What is the Difference Between a Contact Manager and a CRM?

If there was one question that I wish I would get more often it’s this: What is the difference between a Contact Manager and a CRM?

You may have heard the term contact management as it relates to software for managing interactions with your customers or clients. Most “Contact Managers” or Contact Management Software will allow you to keep track of notes that are related to a contact record. Outlook is a good example of a contact manager. Most email programs like Google or Yahoo, or smartphones will have a simple “contact manager”.

If your needs are very basic, and you’re just using the software for personal use, then this might be a good solution for you to keep a list of names and phone numbers.

However, there are times when you might want to consider the following questions to determine if you might need something with a bit more power:

Does your CRM software manage the relationships with other activities?

Some contact managers only let you create one note block associated with the contact record and some don’t allow for linking relationships between the contact record and other activities such as appointments and tasks.

If you want to keep a full record of interactions with your contacts, you might need to look for software that has additional activities beyond just notes. Examples of these additional activities are: Calls/Tasks/Projects/Opportunities/Cases/etc

Does it allow you to organize the relationships to Companies as well as Contacts?

Most software contact managers will have a field on the contact record for inputting the Company name. If you’re in a B2B (Business to Business) sale environment, chances are you’ll need to manage your relationship with a Company, not just an individual contact. This is one area where many basic “contact managers” fall short.

With many CRM software solutions you can manage the Company record and the Contacts within that company as separate records. This can be very beneficial in B2B sales.

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Does your Contact Manager allow you to manage Opportunities as separate records?

Do you ever sell more than one thing to the same person? Do you have a long (over 7 days) sales cycle? If you desire to keep track of the details of a particular sale, and you at least occasionally have repeat transactions with the same customer, you’ll likely need some sort of Opportunity management with your CRM Software.

By using a separate Opportunity record, you can track the individual details of a sale and keep that transaction separated from the Contact record. If you try to track the details of multiple sales using a standard Contact Manager you might have found yourself creating confusing notes in a contact history, or worse, creating duplicate records in your database so you can track details of a transaction in a separate record. Either of these to situations are a key indication that you need the feature known as Opportunity management.

Is your Contact Manager software web based?

Web based software is the standard for many people. The need to access the software from remote locations has driven this more than anything. Remote desktop software might allow you to connect remotely to your computer or server, but this can fall if your computer is not turned on or worse, has crashed. A web based contact manager or CRM software will ensure that your data is available from virtually anywhere (assuming you have an internet connection.)

Do you need to share contacts with other people?

One of the best reasons to choose a web based CRM Software over a simple device like your phone is the need to share contacts, notes, or history with other people. If you work with a group, or part of a larger company there’s a very good chance that someone else will need access to this data. And because syncing data is fraught with problems (usually), using a web based CRM software is the best way to make sure that everyone is looking at the same version of the data.

Do you want an advanced CRM system with a productivity advantage?

Building better business begins by building better people. PlanPlus Online Business Edition is the only software product that combines a proven productivity engine used by over 15 million people with powerful Customer Relationship Management system.  With collaboration, sales, marketing, and project management features, PlanPlus Online’s Business CRM solution enables productivity and ensures accountability within your organization.