• Cherry Yang

Airtable Sales CRM Fundamentals - Creating a Contacts Table

This eight-part Airtable tutorial series on building a custom Airtable CRM from scratch provides a starting point to building a custom CRM built specifically for your company's needs. Keep in mind that you can adjust your Airtable to make it suit you. No two sales teams are identical, and thus each will have unique needs. Throughout this series be sure to add and remove fields that make sense for your team's workflow. The ultimate goal of this series is to equip you with the skillset to build a custom tool that allows your team to focus their energy on what matters - bringing home wins.


This blog series is meant to be a complement to our youtube series CRM for Killer Sales Teams Series. Please enjoy the first video below:



Why do we need a contact table?

Your team’s CRM needs a contact table so you can track progress with individual clients. With a contact table, all the information regarding a particular client or contact is neatly organized, allowing team members to easily view the progress, changes, or updates on a contact. This increases team communication and reduces the time needed to get someone up to speed, in the event of role changes or turnover.


What fields are typically on the contact table?

In Airtable, a field is most closely related to a column. To start our tutorial we will begin by building out the contact table. As we move along this series, we will introduce the most typical columns involved within a CRM. It is encouraged to build your CRM alongside the tutorials. Let’s get right into it!


1. Name-related columns

When creating name fields, it is recommended to separate the different parts of the name into first, middle, and last names. Separating the different parts of the names not only simplifies your data structure but enables more reliable integrations with other tools like email. This will be especially useful for those times when you would like to be more personal with your contacts, when you run an Airtable Automation to follow-up with your leads, for example, you’ll definitely want to be able to address them by just their first name rather than their full name which often comes across as impersonal.


Begin by adding three single line text fields to the right of the primary name column (the leftmost column in the table - we will come back to this later). Label each of these fields as First Name, Middle Name and Last Name Respectively.



Of course, there may be times when you will need to see the full name of your contacts. This can be accomplished with an Airtable formula. This field also conveniently will serve as a great primary column for our contact records - whenever we build an Airtable base we want to have the primary field be a unique identifier for each of our records. This is especially important for linked records because this is what will be shown on other tables.


The simplest way to to combine our three name fields into a full name for the primary field is to use to following formula:


{First Name} &" "& {Middle Name} &" "& {Last Name}



Note: when adding spaces to text, always put spaces in quotation marks, this allows Airtable recognize a text value to be displayed.


The issue with the above formula is that it will only work for someone with a first, middle, and last name. However, if someone doesn’t have a middle name, it results in an extra space being left in between their first and last name, which is unideal. We can solve this problem by adding an IF statement to our formula, which will translate “if the middle name is not blank then add a space; if the middle name is blank then put nothing at all inside.” into a form Airtable can understand. This is done with the following formula:


{First Name} & IF ({Middle Name} != "" , " " & {Middle Name} ,"") &" "& {Last Name}



2. Role:

Next, we want to add a field for the role - the job title your contact has at the company they work for.


Go ahead and create a single select field with options for each type of role a particular contact could have in your industry. (Don’t worry! You can add more options at any point) Single select fields allow us to easily select common options without needing to type out the role each time. This also ensures that there is consistency in the data, for example, CEO Vs Chief Executive Officer.


Examples of roles included positions like CEO, Chairman, COO, CFO, or Marketing Director.



3. Company

The next field we will want to add is a company table. This will allow for keeping track of the company that contact works for or is associated with.


Add this field as a single select field for now - in the next video and blog of this sales CRM series will focus on the company/organization table - at that point, this field will eventually become linked.



4. Location:

This is where the contact is located, oftentimes this knowledge is great to know. One common example where this is useful could be when your sales team is travelling, with this information they can easily arrange to meet with certain contacts while they are in town. Another example is being cognizant of time zones, in the case that your sales team is dealing with international contacts.


Add this as a single select field - it can be a city, a region, a state, or even a country.



5. Email

Next, we will want to keep track of our contacts' emails. Add in two email fields, conveniently Airtable has an email field format that can be used. Create fields for both office email (the contacts preferred email to receive work communications) and a field for personal emails if this information is useful and/or available.



6. Phone

We will also want to capture the contact's phone number, often it is useful to capture both an office phone number and a personal/cell phone number. Airtable has a phone number field that will format data according to the North American formatting for phone numbers.

However, if the office phone has an extension or some other special calling information instructions, it may be best to leave that office phone field as a text field. The office phone field could also be a phone number field, with an additional field to include any extension information.



Since we have multiple phone number options, this is a place where another aggregated field will serve us well. Create another formula field that will aggregate the personal phone number and the office phone number into a preferred phone number field.


Formula: IF({Primary Phone} != "" , {Primary Phone} , {Secondary Phone})



7. Representative

This is where we will keep track of the sales representative who is managing the interactions with the contact. For now, create a single select field for the different sales reps within your organization - future Airtable tutorials in this Sales CRM tutorial series will go over other options that could be used here to optimize this field.



8. Stage

It is important to know what stage in the sales funnel a contact is in. Add in a single select field for this stage. This field will likely continuously be updated by your team's sales reps. Some stage options could include lead, prospecting, closed (won), and closed (lost).



9. Created Date

Next, we will want to add in some date fields, these will be especially important later once you start building in more complex automations to your Airtable base.


First, add in a created date field, this is when the contact and their related information was first added to the CRM. Luckily, Airtable has a field type called created time, this makes this field super easy to implement!



10. Last Updated

We will also likely want to keep track of when the information regarding a certain contact was last changed. This will help us keep track of things such as when we last contacted or updated a lead or client.


Create a field with the last modified time field option within Airtable. You’ll see an option to have all the different fields to factor into the last modified time or just specific ones, for this table, we suggest using all editable fields.




11. Last Updated as it Relates to Stage

The last field that we will add is the last time a contact’s information was updated in relation to the last time a certain field was updated. It is helpful to be able to know the time when something was last updated by the minute. If multiple people are supporting a company’s data enrichment process, then every day a contact’s status could be changing multiple times. This kind of field could also be helpful if a salesperson is calling and trying to reach a client multiple times in a day.


For this base, add in another last modified field, select “Specific fields…” option and toggle the stage field, to keep track of when the stage was last updated.



All done!

Congrats! At this point, you have all the basic fields for a contacts table! You could even pass this base onto your sales team for them to get started. Remember that this isn't an exhaustive list. You can, and should add in any additional fields for any other customizations that you need.


Additional Fields

Wondering what other fields can be added to this database? Try Googling “Salesforce CRM built-in fields” or “Hubspot CRM standard fields” to find lists of commonly used fields for contact tables.


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