When you start a business, Excel is like that topper friend from high school.
How do I make a quick calculation? Use Excel.
What’s the office address of Jason I contacted 3 days ago? Open that Excel.
Where’s that mailing list? Excel, of course.
Come to think of it, Excel was probably named after that topper 🙂
But we digress. Fact is your work seems impossible without Excel. It’s easy to set up, simple to use, and it does the job.
Excel is ideal—until one or both of these things happen:
- You want others to collaborate on your data
- Your business starts taking off
Imagine sharing your Excel with 10 people and hoping everyone is on the updated version at all times.
Frustrating, error-prone, and not a productive way to work.
Or imagine communicating with 20 prospective customers (as opposed to 3 last month). Suddenly your mailing list needs better storage, you find it hard to keep track of every interaction with every lead, and it becomes difficult when you quickly want to identify what stage a potential deal is in.
This is when you realize Excel is not enough.
While no business says no to collaboration and growth, it’s important to bid goodbye to tools your business has outgrown. When you’re committing yourself to more relationships than spreadsheets can handle, it’s time to move from Excel to CRM.
CRM—expanded as customer relationship management—is a tool whose name sums up its function. Businesses around the world use CRM to create and nurture relationships with their leads. Some businesses also use CRM for marketing automation, which is a great add-on. At its essence, CRM is one platform for sales teams to manage their business relationships. More specifically, a sales CRM lets you create individual profiles for every lead, track your deals, make calls, send emails, create reports, set up meetings, add notes, share files, and review every interaction you’ve ever had with a lead.
That’s one nifty bundle right there. A bundle that has at least 8 things going for it:
This is the single biggest advantage of CRM over Excel. Sales managers can assign leads to their reps even as reps make calls right from the CRM. Some sales CRMs even have a team inbox—a common inbox for all members of a team, so available reps can step in and take over critical conversations in the absence of their teammates. Versioning control is non-existent; all stakeholders can now work together in real time towards a common goal.
2. Single, simple setup
When you’re using Excel, you also need an email client, a calling software, a calendar and a bunch of other tools to manage your sales. Imagine one tool with all these features. That’s where a sales CRM holds the edge. There are three important benefits of using a one-stop sales tool:
- You save valuable time
- You become more productive
- Your sales (and data) are organized better
Automation is a non-factor when it comes to Excel; it’s all about manual data entry. But sales CRMs are different.
Say you’re using the form on your website as an important avenue for lead generation. Typically, a lead fills out the form, you get an email alert with the lead’s details, and you head over to your Excel file. You type in the lead’s details in the respective cells.
And you rinse, repeat the process for every web lead.
With CRM, you can automate this activity. Every time someone fills out your form, they can pop up as a new lead in your CRM. Just imagine the amount of time you save with this simple automation.
And this is just one of the many automations that sales CRMs offer.
4. Event tracking
When you cannot send emails from Excel, there’s no question of finding out how your emails have performed. With a sales CRM, you can track email opens, link clicks, lead activity on your website/product—practically every move of your lead. All this real-time information gives you the crucial context you need to jump into an interaction. Notified about your lead downloading a case study? It’s an indication that they’re exploring your business. This would be a good opportunity to craft an email, informing your lead about an event your business is hosting. You could even attach an invitation to check response rates. The best part is that all these interactions are recorded in the respective lead’s profile, usually in the form of a chronological timeline.
5. Advanced reporting
Every business needs to quantify its efforts. Excel gives you pivot tables, bar graphs and pie charts, but there are limits on the amount of data it can handle. For complex reports across timelines and involving a massive number of records, Excel comes up short. Sales CRMs let you create a variety of reports on demand; they even have templates for common use cases. When it comes to generating data the way you envision it, sales CRMs are more accommodative than Excel.
It is not possible to integrate Excel with other business software, of course. On the other hand sales CRMs integrate with many tools in the business universe. If you’re maintaining mailing lists on MailChimp, you can quickly integrate the CRM with MailChimp and manage your sales and marketing campaigns from one spot. You can also create “Zaps” using Zapier to automate workflows between apps. For instance, if a visitor responds to your Facebook Lead Ad, you can set up a Zap to automatically make them a new lead in your CRM!
7. Data security
An Excel document is always at risk of getting shared without your knowledge. Imagine someone putting your company’s contacts into a USB drive and walking off; it’s easy to lose your data. But with cloud-based CRMs, your data is secure even when you’re not in office. Different sales CRMs have different ways of ensuring the privacy and security of their customers. Make sure you have complete insight into a CRM’s security protocols before you decide to buy.
With Excel, what you see is what you get. The layout remains the same, you cannot create a profile for yourself, and you’re basically playing by Excel’s rules. With CRM, creating profiles is standard. If you’re in B2C, you can even choose not to include the Company Name field in your customer’s profile if it’s not relevant.
So there you have it. Both Excel and CRM are high-utility tools, but they’re designed for different needs. If you’re looking for a single, uncomplicated setup that takes care of everything related to your sales, CRM is the better choice.
P.S. If you want to give CRMs a shot but don’t know where to start, we can help. We’ve put together a CRM Cheat Sheet—11 factors that’ll help you choose the sales CRM.
We built Freshsales CRM based on our own pain point: we didn’t want to juggle multiple tools for basic sales needs. Soon we realized most small businesses were grappling with this problem, so we decided to keep Freshsales affordable. We know how hard it is to pay big when you’re starting out.
Drop by and take a look at our features and pricing. When you’re happy with what you see, sign up for a 30-day free sales CRM trial and try Freshsales for yourself. Our support team will be available 24×5 during your trial to help you in any way we can.