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Opinion Editorials

Using Outlook to keep in touch with your SOI (Sphere of Influence)




I ask students all the time how they keep in touch with their past customers and sphere. What I hear is that many are using all sorts of tools to do all sorts of things, but not many are organized to communicate with their sphere on a regular basis.

Consider using Microsoft Outlook to do this. Every day I “touch or contact” five of the clients in my sphere. How do I know who to contact? I have set them up as recurring appointments in Outlook. Before I start my day I open Outlook and look at the days activities and pick 5 people to either call, email or contact on Facebook.
I have gone through my top 100 and set up an appointment to contact them four times a year. Because I contact 5 people a day, five days a week, I reach over 1250 people every year and it keeps my business vibrant.  Outlooks reminds me to contact them, but I can choose how to do it. It may be a phone call, a personal email or maybe a touch base on their Facebook page.

Millions of people use Outlook every day to get things done. And most of us use only a fraction of Outlooks’ power.

Because Outlook is part of Microsoft’s suite of products you can copy a chart from an excel spreadsheet and paste into an email. You can also keep a list of mailing and email addresses in Outlook and use them for a email merge with a ENewsletter you created in Word.
Outlook is divided into modules to help you perform certain job functions. The most important for us as sales people are:
•    Calendar
•    Email
•    Tasks
Using Outlook with its email and contact management system can work for most sales associates. It is best for sorting leads and handling the more active leads. If you want step by step instructions on the following three Outlook tools, please email me directly at
1.    Create Folders and Rules – Organize emails into folders
2.    Create Contacts from emails that people send so you can synch contacts with your handheld
3.    Set up recurring appointments to stay in touch
It’s easy to overlook the fact that the Contacts module is a database, but Outlook provides a surprisingly capable system for managing names and addresses. Contacts provides different views of your data, including table and card formats. You can define your own views and add your own fields. There are good searching facilities and it also provides a set of categories, again user definable, which can be used to tag records for retrieval. So, providing your needs are straightforward, it is well worth looking at Outlook as a way of managing your names and addresses.
Office 2003 (and now 2007) provide reasonably good integration with Word. It is possible to go into Outlook select a set of records, press mail merge or email merge and move seamlessly into Word to complete the process of producing standard letters, mailing labels or emails.
Outlook won’t be enough for everyone. Its reporting facilities are quite limited and so if you want to do more elaborate printouts you may have to look elsewhere.

Amy is a national technology speaker who can inspire, train and help people implement technology strategies into their business. To find out about her training, coaching or webinars visit her website at

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  1. Steve Beam

    May 24, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Some people like Microsoft Outlook and the Office suite but I find it to be cumbersome and everything I do seems to involve so many steps I have to print out the directions and follow along. Just importing names and addresses from excel into word to make labels is enough to make me crazy. I have the new 2007 suite and hoped it would make life easier but it seems worse. It should just work and it doesn’t.

    I do use Outlook but only by default. I also use Agent Office which is a disaster too. Yep I’m frustrated with all my CRM tools.

  2. Dan Connolly

    May 25, 2009 at 12:22 am

    Outlook’s Business Contact Manager is a great program. Definitely it is worth the extra $$. I am using the 2003 version. The only drawback is that it doesn’t make it easy to keep info on spouses together in the same contact folder. Other than that I don’t have any complaints.

  3. Jim Gatos

    May 25, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    I use Mozilla Thunderbird with a couple of extensions, most notably lightning and contacts sidebar. Also I use vcs support. I can do everything that Outlook does and I don’t pay for software.

  4. Jim Gatos

    May 26, 2009 at 5:19 am

    I honestly think my combination is fine for me, Thunderbird and Openoffice. Too bad I can’t find any openoffice base templates for real estate agents.

  5. Amy Chorew

    May 26, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Jim, can you do recurring appts? And set up actions plans that is the item that is missing in most programs. Thanks for the tips, will look into it.

    I just installed google apps and am playing with the sync so I don’t need a exchange server anymore. We will see 🙂

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Opinion Editorials

DNA tests are cool, but are they worth it?

(OPINION EDITORIAL) DNA tests are all the rage currently but are they worth potentially having your genetic makeup sold and distributed?




Over the last few years, DNA testing went mainstream. Companies like and 23andMe have offered easy access to the insights of your genetics, including potential health risks and family heritage, through simple tests.

However, as a famously ageless actor once suggested in a dinosaur movie, don’t focus too much on if you can do this, without asking if you should do this.

When you look closely, you can find several reasons to wonder if sending your DNA to these companies is a wise choice.

These reasons mostly come down to privacy protection, and while most companies do have privacy policies in place, you will find some surprising loopholes in the fine print. For one, most of the big players don’t give you the option to not have your data sold.

These companies, like 23andMe and, can always sell your data so long as your data is “anonymized,” thanks to the HIPPA Act of 1996. Anonymization involves separating key identifying features about a person from their medical or biological data.

These companies know that loophole well;, for example, won’t even give customers an opt-out of having their DNA data sold.

Aside from how disconcerting it is that these companies will exploit this loophole for their gain at your expense, it’s also worth noting that standards for anonymizing data don’t work all that well.

In one incident, reportedly, “one MIT scientists was able to ID the people behind five supposedly anonymous genetic samples randomly selected from a public research database. It took him less than a day.”

