Five Tips on Building Your Personal Contact List

A recent LMA webinar discussed tips on how to develop business development skills in new associates. One of the tips was to collect contacts to build a business development list. This is excellent advice. As the webinar slide advanced to the next screen, it occurred to me that there’s more behind the process than simply collecting contacts. I’ve been collecting contacts for many years and it’s become second nature to me. But that may not be the case with a new associate fresh out of law school or any new professional.

Why Collect Contacts?

From a practical point of view, your contact list provides you basic information to connect with the people you know. You can quickly look up their email address or phone number when you need to connect with them. But good contact collecting and maintenance habits can convert a convenience tool into the foundation for your business development efforts. So here are my five quick tips to help you build that foundation.

  1. Enter Complete Information
    This may seem obvious but with the advent of smart phones it’s so easy to add someone to your contacts by saving only their email address of mobile phone number. Take the time to circle back to that contact and complete the rest of the contact fields including job title, company name and address. It may not be apparent right away but these data points become very helpful down the road. In a few years, you might be scratching your head when you look at a lonely phone number in your contacts and the only clue you left yourself was that his name was “Bob.” If Bob is someone you have frequent contact with, then there is no problem, you know who he is. But if he’s an infrequent contact having all his contact information quickly answers the question.

  2. Enter Notes
    Take the time to add useful notes to the record that will aid you in establishing a relationship, which is the whole reason to collect contacts. Some of the obvious notes will be spouse and children’s names, favorite activities or sports teams or other interests, and when and where you met. This last bit took me a few years to figure out on my own. It’s especially helpful if you are connecting with someone you have infrequent contact with. It will trigger your memory of the context in which you began your relationship. Perhaps it was a conference, a reception or a party. Or maybe you were introduced by another colleague. All of this information is helpful in establishing rapport quickly at a later date.
  3. Categorize Your Contacts
    Most contact apps allow you to make use of a user defined field, a data field where you decide what information you want to track. This is a perfect way to separate your contacts into tiers or groups. One simple categorization is business vs. personal. At some point in your career you will be asked to share your business contacts with the firm’s CRM tool. Having this category makes that process much easier. Other categories you might want to consider would be industry, role or even school.

  4. Rank Your Contacts
    Another, more useful categorization, is to rank the importance of the contact. For example, you might adopt a system where you label each contact as either an “A,” “B,” or “C” level contact. The “A” level contacts are the ones you talk to all the time. “B” might be someone you’d like to connect with every couple of weeks. And “C” might be someone you’d want to reach out to at least once a year. You can decide how to rank and define your ranks to match your own style. This is most useful in making sure you maintain connection with your less frequent contacts. For example, you can search for all of your “B” contacts and scan the list for those you haven’t talked to yet this month. Or look at your “C” contacts and decide which ones you might want to call, or send an email too, or set up a lunch date to reconnect.

  5. Purge Old Contacts
    inally, every year you should scan through your contacts to see if there are any you need to remove. Every contact is an asset and provides you with value. Some are extremely valuable while others have no worth at all. And if a contact has no value it should be removed. Personally, I am very cautious about deleting contacts because you never know when your paths might cross again. But there are those that you can remove with confidence. For example, last year I finally deleted a software sales rep I met one time 20 years ago at a product pitch. I didn’t buy the product and the company she worked for is no longer in business. Clearly there is no value in this contact to me so I purged it. (Notice that I was able to determine this because I wrote good comments in my notes field.) Other examples could be people that have left the, retirees, and, unfortunately, deceased individuals.

Collecting contacts is valuable advice to anyone entering the work force.  But to build a solid foundation you need to enter clear and complete information, and make pertinent notes for future reference. Then you expand by categorizing and ranking your contacts, leveraging your list for your personal business development strategy. Finally, remember to keep your list clean by periodically purging obsolete contacts with no value.


1 comment so far

  1. […] my last post, “Five Tips on Building Your Personal Contact List,” tip number 4 for new associates was to rank your contacts. The concept of ranking contacts is […]

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