Private Equity

How to choose a Personal CRM system?

Our ultimate guide to relationship management software

Personal CRM - everyone wants one, but very few take the time to actually set it up. Do you know the most valuable people in your professional network? Who are the best experts in a given field? If you want to easily answer these questions, follow closely through our review of the best personal CRM products.

In our experience, there are three ways people manage their professional contacts:

  1. Don't manage it at all (i.e., chaos): Rely on memory and hope for the best (cost-effective, but perhaps not always the most reliable method)
  2. Use a spreadsheet / word document: Not a bad start for small lists, however most people give up after about 50 contacts as the sheer volume of data entry becomes unbearable.
  3. Move to a software product. But which to chose? What are the pros / cons of the various vendors?

Moving beyond the spreadsheet

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So you have decided to make the leap away from Excel/Word?  The first thing you should ask yourself then is: "What is the best source for my personal contacts, right now?"  Do you keep them organised in Google doc or a folder on your laptop? Is your email or LinkedIn account the easiest starting point?

Once you have identified the source, gather up the 100-200 of your closest contacts (you don't need more for the first time) and move them to a platform of your choice. The most important thing is to start with a manageable number and to gradually (and consistently) expand your rolodex over time, which will allow you to develop the right habits and processes.

What things to look for in Personal CRM?

1. Ease of creating new contacts

List Alpha interface

This is critical. You are not a data entry analyst and your time is too valuable to waste it typing biographical information about each person. A rule of thumb is that if creating a new contact takes more than 5 seconds - you are using the wrong product! If you ever find yourself entering work experiences or job titles - you are also using the wrong product! If you need to manually upload photos.... well you get the point.

Here at ListAlpha we take this feature very seriously and have developed a custom Chrome plug-in that allows to add contacts with one click only, straight from their Linkedin page. This removes the need to enter any biographical or contact information and saves our users a serious amount of time. Look for features like this as they will significantly improve your productivity and ensure that you don't give up on contact 137 of your phone book.

2. Automatic profile refresh / enrichment

List Alpha Interface

People switch jobs constantly and your Personal CRM needs to account for that. The responsibility for maintaining your contacts job history should never fall onto you - their employment history should always be up to date.

To ensure this, make sure that your Personal CRM allows for automatic enrichment of contact details through 3rd party data warehouses or LinkedIn. If they do not - your data entry efforts will be in vain as in two to three years time most people would have moved to a new job and changed their work email address.

3. Powerful search functionality

List Alpha Interface

The only reason to have a Personal CRM is so that you can easily find the right person in your network. Make sure that the software you use has strong search functionality, which runs across all biographical information (name, title, location, etc.) as well as contextual meta data (their expertise, knowledge, industry, work experience, etc.). The latter becomes extremely important when searching for industries or someone to help you research a particular topic and ends up being the real differentiator in a live deal situation.

4. Seamless note taking

List Alpha Interface

Notes from meetings or Zoom calls are an integral part of your day to day activities and there is no reason why those should reside anywhere else but in the same place as your contacts. Tagging notes to contacts (and vice versa) allows you to very naturally understand who the key contacts are in your network and who provides the most insights, introductions or expertise.  

Note taking also provides valuable meta data for finding the right people for a new project or assignment. When choosing a vendor ensure that the software has strong note functionalities with all of the latest features (e.g., rich word editor, collaborative edits, sharing, etc.)

5. Integration with deals or projects

List Aplha Interface

If you are an investor, your day to day job will always revolve around companies, deals or transactions. As a result, you will need to be able to easily tag your contacts in that deal flow. Make sure that the Personal CRM system you choose allows for this as there is not use in keeping a perfectly curated list of progressional contacts if you cannot integrate them into your daily workflow.

In this regard, be particularly careful not to go for the freemium Sales CRM tools (e.g. HubSpot) as their entire work process and nomenclature will revolve around a sales person with endless conversion pipelines, probabilities, quarterly quotas, and other sales jargon. This functionality will be of no use to you and will eventually lead to significant frustration down the road.

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