CRM Hygiene

Everything You Need to Know About CRM Hygiene: Why It’s Important and How to Improve It

Lee Moskowitz
Director of Growth Marketing
Table of contents:

Somewhere along the line, the CRM went from a source of truth to…a source of pain and suffering. 

If you’re in revenue operations, you know what I’m talking about. 

There are never enough fields to make anyone happy. There are too many required fields for *anyone* to be happy. 

And the data is disorganized, inconsistent, flawed…and you’re expected to build reports on it all. 

(Screaming into the void) CUT! This isn’t how it’s supposed to work. 

The CRM is supposed to be your source of truth for GTM activity. It’s supposed to track each and every sales activity. It’s supposed to help you coach reps, forecast accurately, and above all help you deliver a smooth experience for your prospects.

It’s not supposed to be a mess.

And this is why CRM hygiene is so important. 

Here’s what we’ll cover: 

  • What is CRM hygiene? 
  • Why is CRM hygiene important?
  • How does bad CRM hygiene impact sales? 
  • How does bad CRM hygiene impact revenue operations?
  • 8 signs of bad CRM hygiene
  • 5 ways to improve CRM hygiene
  • What metrics should you track to monitor CRM hygiene? 

What is CRM hygiene? 

CRM hygiene is the process of ensuring your CRM is filled with clean, complete sales data. 

It’s important because your entire go-to-market strategy hinges on having quality, accurate sales data, and having it where they can easily access it – in the CRM. 

“The insight from clean data is game changing. Think of it as your GPS for revenue growth. Clean data will tell you where you need to optimize, what to avoid, and where to spend your time. Without clean data you are flying blind,” said Kevin Mulrane, Sales Lead at SaaStr

And dependency on CRM accuracy is only growing. According to LinkedIn’s State of Sales report, half of sales reps reported that they plan to rely on the CRM “significantly more.” 

“If you’re using a CRM correctly in your RevOps organization, the CRM is literally informing every part of your business. It is the backbone. A single source of truth for your revenue-generating team,” said Kristen Traynor, Revenue Operations Manager at LASSO

“You should be able to see any activity that a prospect or customer has had with your team and use that data to make informed decisions about the next best action to take.”

Why is CRM hygiene important?

It’s simple: CRM data quality is directly tied to positive business outcomes. 

According to an Experian report, U.S. companies say 27% of revenue is wasted due to incomplete or inaccurate customer or contact data. (What if you could plug a revenue leak from bad data and boost the bottom line by almost 30%?)

Kelly Roy, Customer Experience and Go-To-Market Leader, said, “The reason to keep your CRM clean is it should be reflective of the health of your business. For me, it is about 3 key things: predictability, accountability and scalability.”

On the other hand, bad data slows reps down, and bad data squanders revenue generation opportunities – and there are stats to prove it.

Inaccurate contact data wastes 27.3% of sales reps’ time. That equates to 546 hours per year, per full-time rep.

75% of companies say duplicate or inadequate outreach driven by poor data quality loses their company customers.

Bad data leads to bad processes – and that’s a revenue team’s kryptonite. 

“To achieve greatness you can't focus on the end result. You need to focus on the process and clean CRM data allows you to do just that,” said Mulrane. 

“Without it, you're just hoping you do a lot of work and the results fall in line (which rarely works). We commonly hear that revenue growth is an art and a science. Well without clean data, you don't have the science part.”

The chaos and confusion from bad data filters down into these two groups on your go-to-market team: sales and revenue operations. 

How bad CRM hygiene impacts sales 

Here are the top three ways bad CRM hygiene impacts your sales team:

#1: Bad sales data means reps can’t focus on creating good experiences for prospects.

Sales should be able to clearly see every step of a prospect’s journey. If they can’t see it, how else can they deliver a good experience?

And according to Kristen Traynor, sales should get the information they need from the CRM. 

“It frames their understanding of a prospect’s situation. If that ICP or good-fit data is incomplete or missing, your SDR may never come across that wealth of activity data that proves the prospect is ripe for the picking.”

#2: Bad sales data demotivates reps from continuing to maintain good CRM data hygiene.

“If reps realize they can’t trust the data in the CRM, they will manage their work elsewhere, which will fragment your systems and data,” said Kyle Crouse, RevOps Architect at Go Nimbly.

A lack of trust in the CRM is a self-fulfilling prophecy – when reps know they aren’t going to get value from it, they’re not going to continue to add value by updating the CRM.

#3: Bad sales data wastes reps’ valuable selling time. 

Bad news: sales reps don’t spend a lot of time actually selling – only 28 percent, according to Salesforce. 

And one-quarter of reps say making frequent CRM updates takes time away from selling. It’s not just because they’re busy updating Salesforce – they’re also fielding questions from other stakeholders who want up-to-the-minute information.

