Excel. Excel is the worst CRM in the world.

There is no competition. In the late 90s and early 2000s I remember using a CRM that had to sync across each computer from a master database daily. It took an hour and crashed frequently. This is still better than Excel. Here is why:

You don’t collaborate in Excel

At least teams share Google Docs. Excel spreadsheets are nasty little things that are isolated by nature, and seldom shared. When they are shared, they are not done so with an eye on collaboration. Worst still, updates don’t propagate across the organization, but errors in formulas do.

Excel is where renewals and upselling go to die

One of the most frequent mistakes that companies make is to focus so much on closing the initial sale, that they forget about the renewal and upselling process (more on how to improve SaaS renewals here). A well implemented CRM like Salesforce helps ensure employees are reminded to reach out to customers in order to identify upsell opportunities and warm them for renewals. Excel won’t do this and certainly doesn’t notify the Customer Success team to reach out and help onboard new users and regularly check on their progress in adopting your product.

Excel sucks at reporting

Why do people pay so much for Salesforce? Because its reporting features kill what the cheaper solutions offer. Any CRM includes some pre-canned reports that can be run by someone with little or no knowledge (or perhaps initiative) of boolean logic. CRMs serve two major purposes.

  1. They ensure that all the information about leads and accounts are in one place, and you can follow up with them when you should
  2. They give management insight into what is happening with all those leads, accounts and sales. What is going well? Where are we going wrong?

CRMs do all of this quickly and efficiently. The longer and harder it is to run a report, the fewer reports that get run.

Excel is the refuge of the selfish

When someone says, “I don’t use the CRM, I track that in Excel,” what they are really saying is, “I’m a selfish ass.” Using a CRM is part of contributing to a team and an organization. There is nothing more frustrating than phoning a lead to find out that they are already speaking with Selfish Ass Sam. But if Sam isn’t recording his activities in the CRM, it is inevitable.

Spreadsheets aren’t all bad

Excel, Google Docs and .CSVs are great tools. I spend a significant amount of time each week downloading files, merging them, cleaning them, and importing them into other platforms. They are a great way to manipulate large amounts of data efficiently, especially in advance of importing it into another platform (like Salesforce). Any SEO, CRM or paid advertising specialist knows this.

What Excel isn’t good for is updating and tracking incremental data. Salespeople that rely on Excel because they can’t — or won’t — adapt to using a CRM, are an anchor dragging the team down. Unfortunately some people will never change their work process to include using one, and at some point, sales managers have to start making tough decisions if these team members have a future with the organization.

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