also helps you to inform your team as to what mistakes they should avoid and what they need to do to help your client.
- Your Competition: There is tremendous value from collecting whom you are competing against as a way to improve your win rate by understanding how you win—as well as where and how you lose deals.
- Every Name Your Contact Mentions: When your contact mentions another person’s name in the course of the conversation, there is a high likelihood that a person is somehow related to the opportunity you are pursuing. You should not only capture these names, as they are strong evidence of whom you might need to build consensus, but you should also ask questions about who they are, any role they might play, and what they might need from you and any solution you might later present.
- All Your Notes: Imagine you have an address book that only allows you to capture your contact’s email address. You have another address book that keeps only phone numbers. All the other details end up scattered across several notebooks, files on your computer, and loose papers stuffed in legal pads. The CRM allows you to collect every record of every conversation in one place, ala Rockefeller, enabling you to have total command of past discussions, allowing you to prove you care by recounting what your contacts have said over time.
Admit it. When you looked at Rockefeller’s index cards, you felt a certain sense of jealousy of the system and his fantastic discipline. Nothing is stopping you from doing the same and with much better tools.
- Future Tasks and Commitments: David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, has said that your brain is for thinking, not for remembering. Most of our brains does a fair job at both, but when it comes to remembering, our brains are no match for silicon chips. The idea that you are reliable means keeping your commitments and following through on your promises. You improve your ability to track these commitments and follow through when you put them in a system that not only tracks them but reminds you of your deadlines.
- The Personal: There are not fields for things like your contacts’ spouse’s name. There are no fields for their children’s names or ages, but over time, they are likely to mention them in conversations. They also mention their interests, the things that capture their attention, but without knowing what those interests include, you can’t share the article or website you found that allows you to recognize something they might personally value.
The cost of maintaining relationships is high, and that price extends to B2B Sales. It requires time and energy, but even more than that, it requires caring. Avoiding using the tools that will allow you to collect better, retrain, and utilize the information you acquire in every interaction is to diminish the importance of relationships.
Keep contact information and your opportunities in your CRM, but also keep the things that are going to provide you with a competitive advantage over time.
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