Last month I had the rare free evening where I could attend a networking meeting after hours. Since I don’t get out much in the evenings, I was excited to see that there were many new faces in the room, meaning a ton of new relationship opportunities. As I walked into the room I connected with a particular gentleman that was a veteran of the group. We had a great conversation, and decided to exchange business cards and schedule a follow up meeting to get to know each other a bit better. Due to our hectic schedules, we set something for a month out and continued networking at the event. Later on that week, I ran into a referral opportunity for that very same gentleman, and wouldn’t you know, I had no idea where I had put his business card. I had no contact information, and no way to connect with him until we met. This incident reminded me of the importance of having a system in place to manage your business contacts.

While I have been successful in many areas of business networking, this is one particular area that I have always struggled. This is very strange, since I consider myself to be VERY organized (my wife and kids would say completely anal retentive). Fortunately, I am not alone in this area. Whenever I have had this discussion with other business networkers, it turns out that it is a pretty common challenge. Most of have a stack of business cards, rubber banded together in a drawer or shoved into a remote corner of our desk. The challenge with this is the fact that we can rarely remember anything meaningful about the people attached to those cards. Where did I meet this person? What did they like to do? What set them apart from their competition? So, the reality is that a stack of business cards really does not constitute a system to manage your contacts.

Many of the professionals that I have met swear by maintaining their contacts in a spreadsheet or simply a notebook. I even know some that have binders upon binders full of business cards and notes on ever individual. While this may work for them, most people look at them like they have a third eye. Over the past several years there have been hundreds of popular CRMs or Contact Management Systems invented in an effort to eliminate this problem completely. The majority of these even have fancy mobile apps available to streamline the entry of your contacts. Some of these systems are extremely easy to use, but tend to lack features. Others are very robust, feature rich systems, where you need an advanced engineering degree just to enter a new contact.

Want to read more of Jason’s article about handling contacts? Go to this link.

Photo by Flickr user rahims