Sales Strategies & Tips

How to Use a CRM (Correctly): 16 Tips to Improve ROI

Customer relationship management systems (CRMs) help businesses to operate more efficiently, shorten their sales cycles, grow revenue, and more. 

They boast pretty high ROI—nearly $9 for every $1 spent. But you won't see any of that if you don't know how to use your CRM the right way.

This post has 16 pro tips that will show you how to use a CRM the right way—so that you can maximize your ROI.

Table of contents

What is the average ROI for CRM software?

Let's first go over some stats for customer relationship management software ROI.

  • The average ROI for every dollar spent on a CRM is $8.71. This is a 38% increase from $5.60 in 2011.
  • CRM can boost sales by 29%, productivity by 34%, and forecast accuracy by 42%.
  • A CRM that is fully integrated with other internal applications can increase productivity across sales, service, and operations and lead to a 20-30% growth in business. 
  • CRMs can improve customer retention by 27%.
  • CRM can boost conversion rates by 300%
  •  The ROI of a CRM software system, when properly implemented, can exceed 245%.

how to increase roi - benefits of a crm

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Why use a CRM?

If you’re reading this post, you most likely already use a CRM and therefore don’t need much convincing as to why you need one. But if you’re not using it right, you may be missing out on some of the benefits they offer. So let’s do a quick run-through of why businesses use CRMs:

  • ROI. See above. Almost nine bucks on the dollar!
  • Revenue. Better customer experience and more efficient operations means more sales which means revenue growth. In fact, CRM applications can increase revenue by 41% per sales representative.
  • Improve the customer experience. Customer experience has always mattered, but to put some numbers behind it, 75% of sales leaders say that customers and prospects have higher expectations than they did in the past. Keeping all your contact history in one place allows for you to stay on top of engagement and to remember important details that matter.

how to use a CRM tips - detailed contact information

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  • Make better decisions, and faster. The most successful businesses are those that lean into the data to guide them. CRMs provide a wealth of insights that can help you decide how to structure your sales team, how to optimize your processes, and which channels and employees are worth investing more resources in.
  • Streamline operations. Workflows and automation take mundane processes off your reps’ plates and free up their time for more important tasks. And when everyone’s following the same process, team members can be interchangeable while still providing a consistent customer experience.

    how to use a CRM tips - pipedrive example

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  • Improve cross-department collaboration. Even though sales representatives probably uses it the most, a CRM can, and should, be accessible to marketing, customer service, customer success, and operations departments to keep everyone aligned.
  • Be more competitive. CRMs empower teams to provide better customer experiences, expand into new markets, open up new revenue streams, and create more satisfactory work culture—all of which help them to be more competitive both as a service provider and an employer.

Side note: We have a roundup of the best CRMs for home improvement businesses if you're interested.

How to use a CRM (the right, revenue-generating way)

All of the benefits above sound great, right? Well, if you want to reap them all, you need to make sure you’re using your CRM the right way. Here are our top tips to help you ensure you’re getting the most out of your CRM:

1. Train your employees to use your CRM properly

I'm about to hit you right between the eyes...

  • 50% of sales leaders say that their CRM is difficult to use
  • 53% of employees felt the need for more CRM training
  • 18% say this has caused them to lose opportunities or revenue.
  • 76% of sales leaders report that their team doesn’t use the majority of the tools in their CRM

This is…not good.

how to use a CRM tips - stats about usage

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That being said, make sure that every employee gets a full training on the software, including sales managers. Just the basic, but full training is all that's needed. The more the team uses it for the basic purposes, the more proficient they will get at the more advanced features. 

2. Make sure it has the features you need

Proper training is important, but if the CRM doesn’t have the features to match your tasks and processes, you’ll have zero incentive for employees to get trained on the software, and even if they did get trained on it, it wouldn’t bring benefits to your business.

