Spreadsheets vs CRM: How CRM tools help your salespeople excel

Spreadsheets. Love them or loathe them, they’re a mainstay of modern business. Yet all too often, everyone from SMEs to government entities uses spreadsheets like databases – something they’re not built to do.

Additionally, there’s some truth to the corny saying, “Your network is your net worth”. Maintaining connections with prospects and your wider business community is paramount for any small or growing business.

So why do so many small businesses rely on spreadsheets for customer relationship management? Your contact database is a precious resource, so it’s puzzling to see so many organisations force the square peg that is contact management into the round hole of a spreadsheet.

Let’s explore the myriad benefits of a for-purpose SaaS CRM platform over using a spreadsheet and how CRMs help salespeople perform at the top of their game.

An uncluttered view of each prospect

When all your contacts are held in a spreadsheet “database”, you have no choice but to view the current worksheet. There’s no way to single out and focus on a specific record, which can be highly distracting when you’re on a high-pressure sales call.

Yet CRMs display each record in an uncluttered, individual view so you can focus on them and them alone when you speak to each prospect.

Integrations, integrations, integrations!

There’s much more to customer relations than simply holding static contact data. You need to actively interact with your prospects and schedule timely follow-ups and appointments. But you can’t really do that from a spreadsheet. If you did want to schedule a call or drop someone an email, you’d have to open your email or calendar app and carry out that action separately.

It may not seem like much, but switching between tasks and windows greatly impacts productivity. The added manual element also means that occasional, inevitable slip-ups will happen, potentially resulting in misscheduled follow-ups, forgotten opportunities, and disappointed prospects.

The answer here is integration. Spreadsheets don’t integrate with anything, but CRMs are designed to play nicely with other productivity tools. Most will sync with calendar tools like Google or Microsoft 365, so scheduled follow-ups and appointments are less likely to slip through the net. Many let you email prospects directly from that contact’s record screen. Some CRMs integrate with accounting software and calling functions to create a comprehensive, synchronised business ecosystem.

Collaboration, delegation, and strategy

Sales is all about strategy. When you formulate a new strategic plan of attack, your sales team needs to be totally coordinated, in sync, and on the same page—working in lockstep. You also need to measure the progress and success of any strategy, monitoring essential KPIs so you can course-correct if needed.

Coordinating and accountability are essential when executing a surgically precise strategy. But on a spreadsheet, it’s easy to lose track of who’s doing what, when, and why. With a CRM, on the other hand, each rep’s actions are tied to their login, so you can easily see which prospects are assigned to which team member, who carried out what actions, and when you see database modification histories, and even delegate tasks.

Better visualise the sales process

Your sales team needs to understand the fundamental stages of your sales pipeline. Many of us envisage this as a sales “funnel”. Yet when you have a completely textual system like a spreadsheet, you can easily lose sight of your buyer’s journey and, in turn, just how close each prospect is to buying.

CRMs excel (pardon the pun) at visualising the sales pipeline. Visual widgets and reports (like our sales funnel dashboard widget and forthcoming Kanban board functionality) allow your sales reps to see, at a glance, how close their prospects are to a sale at any time. This can help them spot close-to-closing opportunities and other quick wins that get drowned out in a spreadsheet.

In-depth, chronological record-keeping

A spreadsheet allows you to do little beyond simple “address book” functions and maybe a bit of number crunching. CRMs, on the other hand, allow you to keep in-depth, chronological records of all of your interactions with each prospect.

Your average CRM prospect record contains all of their contact data, a timeline of emails and conversations, information about forthcoming tasks and appointments, attached files, current sales opportunities, previous quotations and order history, and much more, depending on your platform. Try doing all of that on a spreadsheet!

With a flat spreadsheet database of contacts, you lose the subtleties of a conversation or relationship. Yet when your sales reps have a historical record of all interactions between both parties, they unlock a richer, deeper understanding of that relationship, which can help them win more business.