There’s also the issue of the places where that data goes when it goes out. That report the MIT story comes from noted that 23andMe has sold data to at least 14 outside pharmaceutical firms.

Additionally, has a formal data-sharing agreement with a biotech firm. That’s not good for you as the consumer, because you may not know how that firm will handle the data.

Some companies give data away to the public databases for free, but as we saw from the earlier example, those can be easy targets if you wanted to reverse engineer the data back to the person.

It would appear the only safe course of action is to have this data destroyed once your results are in. However, according to US federal regulation for laboratory compliance stipulates that US labs hold raw information for a minimum of 10 years before destruction.

Now, consider all that privacy concern in the context of what happens when your DNA data is compromised. For one, this kind of privacy breach is irreversible.

It’s not as simple as resetting all your passwords or freezing your credit.

If hackers don’t get it, the government certainly can; there’s even an instance of authorities successfully obtaining a warrant for DNA evidence from in a murder trial.

Even if you’re not the criminal type who would worry about such a thing, the precedent is concerning.

Finally, if these companies are already selling data to entities in the biomedical field, how long until medical and life insurance providers get their hands on it?

I’ll be the first to admit that the slippery slope fallacy is strong here, but there are a few troubling patterns of behavior and incorrect assumptions already in play regarding the handling of your DNA evidence.

The best course of action is to take extra precaution.

Read the fine print carefully, especially what’s in between the lines. As less scrupulous companies look to cash in on the trend, be aware of entities who skimp on privacy details; DNA Explained chronicles a lot of questionable experiences with other testing companies.

Above all, really think about what you’re comfortable with before you send in those cheek swabs or tubes of spit. While the commercials make this look fun, it is a serious choice and should be treated like one.

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Opinion Editorials

How to deal with an abusive boss and keep your job, too

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Sometimes bosses can be the absolute worst, but also, you depend on them. Here’s how to deal with an abusive boss and, hopefully, not get fired.



abusive boss

Nothing can ruin your work life like an abusive boss or supervisor. But when you’re dependent on your boss for assignments, promotions – heck, your paycheck – how can you respond to supervisor abuse in a way that doesn’t jeopardize your job or invite retaliation?

A new study to be published in the next Academy of Management Journal suggests an intriguing approach to responding to an abusive boss. As you might expect, their study shows that avoiding the abuser does little to change the dynamic.

But the study also found that confronting the abuser was equally ineffective.

Instead, the study suggests that workers in an abusive situation “flip the script” on their bosses, “shifting the balance of power.” But how?

The researchers tracked the relationship between “leader-follower dyads” at a real estate agency and a commercial bank. They found that, without any intervention, abuse tended to persist over time.

However, they also discovered two worker-initiated strategies that “can strategically influence supervisors to stop abuse and even motivate them to mend strained relationships.”

The first strategy is to make your boss more dependent on you. For example, one worker in the study found out that his boss wanted to develop a new analytic procedure.

The worker became an expert on the subject and also educated his fellow co-workers. When the boss realized how important the worker was to the new project, the abuse subsided.

In other words, find out what your boss’s goals are, and then make yourself indispensable.

In the second strategy, workers who were being abused formed coalitions with one another, or with other workers that had better relationships with the boss. The study found that “abusive behavior against isolated targets tends to stop once the supervisor realizes it can trigger opposition from an entire coalition.”

Workplace abuse is not cool, and it shouldn’t really be up to the worker to correct it. At times, the company will need to intervene to curb bad supervisor behavior. However, this study does suggest a few strategies that abused workers can use to try to the tip the balance in their favor.

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Opinion Editorials

Avoid the stack, conquer busy work as it comes

(PRODUCTIVITY) It’s easy overwhelmed with emails and a stack of real mail. But tackling as it comes may help to enhance organization and productivity.




A few weeks ago, I was walking through my office (also known as my bedroom after 5 p.m.) and I noticed a stack of mail that I had tossed aside over the course of the last few months. While they were non-urgent, this collection of paperwork had been opened, read, and left unattended.

Now, this was a classic move of mine – leave a mess for Future Taylor to clean up. So, imagine my surprise when Present Taylor woke up and decided to put an end to “the stack.”

I sat down, went through everything, and took care of what needed to be done. Even though my wallet took a few hits, it felt great to have this cleared up and off my desk.

Right then and there, I made it a rule to let things only cross my desk once (unless there’s some extenuating circumstance in which it requires me to come back to it; i.e. my favorite sentence on this paperwork “This is not a final bill.”) There’s no point in drawing out the stress that “the stack” induce.

This led me to finally attacking something that’s been on my to-do list since I created my Gmail account in 2009 – create an organizational system.

I set aside some time to create folders (for individual projects, people I communicate with frequently, etc.)

While this is all stuff that you may have already implemented, my point is that this increase my productivity and lifted a weight off of my shoulders I didn’t acknowledge was there.

So, I encourage you to find one of those menial tasks that has been on your to-do list forever and tackle it.

This can include, organizing all of your electronic files into folders, updating your phone and email contacts, or going through all of your desk drawers to get rid of unneeded items. Organizing and freshening up your workspace can help increase your focus.

Once you’re organized and in gear, try the “let it cross your desk once” method. When an email comes in, respond to it or file it. When a bill comes in, pay it. You may be surprised at your rise in productivity.

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