Common barriers to full and proper CRM usage include:

  • Manual data entry
  • Lack of integration with other tools (57% of sales reps feel their systems are poorly integrated)
  • Sales funnel tracking difficulties
  • Bad data
  • Too complicated

how to use a CRM tips - stats about top CRM challenges

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Make sure your CRM offers the levels of automation, integration, tracking, data integrity, and ease of use that your organization needs. If not, it may be time to change CRMs.

3. Establish house rules

A CRM serves as the one source of truth so that improves connection and consistency in your operations.

With it, contacts can be passed from one team member to another and still receive the same great service. Roles and responsibilities can get passed from one employee to another while still maintaining the same processes and reports.

But all it takes is one person who doesn’t diligently update their notes or input their data to disrupt that operational fluidity. So make sure you establish house rules that make sense for your sales processes.

For example:

  • Track and log every interaction with every customer and contact.
  • After every interaction, immediately schedule a follow-up.
  • Every marketing campaign needs to have a UTM tracking according to an established naming convention for source, medium, and campaign.

crm tips - utm tracking

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4. Add contextual details

One of the key purposes of a CRM is to store all of the contact’s information in one place so that you can reach out with context.

This is important for communicating with new leads, as you come to the table knowing how they encountered your business, what they’re interested in, what their pain points are, and more, so you can cater your communication.

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It's also important for maintaining solid relationships throughout the customer journey. As you communicate more with someone, be sure to add in the little details like name pronunciations and anecdotal notes. Customers will appreciate when you recall small details. It shows that you listen and also that you care enough to resurface them.

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5. Segment your lists

There are infinite ways to segment your lists. It all depends on your sales process. Either way, make sure you segment your lists according to things like:

  • Stage in funnel
  • Last engagement
  • Product or service of interest
  • Location
  • Level of engagement
  • Lead source (website form vs lead aggregator, for example)

This will enable you to cater your messaging to specific pain points and goals, which will have a greater chance of resonating with and engaging your target audience.

how to use a CRM tips - audience segmentation examples

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6. Automate as much as you can

You can't automate everything in the sales process—after all, it's talent that separates good sales reps from great ones, and human touch that separates good customer service from great service.

But when you automate what can be automated, you free up your reps to focus on the areas that require these soft skills—the areas that matter.

Here are some examples of tasks you can automate:

  • Add leads from multiple channels to your contact database
  • Add contact details to a mailing list
  • Send customers a welcome email
  • Text contacts
  • Assign tasks to yourself or others
  • Create custom documents
  • Send invoices
  • Set reminders

how to use a CRM - workflow automation exampleImage source


7. Make sure every department has access to it

CRMs are not just for sales. Otherwise they would be called sales task management systems. They are customer relationship management systems, and the customer journey starts long before sales (with marketing and lead generation) and long after sales (with customer success).

That being said, make sure all of your departments have access to the data in your CRM. This will not only help keep your teams aligned, but it will also help you to get more mileage out of the wealth of information within the system.

8. Invest in AI or machine learning

In his Forbes article, Venkat Malladi makes a great point that CRMs are not data repositories. They are customer-relationship management systems. And yet sales teams are spending more time entering and analyzing data than actually using it to nurture relationships. With AI and machine learning, you can enhance your CRM to:

  • Capture data automatically without data entry
  • Capture contextual data on contacts from their interactions
  • Help teams identify and standardize the habits/ behaviors of top-performing team members
  • Prompt actions based on contact behavior/lack of behavior, without the sales rep creating rules for such.
  • Suggest new ideas or actions
  • Mine the data for you (you could be sitting on a goldmine of leads and not know it)

how to use a CRM - salesforce ai insights example

Einstein is Salesforce's AI feature. Image source

More CRM tips to improve ROI

The above tips are more process-oriented, while these tips are a little more task-oriented, in the weeds of the platform.

9. Customize your pipeline

Don’t use the default pipeline that your CRM comes with. Customize it to align with your exact sales process so that it will be more intuitive to use and easier to keep up with best practices.

