4 Reasons to replace that Excel spreadsheet with a CRM tool

  June 29, 2015       PeiMun Lim

Once upon a time, there was a man called Liam who built Widgetinis. He started this business after he was laid off from his Accounting job at a Big Consultancy.

At first he sold the Widgetinis to friends and family who raved about it, who told him to turn it into a business. Eventually he sold them to everyone on his street, and they also all told him that he had a great product.

He then created Wiedgetini Pro, which excited small shops and businesses because of its business functions. His little business grew bit by bit, and then one day he realised that he needed some help.

Liam decided to hire a man named Jonbo to help out in his new business.

On his first day, Jonbo asked to look at Liam’s list of potential customers and existing ones.

“Here you go,” said Liam, forwarding an Excel spreadsheet over. Jonbo scans the file on his screen.

“How many columns do you have on this thing?!” Jonbo’s eyes under his bushy eyebrows bug out a little.

“Oh well, more and more people wanted more features on their Widgetini so I had to store them in a new column against their name, no?” Liam turned back to the latest Widgetini he was building, attaching a new ‘fin’ to it for Mr Ripple, a customer who was apparently mad about fins. “Excel is great. I used them every day when I was working at Big Consultancy. You can do pivot tables, formulas and other funky stuff.”

“This is crazy. How do you know who wants what then? Do you have to look through the whole spreadsheet?”

“You could filter by column, I guess…”

“You have 591 rows of names, with a few hundred columns of different headings!” Jonbo’s eyes bug out a bit more.

Reason #1 – You start adding loads of columns to your contact list. When you first start a business, you’ll probably only need a few key details such as Name, Address, and additional information about their needs. As the business grows, more information about the contact grows as well, and finding and sorting them becomes a more challenging task.

Jonbo scratches an imaginary mole on his cheek. “When did you start collecting details on this spreadsheet?”

“Oh about a year back when I first started this thing.”

“Who’s this Mr Whidbery who wanted a vanilla Widgetini in row #1. Was he your first customer? Do you think he’d want the new model now?” Jonbo peers at his screen.

Liam stops fiddling with the fin. “Hmm. Mr Whidbery passed away last summer. His wife Mabel did want to talk to me about upgrading the Widgetini for her son.”

“I am really sorry to hear that,” said Jonbo. “But where is it on this spreadsheet did you record that down?”

“It’s sort of there but under the Mabel Strongboy contact name as they divorced before he kicked the bucket. I ought to put there somewhere that Whidbery’s deceased and I should forget about the £50 he still owes me from not having paid it off.”

Jonbo furrows his bushy eyebrow further.

Reason #2 – The spreadsheet is difficult to keep up to date. Due to its flexible structure (i.e. you can easily add information to more columns in an Excel spreadsheet) and add any information in any columns, it may be easier to just file it away mentally to do it later, (where ‘later’ rarely comes) or just add it to the spreadsheet in a quick way that may not be very structured or organised. A CRM system can help by storing information in an organised manner where the relationship processes are automated.

“Wow, you seem to have a lot of customers called ‘John Cranberri’ who like the Widgetini Pro Max 100. Though some of them are spelt with a ‘y’ instead of an ‘I’ in the Cranberry.” Jonbo is still looking through the spreadsheet.

“Er, they’re all the same guy. He keeps breaking them, so he says.”

“But you’ve got him here five…” the bushey eyebrows waggle a bit more, “… eight, nine times. Some of them have different phone numbers.”

“Apparently he keeps breaking his phone as well.”

Jonbo scratches that imaginary mole again. “So how many people on this list are actually the same people?”

“Er, I am not really sure.”

Reason #3 – The list has duplicate data because it’s easier to quickly add information rather than search and update an existing one. Duplicates make it difficult to keep data integrity in check, as it is not easy to know what information is the most correct or up to date.

“So which are prospects or leads that I need to follow up and how ready are they to buy? How do I separate out the existing customers and the potential ones?” Jonbo felt a sinking feeling in his innards, as he guessed the answer to his question.

“Well, check the column called ‘Bought or not’, the leads are those that says thinking about it or maybe or maybe next week. Some of the blanks could be either leads or customers.”

Jonbo sighed. “I wish you used a CRM system. It would solve so many problems you currently have with Excel.”

“What do you mean? Excel is the easiest tool on the planet – and it comes with Office 365! A tool like CRM would cost an arm and a leg!” Liam bristled at what he felt was a personal attack on his favourite software.

“How do you bulk modify a contact then? How do you easily organise your list? How do you know who you mailed and what information you mailed them?”

“Well, you can use the filter functionality, and you can always do a Ctrl-F to find what you are looking for…” Liam trailed off, realising that perhaps his favourite tool wasn’t as functional for his growing list of contacts.

Reason #4 – You need to be able to do more with the data you have, and utilise functions that proper CRM tool is designed to provide. CRM – Customer Relationship Management, gives you an idea of what the tool is supposed to do. Help you manage your customers and contacts in a meaningful way, so that you can concentrate on growing your business.

“What else might you have in your brain that isn’t on this spreadsheet?” Jonbo raises those bushey caterpillars at Liam, who was now feeling a little sheepish.

“Well, quite a bit I think. But I haven’t had time to organise them, and I didn’t think I needed to hire you so I believed that between my brain cells and this spreadsheet, I’d be ok. But now I guess we need to look at how we can do things better.”

Liam looked resignedly at Jonbo. “Do you have any ideas?”

The legendary eyebrows shot up and the eyes twinkled with delight. “Let me introduce you to this thing called Salesforce. It’s a great CRM tool, and for a small business, for what we need, it won’t cost an arm and a leg. Perhaps just a couple of toenails and a snippet of hair.”

Jonbo rubbed his right eyebrow, and shuddered as he imagined a life without the bushey caterpillars.

“Well, actually it’s just £17* per user per month. Let me register a trial login, and I’ll walk you through what it can do for us.”

Liam realises that his growing business is outgrowing Excel in terms of what it can do for managing customers and interactions. The first step is to evaluate any potential CRM system and make sure it can do what you want for your business. Stay tuned to the next article to see if Jonbo manages to convince Liam to ‘upgrade’ from Excel.


For more information please visit our page to find out more and how you can get started with CRM.


* Pricing correct as of June 2015 for Group edition for Basic Sales & Marketing for up to 5 users.