Are Your Contacts “Orphans”?

by: Joe Connelly (VP Sales)

Have you heard of the term “orphan contact” as it relates to your personal contact database of names? It is not often used because people don’t much like talking about it– especially people in Sales for some reason.

Basically an orphan is an entry in your contact database for which there is no “next action”. Maybe one day in the future you might contact them.  Or they might contact you for some reason. But who knows?  Over time, you tend to forget all about these orphans so the chance of any future interaction (email, call, meeting, etc) becomes very low.  Their names just clutter up your database and obscure the important people in your life.

I know some people who like to boast about the number of contacts in their database as if this were some badge of honour. I’ll ask them a few simple questions just to get them thinking:

  • Why do you need so many names?
  • How often do you actually contact these people?
  • Do you have a system to regularly stay in touch with these people?
  • Do you actively ‘consult’ your database when you need assistance in some matter?
  • When did collecting business cards become such an important hobby for you? (ok, maybe that one is a little mean-spirited)

I try to prune my list of contacts at least once per year.  I think of my contacts as a list of friends – I would rather have a smaller set of valuable friends that I can trust and rely upon, than a large number of acquaintances that I almost never speak to.  Of course, I still have a pretty big list because, well, I’m a friendly guy.

Imagine for a minute that you’ve managed your contact database so that it doesn’t have any orphans.  Each name now has a next logical action (even if it is just ‘call my brother in Scotland in 3 months’– which I need to do, by the way!). It’s a much more focused approach and ensures more regular contact with the people you care about. The subtle implication is that you’ve now made a commitment to yourself to actively stay in touch with this list of people which will certainly enrich your personal and business life (especially if you are in Sales). 

Plus, I think you’ll find it’s actually pretty cool to keep in contact with people you like!

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