“The CRM is how a salesperson communicates to their company. It should tell everyone who is interested where things are at and what the next steps are,” said Jonathan Tice, Fractional CxO. 

“If this is not kept up-to-date, it can send false signals as well as potentially waste that salesperson’s time having to field unexpected inquiries. The inverse of that is also true, good hygiene will prompt people to check the CRM first before annoying the salesperson.”

How bad CRM hygiene impacts revenue operations 

Here are the top three ways bad CRM hygiene impacts a revenue operations team:

#1: Bad sales data makes it difficult to optimize the sales process.

When you don’t know what happens at what stage due to a lack of accurate CRM data, it’s difficult to spot trends. For example, what’s the right amount of meetings reps should aim to book, and when?

It’s even more difficult to make any type of optimizations to what you’re asking reps to do as part of the sales process. If you don’t know what’s working, there’s no way to build a strategy for what will win over prospects.

“The customer experience is directly a result of stability in our data hygiene and ongoing optimization of hand off points and process. We need to serve the right insights at the right times in order to drive conversions and wow our customers,” said Tejesh Chotalia, RevOps Delivery Director at Go Nimbly.

#2: Bad data makes it impossible to give actionable insights to leadership.

A core purpose of the revenue operations function is to mine data for insights to help go-to-market leaders make critical decisions for the growth of the business. 

“Bad data in, bad insights out. It’s impossible for RevOps to provide valuable insight to the business without clean data. This is the opportunity for RevOps to come in and create a more seamless process that provides better data. This is the foundation for revenue growth and efficiency,” said Kevin Mulrane.

Natalie Furness, CEO and Revenue Operations Consultant at RevOps Automated, says that data is one of the key pillars of RevOps. And data is too important to leave to chance.   

“Without the right data moving to the right teams at the right time, there is a risk that people will not have the correct information to make the right decisions. As a result revenue will be lost from the business and the ability to scale will be impacted.”

#3: Bad data creates a lot of work – usually for RevOps. 

Even though reps may be the ones in charge of inputting sales data, revenue operations teams bear responsibility for accuracy, reporting, and decision-making based on that data. 

So bad CRM hygiene usually means it’s RevOps’ job to fix it. Jonathan Tice thinks this is a slippery slope that can consume a large percentage of a revenue operations leader’s time.

“When they analyze inaccurate or incomplete data, they provide an inaccurate and incomplete picture. Worse, they run the risk of becoming the people who end up carrying the bag on cleaning some of that data,” said Tice.

Of course, it’s not always on the sales reps. Tice noted that often RevOps may request data from reps that is useful to them, but not necessarily to the reps. “When this situation happens, the people providing the data are less incented on committing to good hygiene. Consider other methods for collecting that data that might be more mutually beneficial.”

8 signs of bad CRM hygiene

Here are the top eight signs your CRM hygiene isn’t up to snuff: 

#1: Manual data entry 

When you’re relying on humans to manually keep the CRM up-to-date, something is going to go wrong. 

Information is missing, inaccurate, or inconsistently entered. Examine the manual steps in your CRM maintenance process and you’re bound to spot issues and gaps.

#2: Some tools don’t sync properly

Data silos between tools all but guarantee a sales data gap. Even though many tools promise a consistent flow of data to your CRM, the way the data shows up makes more of a mess. 

#3: Lack of standardization

If everyone has their own shorthand for filling out fields, your data may be “complete,” but it’s likely unusable. 

Without a clear procedure for entering data, quality will suffer.

#4: Stale data

Many teams focus their efforts on making sure all the reps are entering present-day data. But what about old records? Who’s in charge of updating those? 

When contacts move jobs, or take on new roles within their companies, this can trigger opportunities for expansion. Letting data go stale means you’re missing out. 

#5: Everyone dreads working in the CRM

A top sign your CRM hygiene needs work? Nobody likes using it. 

“Your users will see CRM as a chore rather than a tool that serves them value in converting. Adoption will drop, and good sentiment and energy around CRM is hard to win back,” said Tejesh Chotalia. 

Once your CRM hygiene starts to decline, it triggers a downward spiral that’s difficult to stop.

#6: Reporting takes way longer than it should

If reporting takes days, there’s likely a problem with your CRM hygiene. You shouldn’t need an army of analysts to produce an accurate dashboard, but often it feels like this is the case for revenue operations teams who are struggling with CRM hygiene. 

#7: Conversion is dropping

Perhaps the most concerning sign of bad CRM hygiene is a downward conversion trend over time. When you have bad data, you can’t deliver a seamless prospect experience, and it will show in your conversion rate. 

“Your customers will feel a clunky experience. They will feel like they need to repeat information when the process is handed off. They will also not get a tailored experience based on insights specific to them. This will hurt conversion in a serious way,” said Chotalia. 

#8: Forecasting is always wrong

Last but not least, your forecasts will consistently be incorrect. This will frustrate everyone on the revenue team, especially leadership. 

