What is a Sales CRM and Why is it Important?

By Tony Onaissi and David Cole

Sometimes you just throw a question into the wind to start a discussion and it blossoms into a full-fledged interactive discussion.  I find when that happens it can result in some brilliant new thinking points and can genuinely help to solve difficult problems.  It can also reveal some pretty shocking information. 

For example, we recently tossed a simple question into the Twitter-verse that we were debating around the marketing table.  The question was “Do you know what a sales CRM is?”  Incredibly, 74% of respondents said “No”, they don’t know what a sales CRM is.  So, let’s talk about it.


Sales CRM is simply a “Customer Relationship Management” system built for sales departments.  It’s software, usually cloud-based, that is used by home care agencies to keep track of their interactions with prospects and customers.  A CRM system lets agencies know what their sales reps are doing, who they are calling on, and what tasks they need to do going forward.  It also tracks the results of those efforts to help guide agencies to spend the precious and small amount of time they can devote to marketing in the most effective way possible.

Most CRMs are designed to and move prospects through a sales cycle (Prospect —Lead –> Client).  Each “phase” of the process is handled differently, but they all integrate into the CRM system to create a unified and cohesive, logical view of the account at all points in time for complete referral tracking.

Most CRM systems also provide a standardized way to compare your reps against each other, to grade their performance based on multiple metrics such as referrals, sales, calls, face-to-face visits, email, etc.  Top tier CRM systems will let you customize the metrics you use to compare your reps against each other.

CRM systems are and should be built for the sales department, but too many of them focus more on reporting sales activities to upper management.  CRM systems should report data to upper management, but that reporting should be in the form of comparative metrics that allow the management team to relate sales back to the source marketing activities.  Too often we see CRM systems that consume inordinate amounts of the sales rep’s time to maintain the sales activity histories.  A good CRM system should minimize the documentation work for the rep while maximizing upper management’s ability to monitor and observe activities and progress.


So, why is it important to have a CRM system?  Simple, agencies that use CRM do more business than agencies that don’t!  According to the Home Care Pulse annual Benchmarking Study “only about one-fourth (22.5%) of agencies are currently using CRM, but the agencies that use CRM make on average $200,000 more in annual revenue than the agencies that do not use CRM.”  That alone is a pretty good reason for you to take a look at CRM for your agency.  It’s not easy to grow home care revenue and you need to take advantage of all of the tools available to you.

But wait… there’s more!  Another reason to use a good CRM system is to extend the functionality of your agency management system.  Lots of agency management systems incorporate a basic CRM system for keeping track of sales activities, but the best systems offer a lot more.

Great CRM systems can include advanced referral forms for the sales reps to use to help them deliver better and more complete referrals.  This is particularly important in Medicare home health referrals under the new PDGM payment model.  Under PDGM, 60-day episodes of care have been reduced to only 30 days and CMS did away with RAPs (Requests for Anticipated Payment).  That means services must start very soon after the referral is accepted, reducing the time available to gather the required components such as the F2F, medical necessity, homebound status, etc. 

So, agencies need to be ready to start service right away, as soon as the referral is received.  That means the referral that used to be simply a name and a phone number, now have to include all of the required components before the agency can even accept the referral (since the 30-day clock starts as soon as the referral is accepted.)

Under PDGM you’ll need to have your sales reps gathering this data as part of each referral they bring in.  This means you need a CRM system equipped to ensure that referrals are complete and ready to go when they are received.  But what about the other referrals that are not from Medicare?  Your CRM has to account for them too. You have to manage ALL payer referrals, regardless of whether it is a Medicare, Medicaid, waiver program, insurance, or private pay.  And you’ll likely need custom referral intake forms in your CRM to accommodate all your business lines.

Another feature of a great CRM system for home health is to include data on which physicians in your area are referring to home health.  This data comes directly from CMS and will help guide your reps to spending their time on the doctors that already refer.  Only some physicians refer patients to home health.  Doing so involves a lot of work on the part of the doctor (face-to-face encounters and care plan oversight just to name a few.) Some doctors have already incorporated these things into their practice, making them better potential referral sources than the doctors who don’t currently refer to home health.  You don’t need advanced analytics for this, simply a list of referring physicians in your area.

CRM can help you identify the referring physicians and to work with them, whether your working in home care,  home health, hospice, or home infusion. This will set the stage to help you grow your revenue and accelerate sales.

About the authors

Tony Onaissi is the president and CEO of Isoratec, a CRM sales accelerator for the home care industry.  Utilizing more than 23 years of home care experience he created Isoratec to be the ideal solution for agencies serving the home care market.  Tony can be reached at tonaissi@isoratec.com

David Cole serves as the program manager for Isoratec.  He is a seasoned home care executive with more than 30 years of experience as an agency owner, software system vendor, and program developer.  David has created new service programs for organizations including The Cleveland Clinic, Kaiser Permanente, AccentCare, and many more.  David can be reached at dcole@isoratec.com