Relationship management: Definition, process, and differences from relationship intelligence

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It’s thought that the first formal relationship management system was started by James Farley, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s campaign manager, when he developed what came to be known as the “Farley Files.” These files contained political facts and useful information about all the people FDR was scheduled to meet with that day. 

We can’t all have a James Farley to hand us a file before every meeting to summarize a contact and any existing relationships— modern relationship management systems, especially those powered by relationship intelligence, can get us close. They allow businesses and individuals to centralize their contact information, better understand current relationships, and streamline their workflow armed with comprehensive and up-to-date data.

What is relationship management?

Relationship management is the strategy that organizations use to maintain positive relations with customers. Rather than viewing customers as one-instance transactions, it aims to turn each one into repeat business by understanding their needs, creating loyalty by achieving customer satisfaction, and providing the highest levels of support. Likewise, relationship management views other businesses as partners rather than vendors or distributors.

Companies often hire specialized relationship managers or use software to analyze the large amounts of data that go into this process.

How relationship management works

Relationship management systems need data to function efficiently. The systems need to know who’s buying what, how often they repurchase, and when they’re most likely to buy. 

These systems act as centralized data collection locations and often include automated ways of collecting information like customer contact information, correspondence, and purchase history. In addition, the software might also integrate and synchronize with calendars and email to make working across multiple teams more convenient.

Types of relationship management

Customer relationship management (CRM)

Many large and small businesses rely on customer relationship management tools (CRMs) to maintain positive relationships and track customer interactions. These CRM solutions can analyze large quantities of data to provide useful information on trends to inform future marketing efforts. Their goal is to improve customer experience and support customer retention.

CRMs include automation tools like sending a follow-up message to existing customers who didn't respond to initial contact, welcoming new customers, creating reports based on accumulated data, and tracking communications across multiple channels like phone and email.

CRMs are further subcategorized into the following specialties:

  • Operational CRMs focus on lead creation and conversion. They capture critical information about each potential lead to use in future decision-making around pricing or profitability.

  • Analytical CRMs focus on making sense of large collections of data. They take all the information gathered about a contact and provide insights based on behavior that can drive future decisions.

  • Collaborative CRMs are all about making inter-department collaboration easier for everyone involved. They store all the gathered customer information in a unified central location for easy viewing and analysis. 

Benefits of relationship management

Below are four central benefits of using dealmaking-focused relationship management tools:

  • Contact management: A CRM platform helps manage contact information, customer data, and company details—as well as purchase history and renewal information.

  • Deal management: Use a CRM to keep track of every step in the deal flow. With the right CRM system, the deal team always has the most recent data at hand to efficiently engage with prospects, and establish a good relationship.

  • Email automation: Send emails in bulk introducing an upcoming event or keep portfolio companies and prospects informed with regular newsletters.

  • Data enrichment: Relationship-focused CRM platforms that integrate both third-party and private data provide deal teams with enriched datasets and actionable insights.

Why do companies use a relationship management system?

With the tools to make sense of it, quality data allows you to work smarter, waste less time, and make better decisions. A good CRM combines relationship intelligence, deal sourcing, deal flow management, and analytics—all integrated directly into your workflow.

Relationship management systems allow for real-world problem-solving. A CRM with integrated relationship intelligence can provide analysis and insights like who’s the warmest contact on a potential deal, the last time they were contacted, and who else they might know within your network.

How do you improve relationship management?

The truth is that not all relationship management systems were created equal. While some might function as a glorified address book, others can provide time-saving automation, increased transparency across multiple teams, and provide the real-world power that relationship intelligence brings.


Data entry automation saves you time, letting you focus on what you do best. We’ve calculated that our CRM saves dealmakers 200+ hours a year of manual data entry and updates. After every interaction, the software automation creates a CRM record for each person or company. The records are automatically enriched with the data you need to build deals. 

With every interaction captured, everyone has the visibility to quickly and confidently move deals forward. You now have the complete picture, and you’ve eliminated the risk of human error that comes with hundreds of hours of manual data entry.

Transparency across teams

Team transparency remains critical, especially in the age of remote work and international teams. Automated contact creation is a significant first step toward keeping everyone on the same page, but a more comprehensive picture is needed. 

Large teams need a centralized system that can also function as a document repository. Between contracts, translations of contracts, term sheets, due diligence documentation, and dozens of other pieces of a paper trail, there needs to be one place where everyone can access what they need. Improved information visibility directly impacts your ability to iterate on processes quickly and improve your team's efficiency.

Relationship intelligence

Relationship intelligence lets dealmakers do what they do best—find and close quality deals, faster. But without the right insights, they risk never being involved in or failing to close on those deals.

While most CRMs lack any real relationship insight, our integrated relationship intelligence provides the warmest and fastest path to the person who can help you find, manage, and close high-quality deals. Building and leveraging strong relationships is evergreen. Relationship intelligence remains helpful in slow markets, perhaps even more so, allowing you to make the most out of connections when potential deals or referrals dry up.

Relationship management vs. relationship intelligence

A relationship management solution that doesn't leverage relationship intelligence leaves critical information and valuable insights on the table.

We’ve put together a webinar, Maximizing relationship intelligence, that details how recent information advances provide us with new decision-making data that would have been impossible even a decade ago. You can directly leverage these insights to maximize your relationship-building efforts.

Affinity combines all the time-saving advantages of CRM automation with the significant insights that relationship intelligence can provide. With an estimated 200+ hours saved per person annually on manual data entry and only 72 hours required for launch, the benefits of using Affinity as your new CRM are clear. Request a demo to get started with Affinity today.


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