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Your CRM is the most important piece of software you have. But between setup costs, ongoing maintenance, underutilization, and a million other factors, it could also be one of the most costly.

So how exactly do you ensure you’re getting the best return on investment out of your CRM?

I spoke with five RevOps leaders to find the answer.

Calculating CRM ROI

If you’re starting from zero and still figuring out how to choose a CRM, the ROI calculation is simple:

(Revenue Increase After Implementation - CRM Implementation Cost) / Total Cost of CRM Investment = Your CRM ROI

Keep in mind that the costs will be highest in your first year because of user training, onboarding, and time spent researching the best CRM software.

In 2014 (a century ago in tech years), Nucleus Research came out with a study saying that CRMs pay back $8.71 for every dollar spent. This is the most cited stat for CRM ROI, but in reality, every company’s situation is too unique to find an accurate average.

CRM ROI should factor in hard costs as well as improvements in productivity, process, and revenue.

Finding the Total Cost of Ownership

Consider every cost that goes into implementing and operating your CRM, including:

  • Subscription costs
  • Implementation costs
  • Ongoing maintenance fees
  • Employee salaries (since the CRM doesn’t populate itself)
  • Costs for integrations or add-ons (since a CRM can’t do everything on its own)

Measuring Productivity Improvements

Your CRM solution, when optimized, helps your sales team focus on the right tasks instead of spinning their wheels.

To track how your CRM is impacting your team’s productivity, you can look at changes in:

  • Sales activity volume (calls made, emails sent, etc.)
  • Speed to lead
  • Sales cycle length
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Impacting GTM Motions

Your CRM can help you optimize your conversion rates for both new and existing customers.

Sebastien van Heyningen, RevOps Expert at SalesOps.io, suggests you start by asking questions like “How does your CRM affect your Customer Acquisition Cost?”

You can easily measure both Cost Per Lead (CPL) and Revenue Per Lead (RPL). 

Cost Per Lead = Cost of Generating Leads / Total Leads Acquired 

Revenue Per Lead = Revenue / # of Leads

You can also track your existing customer retention metrics:

  • Churn rate
  • NPS scores
  • Product usage

Optimizing Your Existing CRM To Maximize ROI

If, like most people, you’ve already implemented your CRM, you should start focusing on optimization.

I spoke with five RevOps leaders to figure out the fastest path to ROI. 

The consensus on where to start was resounding: Data.

Cliff Simon, Chief Revenue Officer at Carabiner Group

Cliff Simon, Chief Revenue Officer at Carabiner Group

“The best way to get ROI out of your CRM is to have good data governance and good process adherence.”

Brad Smith, Co-Founder, President, and Chief Customer Officer at Sonar

Brad Smith, Co-Founder, President, and Chief Customer Officer at Sonar

“In 2024, everyone has a heightened sense of security, compliance, and data quality.”

Mark Lerner, Director of Growth Marketing at DealHub.io

Mark Lerner, Director of Growth Marketing at DealHub.io

“There’s so much need to ensure data integrity, that the data in the CRM is valid.”

ROI of CRM Starts with Data Hygiene

Your CRM should, of course, be your single source of truth. You know the saying: “If it’s not in the CRM, it doesn’t exist.”

“There’s never enough information—ever,” says Simon. “The more information you have, the better decision you can make.”

But with so many different people inputting data, CRM data management can get more than a little messy without the right business processes in place.

Inaccurate and duplicate customer data can decrease your pipeline accuracy, ruin in-progress deals, and even cause lawsuits.

There are two main ways to ensure your CRM is accurate:

  1. Integrating all your tech with your CRM and setting up automations
  2. Getting your sales reps to follow your CRM processes

Setting Up CRM Integrations and Automations

In order for your CRM to be your source of truth, all the information from your other systems needs to sync. 

But first, do you even need all that tech? After all, one easy way to improve your ROI is to cut your costs.

Figure Out Which CRM Integrations You Actually Need

Before you start thinking about buying integrations, make sure you’re making the most of what you already have.

To maximize the ROI of your CRM, the first step is to actually adopt the full features of the tool.

Jasmine Powers Headshot

Jasmine Powers

Digital Marketing Manager at Supplier.io

Lerner adds that as we cut down our tech stacks, we need to “understand what we’re getting from each of these tools today.” 

We need to ask ourselves what we can solve using the CRM alone.

Add Integrations That Boost ROI

It seems weird to talk about adding costs, but your CRM isn’t going to do everything you want out of the box 

Find integrations that help you improve your conversion rate like revenue intelligence software that provides signals when deals are at risk.

Simon shared this example of a CRM automation: You know a deal is more likely to win if it’s multithreaded with 4 personas. The CRM can alert you if one of those people isn’t already involved in the deal.

Put a Software Purchasing Policy in Place

Back when VC money was cheap, lots of companies bought too much software that didn’t talk to each other. 

“Every team in a company had their own exclusive, best-in-class tool,” says Lerner. “Oftentimes, the connections between these weren’t perfect.”

To avoid these kinds of issues, make sure every software purchase in the company—across departments—goes through RevOps. If anyone wants to use a tool that doesn’t integrate natively with your CRM, make sure you can use a tool like Zapier to connect them.

Getting Your Sales Reps to Follow Your CRM Processes

CRM implementation without user adoption is basically like throwing money out the window. 

But everyone knows it’s a slog getting sales reps to comply with the processes that RevOps builds. It’s why RevOps nagging sales reps to update the CRM is such a common refrain. 

However, improving CRM adoption follows the same change management principles as an organizational shift.

Figure Out Who Needs to Adopt the CRM Process

Narrow down who actually needs to use the CRM before even focusing on adoption.

"Not everyone who has a CRM license likely needs a CRM license," explains van Heyningen. "Figure out who hasn’t signed into the CRM for a long time and ask if their access is completely necessary." 

Look at who is administering your CRM. There should only be a few people with the ability to make major changes.

Sebastien van Heyningen headshot

Sebastien van Heyningen

RevOps Expert, SalesOps.io

CRMs are expensive so there’s no point in paying for seats you’re not using.

Start with Enablement

It’s hard to follow a process if it’s not well-documented. 

“You still have to educate and train and drive enablement,” says Simon. 

Powers suggests that technical enablement is the biggest missed opportunity for CRM ROI. 

“Make sure you and your team actually know best practices for the tool and how it can simplify processes and add value to their job,” she says.

Sell Your Sales Team on Adoption

If your CRM is useful to sales reps, they’ll use it. Show them how the process will help them improve their sales numbers through reliable CRM reporting

If your CRM is easy to update, they’ll update it. Figure out which fields are absolutely necessary and automate as much as possible. This will also make CRM analytics easier and more meaningful.

If making the CRM useful and easy to update won’t do it, you can gamify process adoption.

“You buy something cheap like a 65” TV, like $500, right?” says Simon. “Make it exciting.”

ROI Begins And Ends With Your CRM

If revenue is the lifeblood of your organization, your CRM is the heart. That’s why it’s so important to optimize the way your organization is using it.

In short: Start with the right data, then keep all that data flowing with the right software integrations and team processes.

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Kate Erwin
By Kate Erwin

Kate Erwin is a writer specializing in revenue technology. She writes for several SaaS companies via Beam Content and has previously managed blogs for sales tech companies like Contractbook and Mailshake.