The company, the job, the person : making sense of identity
Three key elements
Any CRM worth its salt will let you stock and consult three key pieces of information : your contact’s name, the job title he/she holds and which company he/she currently works for. Having access to these three sets of information help you target, shape your strategy and tailor messages.
The vast majority of CRMs have organized their data fields so that the person and their position are inseparable within the date record containing contact information, and the company or organization is a separate data record. This is why I can have people that come and go from a company in my CRM, but I can’t have a person that changes position or a position that changes occupant (without deleting one of these key elements and starting to rebuild any relationship information from scratch).
The company is then usually treated by CRMs as a separate entity. This makes sense as there are certain aspects of companies that shape the relationships of its stakeholders. For example:
- Business objectives
- Corporate identity and reputation
- Company ethics
- Its own relationship network: suppliers, partners, clients, customers, competitors, shareholders, etc
The job in itself can alter relationships too:
- There are hierarchical links and reporting lines which force me into contact with some people.
- Geographical zones of intervention and action exist which limit or extend who I work with.
- I am held to follow certain procedures, which may detail who I work with.
People change and alter the relationships they have much more than any other factor. In the list below I have detailed only the aspects that come into play for professional relationships.
- I have a memory unlike a position, which existed before me and will continue to exist if and when I move on. If I get on with a person I will carry this with me for a long time, maybe forever. I can also bear a grudge for a very long time.
- I have a life outside of my work, so I can interact with and meet people who are not in my existing professional network. This extends who I know beyond the limitations of my job’s network.
- I like other people, or I dislike them. As an example, in my role as, let’s say, Sales Director Southern Europe I should work closely with my Sales President EMEA. However, for one reason or another we just don’t click, and although we are both professional enough to do the job well, there’s no warmth or mutual support.
- I have a set of ethics and opinions that may or may not be close to the company’s position. For example, I may put greater emphasize on ecological issues, or health and safety, or equal opportunities, or X, Y, Z. This could well lead to changes in the way I consider other people and the work they do.
Divide and conquer
At some point in the future I will leave my position (either to retire, following a promotion, or moving to another company). Likewise, I existed as a person long before I came into the position that I currently hold.
These professional movements are key moments in the life of a company because new people bring new networks. Traditional suppliers can often see themselves ousted shortly after the arrival of a senior person, as he/she decides to use their own trusted suppliers or decides to go for a new approach. There are companies out there that track nominations of C level people (www.nomination.fr does this in France) to help you identify these key moments.
What this means for information storage
Key things to look for in a CRM (get their techie team to answer the questions)
- Company, position and person are three separate elements.
- I can move a person from company to company without losing any information about that person.
- I can move a person from position to position without losing any information.
- Personal relationships with any given person can be transferred easily as the person’s career develops.