Spotlight on pipeline improvement

CRM tools give you extensive insight into your sales pipeline that would be hard to achieve on a spreadsheet. When you can see exactly how prospects are flowing through your sales pipeline, you can see where improvements can be made.

Is there a particular stage where a disproportionate number of prospects drop out? Or a stage where prospects seem to spend a lot of time? Are different members of your team better at handling different stages of your sales process or different types of customers? Establishing trends like these can help you critically assess your sales funnel and implement positive changes.

Data entry & bulk editing made easy

Data entry can be a real chore. It’s time-consuming and monotonous, and it’s easy to make mistakes. Depending on the kind of spreadsheet you’re using, it’s difficult to automate data entry on a spreadsheet (though not impossible with Google Sheets and Zapier).

Many CRMs, however, feature automated data entry functions – from business card scanning functionality to address book syncing (though some CRMs will occasionally need tools like Zapier to make it happen).

Bulk editing can also be a pain with spreadsheets. Flashfill is great, but “find and replace” tools are a little blunt – it’s easy to make errors, and editing large files can strain a device’s resources. Mass editing functionality tends to be much smoother in cloud CRM tools.

CRMs are built for data security

Spreadsheets are files on a drive or server that can easily be accessed, modified, deleted, or stolen. A humble spreadsheet could be swept away in a single cyber attack or technical failure. If a salesperson were to leave your organisation, it would be relatively easy for them to take a copy of your entire prospect spreadsheet to a new, competing employer. These scenarios could leave you liable for data protection damages and your prospect data in the wrong hands.

Conversely, customer relationship management software allows different levels of privilege to be granted and user access to be revoked if necessary.

When you keep all of your customer data in a single file, keeping effective backups is essential. However, managing multiple versions of such a crucial file can get confusing, especially when you’re dealing with a physical file that gets passed around rather than a cloud sheet.

How can you be sure that everyone is modifying the most recent version of the file on any given day? What happens if that file becomes infected or partially scrambled? Or if the latest version is on a machine that suddenly breaks down? And if a cloud account with access to the file becomes compromised?

Using a cloud-based CRM sidesteps these problems entirely.

More data possibilities

We all want more prospects in our database, but as spreadsheets get larger, they become time-consuming and cumbersome to use. Large files take an age to load, processing simple “find” functions can eat into valuable productive time, and running reports on masses of data can cause your computer to chug to a halt.

But it’s not just the number of bits and bytes that go into a file that can be problematic. Different spreadsheet formats have limits, too. It’s unlikely that you’ll hit Google Sheets’ 5 million cell ceiling or Excel’s 32,767 character cell limit, but once a database starts to get unwieldy enough, it may be time to look for a for-purpose data handling system.

CRMs are incredibly scalable, handling 3,000,000 prospect records just as smoothly as they handle 30. Many cloud CRMs (and many SaaS tools in general) are quite modular, with different pricing bands and optional paid features, growing alongside your company as needs arise.

Sales reports without the faff

If you’ve ever had to extract specific data from a sprawling, cumbersome spreadsheet, then you understand the woes of juggling VLOOKUPS and pivot tables. Many CRMs, however, contain comprehensive reporting tools that can compare any two or more fields you like, often without having to touch a sliver of code or arduously mess with formulae.

Additionally, when running reports on spreadsheet data, one wrong move could permanently alter the base data held within. Yet CRM reporting tools allow you to slice and dice your data on the fly to unearth obscure trends and correlations without worrying about affecting the underlying data.

Keep tabs on team success

Because each CRM user’s actions are recorded, it’s easy to track how each sales rep performs. This allows for well-informed performance reviews and individual goal-setting and provides crucial team-wide accountability and insight—something impossible on a spreadsheet.

CRMs help your sales reps perform their best. CRM tools save time, improve focus, boost productivity, assist in sales strategy, keep your data secure, and allow for in-depth reporting.

Go to top