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10. Set yourself up to detect anomalies asap

Anomalies are spikes or dips in performance metrics. Good or bad, it’s important to detect them right away so you can fix anything that may be broken or harness something that is working well.

There are two ways to stay on top of anomalies: Report on your data weekly, not monthly. Or, set up regular automated reports and create alerts for when a metric exceeds or falls below a certain threshold.

how to use a CRM tips - anomaly detection example

Some CRMs, like Zoho, have anomaly detection capabilities. Image source

11. Set a churn detector

Create rules to help you detect and prevent churn. For example:

  • Contacts that haven’t engaged with any of your activities in a while
  • Contacts that you haven’t reached out to in a while
  • Contacts with a certain number of complaints or repeat complaints
  • Contacts with a certain number of refund requests

12. Use the mobile app

The thought of navigating everything a CRM has to offer on a phone screen sort of sounds like a nightmare, but a good CRM will have an app version that is not just small-screen friendly, but mobile behavior friendly.

For field reps who meet and engage with leads and prospects on the road, they can update contact data on the go, before they forget important details –or forget to do it altogether. This is especially important if you have campaigns or workflows that are based on behavior.

ServiceTitan is a great example of this.

how to use a CRM tips - servicetitan mobile app example

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13. Set follow-up reminders

Sales follow up is the most neglected aspect of the job. Sales likes to hunt, not chase. Why chase after someone who hasn’t engaged when there’s a hot new lead in the pipeline? Lots of reasons, actually:

  • It takes about 8 attempts to connect with a lead.
  • 80% of sales require 5 or more follow-ups.
  • Customers want to receive 2-4 messages before sales gives up on them.

how to increase revenue for contractors - follow-up statistics for home improvement

Consumers have access to so many vetting tools these days, their lack of response is not always due to lack of interest. Many times they're just in over their heads.

Identify, according to your sales cycle, how much time should elapse before a rep needs to follow up with a lead or a prospect and create reminders accordingly. And follow up until you get a response.

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14. Better yet, automate your follow up

A tool that reminds you to follow up is one thing. A tool that does it for you is another. After all, reminders don't guarantee that the task will get done. 

With Hatch, for example, you can create follow-up sequences and set them up to trigger based on any combination of criteria in your database, such as last appointment date, appointment result, location, service of interest, and more.

This way, no opportunities fall through the cracks and you seal up leaks in your pipeline.

how to use a CRM tips - automated follow-up

Learn more about how Hatch sales follow-up works here.

15. Integrate with Looker (Google Data Studio)

Now called Looker Studio, this tool allows you to create visuals of your data with an easy drag and drop manner. Looker integrates with most CRMs. This is a great way to help make better sense of your data and get a true read on your ROI.

how to use a CRM tips - looker data studio integration example

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16. Meet regularly with your success rep

And last but not least, make full use of the support available to you. A good CRM provider will have a dedicated customer success manager whose job it is to make sure you're getting the most out of the platform. Meet regularly with your CSM and keep a running list of questions and ideas to go over.

Even if you don't think you need their help, there are always new features to learn about. Plus, having a strong relationship with your provider can go a long way. You never know what kinds of perks you might stumble across. 

Improve your CRM ROI with these tips

CRMs are super-handy tools, but they don't come free. And if you don't know how to use yours the right way, you're missing out on money you could be making or saving. So follow these tips to get the most out of your investment.

  1. Train your employees to use your CRM properly
  2. Make sure it has the features you need
  3. Establish house rules
  4. Add contextual details
  5. Segment your lists
  6. Automate as much as you can
  7. Make sure every department has access to it
  8. Invest in AI or machine learning
  9. Customize your pipeline
  10. Set yourself up to detect anomalies asap
  11. Set a churn detector
  12. Use the mobile app
  13. Set follow up reminders
  14. Better yet, automate your follow up
  15. Integrate with Google Data Studio
  16. Meet regularly with your CS rep


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