A CRM product that actually helps manage your business relationships… priceless

I am a big fan of the concept of “Better living through efficiency.”  As a result, I love technology products that make my life easier.  It’s an added bonus when they don’t cost a penny and can actually serve to make me more effective at helping my clients. Take Microsoft Business Contact Manager for Outlook 2003 (BCM, for short), as an example.

My firm is evaluating its customer relationship management software and I volunteered to personally pilot BCM.  I have either tried out or used SalesNet, Salesforce.com, and ACT! in the past and wanted to give BCM a run for the money.  One thing that immediately drew me to the product is that it doesn’t simply have functionality that “collaborates” with Microsoft Outlook, where I essentially maintain my business life via email, contacts, tasks and my ever-essential calendar that tells me when I need to be where – BCM *is* Microsoft Outlook.  When you install the product, a free add-on for most Office 2003 licensees, it integrates with Outlook as an add-in, effectively compounding the power and effectiveness of the popular office PIM.  Accounts and Business Contacts are specialized types of Contacts that can help you better manage your business (or personal) relationships and Opportunities are specialized Tasks to help track business opportunities and pursuits.  These features have extended Outlook to be my own personal database for all business activity at work, but I’m not writing simply to compliment the BCM development team.

The true purpose of this post is to highlight how BCM has helped me be a better advisor to my clients.  All of the specialized types – Accounts, Business Contacts and Opportunities – maintain a History for me, automatically logging email exchanges and providing a vehicle for me to add notes, link files like market surveys, financial analyses and lease negotiations, track action items like tasks and appointments associated with the client, all within Outlook.  But since I’m on the go a lot, meeting with prospective clients to discuss their space needs, taking clients on market surveys, and traveling for some of our corporate accounts, I also needed a means to conveniently access the most relevant information on my clients, so I can advise them from wherever I might be.  Since I have a Pocket PC phone, I have installed an add-in called Business Contacts for Pocket PC.  Although it doesn’t give full record access, I can view contact information, review notes and call or email clients directly from my phone.  This has been handy when I’ve been traveling for the US GSA assignments and needed to simultaneously help a client in Chicago to negotiate a new lease.

All told, the Outlook BCM and Pocket PC add-in make a great one-two combo to help me provide my clients with the level of service that I would expect if I was in their position.  Now they just need to add form completion so that all of the formal documents associated with client work could be populated from my Account and Business Contact data.

How are your CRM experiences?  Do you use a desktop or web-based solution or are you on a pen-and-paper system?  Are you using one of the big players – Salesforce.com, MS CRM, ACT! – or are you managing everything through your personal information manager?  I’m eager to hear how other industry professionals are managing their business relationships.

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3 Responses

  1. […] how to get me excited… As a former Microsoft employee, technology nut and self-described CRM aficionado, I was eager to hear about this product, specs and all.  Entitled Catylist CRM, this product […]

  2. Have you upgraded to Outlook 2007 w/ BCM? Have you done an customizing?

  3. Zach – those are both great questions.

    I am currently using Outlook 2003 w/ BCM add-on. My firm is still in the process of evaluating Office 2007, so it will be a while until I can try out Outlook 2007 w/ the integrated BCM functionality, but I am definitely excited.

    As for customizing, I have looked into it, but hesitated to do any customization until I had a more thorough understanding of the sales cycle and business processes in commercial real estate. Now that I have been active for a while, I am starting to explore different customization options that could take BCM to the next level. What about you?

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