Cultivator or Chess Master? Understanding Approaches to Contact Management

February 21, 2020
BlogKatie Schuele

I’ve never met a sales rep that doesn’t take pride in relationship building and managing those relationships. What I have noticed is how the approach to relationship management differs. Specifically, there seem to be two distinct styles: The Cultivator and the Chess Master. Cultivators tend to their contacts like a garden, nurturing them from seed to full bloom. Chess Masters approach every deal with full awareness. Instead of focusing on the now of the relationship, they look at every component of the situation and strategically plan their next move. 

Regardless of approach, I believe two things must be true for good contact management:

1. A full view of contacts throughout their entire “relationship lifecycle”.  

2. The ability to manage your contacts like a sale and approach each relationship like its own deal.

I’d like to dive in a little bit more to each approach and how both can help you achieve the contact management strategy that works best for your business. 

The Cultivation Approach

I’ve seen many companies, especially those who are proactively trying to find new business, strictly manage contact “touches” and look to benchmark conversion rates between initial outreach and the time that it takes to get a response and qualify the contact. Data-focused leaders are searching for the number of new contacts and number of new touches it will take to get “x” new deals in the pipeline for next quarter. They then manage existing and known contacts as “working” through to advocate. The cultivation approach should be used to establish contact rules of engagement as well as company standards for the time and rate it takes a contact to close. 



Marketo published conversion rates from each acquisition channel, showing that referrals, inbounds and partners have the highest conversion to opportunity ratio. These numbers are telling but I’m skeptical that they provide a full picture. What I don’t see here is the sales part of the funnel - what happens once the sales team gets their hands on the lead? What would happen to these numbers if the seller and their team worked each contact through a cycle working towards a closed deal? Marketing has their nurture stream and approaches, but does the sales team? And if they do, how are they managing it? Is it on paper or in their head?

For the cultivation approach to work, remember the following: 

- Establish a sales nurture program or a standard for contact rules of engagement 

- Develop conversion metrics that are reflective of your business 

- Recognize the need for more down funnel tracking and establish these processes within the sales organization


The Chess Approach

For companies who have larger deals, longer sales cycles and a more complex sale and negotiation process, it helps to understand the players in the sale. You might know who the decision-maker is but have you identified the gate-keeper, the influencer? When was the last time you reached out to them? What meetings did they attend? What was discussed? There are hundreds of great sales books on Buying Roles and depending on your generation, there’s a sales philosophy to match. I’ve met many great sales leaders and while the fundamentals of identifying the key roles in the sale are always the same, the specifics and the strategies are not. That’s why it’s important to be able to lay out your contacts at each account and organize them by role. It’s even better if you can quickly see the last meeting you had, which role is missing and then easily update for the next deal. 

For the chess approach to work, remember the following: 

- Identify the individuals that will play a part in the sale and understand their roles in the process 

- Determine your strategy based on buying roles 

- Keep contacts updated with correct roles in the buying cycle and meticulously denote conversations 

So how do you align your teams for maximum success? Whether your teams are cultivators, chess masters or both, boostr has created a tool to simplify contact management. Not a boostr user? Contact us to learn more. For boostr users, reach us in-app for more information on how to set up Contact Stages for your boostr instance.