Your business is doing well. Sales are up and clients seem happy.

In the back of your mind, however, something has been bothering you lately. It’s your sales process. Since opening your doors, you’ve always relied on spreadsheets for managing the pipeline. Leads in one spreadsheet, customers in another. You even have spreadsheets to track tasks, projects, and revenue forecasts.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” you tell yourself. But, something in the back of your mind still wonders. Do you have a broken sales process and just not know it?

In this post, we’ll explore six signs that it’s time to get off of spreadsheets.

1. Your Team Does More Admin Work than Engagement

“Keeping busy” isn’t a guarantee for success. In fact, spending too much time on the wrong things can actually lead to failure.

You obviously know this, as evidenced by the growth of your company. But, as you objectively examine your sales process, is it possible that your team is working on the wrong things – at the expense of customer engagement? If you’re like most companies using spreadsheets, these administrative tasks might consume too much of your staff’s workday:

  • Scrolling through hundreds of rows to find the right record
  • Keying in every new lead by hand
  • Moving closed-won leads to customer tracking sheets
  • Deleting or archiving closed-lost leads
  • Building and testing custom filters for segmentation purposes
  • Reformatting row and column sizes
  • Deduplicating overlapping records
  • Fumbling with chart wizards to generate meaningful business intelligence
  • Troubleshooting the inevitable formatting issue
  • Training new hires on what to do (or not to do!)

Clearly, your team has good intentions. They’re trying their best to make your spreadsheet-based system work.

As I’m sure you’ve already realized, there is a distinct opportunity cost to such an approach: less time selling and more time on busywork. Do you really want your top reps spending so much time on data entry?

Probably not.

2. Records are Always Inaccurate

Your business depends on accurate and timely information. As each moment passes, your data becomes less reliable. Some of this is natural – circumstances change rapidly in today’s marketplace. However, some of the dependability issues are caused by your spreadsheet-driven workflow.

Do any of these sound familiar?

Typos: It’s difficult to close a deal when you have inaccurate contact information. A mistyped email address or phone number creates another unneeded disruption to your follow-up process. Unfortunately, spreadsheets are breeding grounds for typos. So many cells to update in so little time!

Accidental Overwrites & Deletions: Stop and ask yourself this question: What exactly is a spreadsheet? Obviously, it’s a digital file consisting of rows and columns. There’s also a good chance that it’s a shared repository, accessible by your entire team. Keyword here being “shared.” The moment you share a file (on your network drive or via the cloud), you expose yourself to accidental overwrites and deletions. Granted, some cloud-based services allow you to track (and roll back) changes. Even then, knowing which version to restore is itself a chore.

Double Record Entry: What happens when a lead talks to two or more of your team members on the same day? Double record entry, that’s what. Since it’s impossible to keep your contacts in alphabetical order (given the nature of sales), some reps are less diligent in checking for existing records. It’s often easier to just add a new row to your spreadsheet and move on.

Formula Issues: Not everyone is a spreadsheet wizard like you are. To make sure everything in your spreadsheet works right, you’ve built in all kinds of complex tabulations and display formulas. As your team adds and edits records, things have been known to break.

3. You Have No Idea What Some Reps Do All Day

Most of your reps are rock solid. There are a couple, however, that you’re not so sure about.

Take Billy, for example. Billy rarely gets into the office before 9 am. (He claims to be “networking” at his favorite breakfast hangout.) After spending an hour or two “catching up on emails,” it’s already time for lunch. After an hour-long feast, Billy finally picks up the phone and appears to be making calls. He always forgets to update the deal tracking spreadsheet, which frustrates you to no end. Although, even when Billy remembers to update the sheet, he rarely provides much substance.

Billy does seem to hit his quota each month – but barely. You’re sure that if he would just apply himself more, he could achieve so much more.

Sadly, there’s not much you can do for Billy. At the moment, he only seems accountable to one thing: that is, his monthly quota. Even if you did assign other milestones for Billy to achieve, there’d be no great way to track them.

Alas, poor Billy will continue to drift along as a mediocre sales rep, and you’ll keep wondering why he’s not more motivated.

4. It’s Painful to View Your Pipeline

“I’d like to see open opportunities for our top-performing product, broken down by city, state, and sales rep.”

In a perfect world, you’d ask for things like this. In reality, you know this type of request would be nearly impossible to fulfill. The data is probably available, but making sense of it all is a completely different story.

Why? Here are just a few reasons.

Data Overload: Consider your lead tracking spreadsheet for a moment. That sheet has so many rows and columns of data that just opening it stresses you out. Alternate mailing address? Check. Sister’s married name? Check. Favorite golf course? Check again. But, where are the fields you really need, such as projected close date, probability of close, and product interest? Just finding the right data points can seem like more effort than it’s worth.

Pivot Tables Galore: The fun doesn’t stop once you’ve identified the correct rows and columns. If you’re comparing more than a couple data points, you’ll probably have to brush up on your pivot table skills. Have fun with that!

New Sales vs. Upsells: Since your data is siloed in separate spreadsheets, you’ll likely need to merge multiple data sets to get the answers you seek. After all, selling to existing clients is just as important as winning new business. Your pipeline should deliver a 360-degree view of your sales activity – not only demand for a specific audience.

5. Your Forecast is Always Wrong (Big Time)

A sales forecast should be more than just an accountability guidepost for your sales team. As a business owner, you need a relatively realistic view into the future as to ensure:

  • Payroll is met
  • Supplier invoices and bills are paid
  • Proper staffing changes are implemented to accommodate forecasted demand shifts
  • The right mix of equipment and tools are in place
  • Your production team feels like they’re kept in the loop
  • Existing customers still feel highly satisfied

No sales forecast is ever perfect, but it sure would be nice to get close once in a while! As you know all too well, spreadsheet-based forecasts can be notoriously errant.

A major cause for this inaccuracy involves accessibility of the sheet itself. Perhaps you’ve saved the pipeline spreadsheet out on a network drive. Or, perhaps you maintain a shared Google Sheets file. Either way, it’s practically impossible for your team to provide updates while on the go. (Have you ever tried to update a spreadsheet on your mobile device?) Unlike a mobile CRM, your spreadsheet-based system requires users to be physically in an office and using a computer. During busy weeks, several days may pass before reps have time to make updates.

How can you build a reliable forecast when sales information is stale by at least a few days? You can’t – it’s that simple.

6. Everything Just “Feels” Disorganized

Even if you could miraculously make sales spreadsheets work in your business, there’s one thing they definitely can’t do: organize all of your sales collateral.

  • I’m talking about:
  • Proposals
  • Quotes
  • Invoices
  • Presentation decks
  • Customer business cards
  • Brochures and whitepapers
  • Technical drawings
  • Spec sheets
  • Email histories

Most likely, you’ve created additional shared drive folders and inbox tags to organize this type of information. One folder for quotes, another for invoices, etc. That’s certainly better than nothing, but I’m sure it’s still a chore to find the right file – especially when you need it quickly.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have everything indexed by customer, lead, or prospect? For example, with Insightly, you can easily build links between a contact and all related correspondence and files. Working on a deal that’s gone through multiple proposal iterations? With Insightly, you’re able to get a full picture of how the relationship has progressed. There’s no need to dig through countless folders and inboxes – it’s all right there at your fingertips.

Even better, Insightly integrates with the industry’s top inboxes and document apps, making it even easier to find and organize your important sales information.

Time to Switch? I Think So

Let’s be honest – your spreadsheet-based system isn’t holding up its end of the bargain. It’s time you at least considered switching to a cloud-based CRM system.

With the availability of free CRM platforms like Insightly, what are you waiting for?