“CRM hygiene is essential for accuracy. Critical information that is not updated can often cause some serious impact. Close dates, stage progression and deal sizing are the three most critical,” said Tice. 

“Ever notice that a very high percent of deals are slated to close on the last day of the quarter? This tells me that the salesperson has no idea what the true close date is, let alone having a mutual action plan with the client to get the deal done by then.”

5 ways to improve CRM hygiene 

The time is now to set your CRM on a better path. Here are the five steps you should take:

#1: Know what sales data you’re missing

First, you need to understand your data gap. 

  • What percentage of contacts are missing data? 
  • How many contacts are missing account information? 
  • What percentage of activities are missing a contact or lead? 

Use our free, browser-based CRM Health Grader to get an instant look at what’s going on in your CRM. 

Your report will give you exact counts on which contacts, accounts and opportunities need immediate attention, plus the best next steps to take to fix the issues. 

#2: Introduce automation. 

Instead of a downward data quality death spiral, you want to build upwards momentum for CRM usage and ultimately, revenue growth. The key to this is automation. 

“When it comes to operational efficiency and productivity, we want our sales reps, marketers, and customer success folks to spend as little time as possible on manual tasks or "fixing" data,” said Sara McNamara, Senior Manager of Marketing Operations at Slack

“This is why the fundamentals of data hygiene are so important; they may seem insignificant, but without a reliable source of truth, we are adding a lot of unnecessary weight onto the shoulders of team members who should be focused on selling and marketing, not data verification.” 

Second, whatever manual process is left is essential to track. 

“Create a dashboard for everything you can’t automate to enforce updates on out-of-date records,” said Chris Fezza, CEO and Co-Founder of Admin Within

Finally, don’t ignore the automations once they’re up and running. 

Eric Portugal Welsh, Director of Revenue Operations at Demostack, said, “Run regular data audits to make sure all automations are running as expected.” 

#3: Standardize all remaining manual processes and enforce it

Build a standardized process for the remaining manual data entry tasks. And hold the owners accountable. 

The best way to do this: by tying it to incentives. 

“There is no greater motivator for a sales team to ensure that the data they’re entering into your CRM is correct than to tie their compensation to it. Your AE says he had 40 demos last month? Well, HubSpot shows 37. If you want credit for those 3 missing demos, you better go back and check your data,” said Kristen Traynor. 

Don’t forget to establish clear lines of communication for the whole team on what to do when something goes wrong. 

“Who is responsible for entering what? What properties are automated? Who should they go to when something looks wrong or a change is needed?” said Traynor. 

#4: Establish clear ownership and reevaluate permissions

Who owns CRM hygiene? It’s important that you have one core advocate, says Kristen Traynor. 

“You need a champion. A single person who’s responsible for keeping a laser focus on the data, checking for anomalies, and asking questions. Someone who has an understanding of CRM architecture and how the different objects work together. How changing one thing here may have downstream consequences,” she said. 

Second, many teams start to get into trouble with CRM hygiene problems when they allow too many stakeholders access to change fields. You can rectify this by reexamining who has access to the system on an administrative level.

“Limit who has access to change certain properties or fields. People make mistakes. Especially when they're busy and moving fast. Sometimes they may think they’re helping but just might not realize the impact of their input,” said Traynor.

#5: Simplify as much as possible

Finally, see what you can simplify within your CRM architecture. A straightforward setup is easier to upkeep. 

“Make it easy to do the right thing. This can come in numerous forms, but some examples are guided flows that present users with the data they need to provide at the point when it’s most relevant. Also, use fewer free text fields,” said Kyle Crouse.

“Prioritize simplicity,” says Tejesh Chotalia. “Too often we see page layouts and data models that are overly complex and create chaos for GTM teams trying to convert prospects and customers. Identify the most important insights and data for your sales teams and customers, and serve these up incrementally as a sales cycle progresses.”

What metrics should you use to track CRM hygiene? 

Once you’ve taken steps to improve CRM hygiene, how do you track improvements over time? 

Here are five key metrics to stay on top of (and you can use the CRM Health Grader to continually check your score): 

  1. Contacts with missing data: if contacts aren’t complete with job title, company, and any other required information, they’re not going to serve you. 
  2. Duplicate contacts: as you improve your CRM data hygiene and ensure 100% accuracy with data writeback (SetSail does this the best!) you’ll see duplicate contacts plummet.
  3. Stale contacts: all contacts should be updated at least once per year. 
  4. Contacts missing account information: every contact should always have an associated account. 
  5. Sales activity missing contacts or leads: no activity should go into the CRM without a direct link to a contact or lead. Otherwise, it’s just clutter. 

Start by checking your CRM health score

Use our free, browser-based tool to securely look inside your CRM. The CRM Health Grader gives you a detailed health score in seconds.