Using Outlook 2003 to Track Customer History

Some salespeople aren't always organized and sometimes spend a lot of time looking for a proposal or trying to remember the date and subject of the last phone call. Using Business Contact Manager (BCM), you can link all your actions to a particular customer and access all the information from the Contact record. (BCM version 2.0 is a free add-in to Outlook 2003 in the Office Professional and Small Business editions.)

The Outlook Contacts Activities page can show you all actions related to a contact. You can link any document, Task, appointment, or meeting phone log to your customers and read them in one click. Here's how:

1. With your customer contact open, choose Actions, Link, File.

The Choose A File dialog box opens.

2. Select your file, such as Mary's Proposal 321.

3. Click OK.

The proposal file is linked with Mary's Contact record.

In addition to linking external files and documents to your contacts, you can also link Outlook appointments, Tasks, phone call journal entries, and e-mails (both sent and received) and then read them in a single list.

1. With your customer contact open, choose Actions, Link, File.

The Link Items To Contact box appears.

2. Select a folder, such as Tasks.

3. Select a Task from the Task Items list.

4. Click Apply.

The item is linked to your customer contact.

Automating links to your contacts

Linking each item to your contact manually is tedious and can potentially add hundreds of weekly actions to your work, making you lose more than your patience. You may forget to link items or lose track of e-mails, Tasks, and appointments related to your customers. Fortunately, Outlook can automatically link the items related to your contact in the following way:

1. Choose Tools, Options.

The Options dialog box appears.

2. Click Journal Options.

The Journal Options dialog box appears.

3. Select the items to be linked on the Automatically Record These Items list box, including e-mail message meetings, Tasks, and other actions.

4. Select the contacts to be linked from the For These Contacts list box.

5. In the Double-Clicking A Journal Entry area, select the option called Opens The Item Referred To By The Journal Entry.

The Journal has a wider application than simply linking Outlook items to a contact. The Journal can also measure the time you spend working on a document or present your documents in a timeline chart, showing each one on the date that it was used.

6. Click OK.

All Outlook items related to your contacts are now linked.

Reading your client history

Searching for customer files in your computer's folders can be tiresome. You may store one Word document in one place, an Excel spreadsheet in another, and the date of your last meeting in the Calendar. You can, however, have all this information organized for you by opening only one page, which means no lost time searching for the information.

To read your customer history, follow these steps:

1. With the contact open, click the Activities tab.

The Activities page appears. When the Show list box says All Items, all your activities related to the open contact are listed.

2. Click any item in the list to open the linked document or Outlook item.

The information is displayed without your having to look for it.

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