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Beyond Sales: Other Ways to Use a CRM System for Your Business

As a virtual assistant, I'm often asked about CRM systems. Having used one extensively in my prior position, I'm no stranger to them. I was part of the team who worked on the customizations to tailor Microsoft Dynamics 365 to my employer's very specific business purposes. It was great fun to be a part of creating exactly what we needed to stay organized.

Most CRMs are focused on sales and the sales cycle, and it's tough to see past that when you read about them. It's easy to get the impression that a CRM isn't for you if sales isn't what you want to track. Fortunately, I'd seen deep inside CRMs and understood that they're a powerful force for keeping all kinds of information organized. Below are a few ways that CRMs can be used for non-sales purposes.

Contact management: A CRM is an address book on steroids. I can keep all sorts of data about all my clients and other contacts, and sort it any way I like. CRMs come with all the basic fields, such as name, address, phone number, and email address, but they also allow users to create custom fields to collect and track data that's specific to their business or use case. I find the custom fields to be very valuable.

Communications management: When I email one of my contacts, those communications stay with their record. Their replies go there, too. I can easily go back and reference all of our communications to refresh my memory on our communications. My CRM also allows me to see if a contact has opened an email that I've sent them; this is very useful information in some situations. I can also create email templates that allow me to send personalized messages to several contacts at once. This feature has turned out to be a huge time-saver in my business!

Project management: The Pipeline functionality that's built in to most CRMs to track the sales cycle can be adapted for other use cases. I modified the Pipeline in my CRM to track my various client projects. It allows me to see what stage each project is at and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. 

Automating repetitive tasks: CRMs allow a user to build workflows so that when an action is taken, a cascade of other actions follow. For example, I have 12 tasks that need to be done each time I onboard a new client, such as sending them a welcome letter and creating a folder or section for them in each piece of software I use. Through my CRM, I was able to make many of these tasks happen automatically when I simply enter the client into my CRM as a contact and tag them as a client. I'm absolutely thrilled with the amount of time that this is saving me! 

CRMs are packed with functionality and these are just a few examples of how they can be helpful for any business. The more I use my CRM, the more I discover ways to use it that make me more organized and efficient.


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