7 Reasons Not to Use Excel as a Sales Management Tool

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Sales Management : 7 min read

7 Reasons Not to Use Excel as a Sales Management Tool

Everyone loves Excel, right?

It’s simple, familiar, affordable, and gets the job done (most of the time). You know what they say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

As a sales manager, does your team really love it though? Or are you just used to it?

Don’t get us wrong, Excel’s got its perks. But it was made for one purpose: managing numbers. Using it to do anything beyond this capacity (like as a sales and relationship management tool)… well, with all the other options out there, Excel just isn’t the answer.

Allow us to break down seven ways Excel might actually be hurting your business, along with solutions to each one.

1. Excel’s a little insecure.

The problem:

Not everyone in your company should see everything.

For example, a company’s financial information shouldn’t be visible to just anyone who works there—there needs to be measures in place to safehold this data to only a select few employees to prevent it from getting leaked.

Unfortunately, the only security measure Excel offers is the option to password-protect your spreadsheet.

In other words, all it takes to hack your spreadsheet is a password.

This isn’t ideal because sometimes, there are certain components of a spreadsheet that an employee will need to see, but they don’t have clearance to view all the data on the sheet. This means you’ll need to either give them the password anyway or copy and paste the data they need into a separate spreadsheet for them.

This is a manual process and frankly, a waste of time when there are alternative solutions out there. Plus, document duplication can get messy when you eventually lose track of which one is the most up-to-date version.

The solution:

Switch to Google Sheets.

Google Sheets is a cloud-based spreadsheet software and is essentially the modern-day Excel. It’s formatting and formula options are more limited than in Excel, but unless you’re looking to do some hardcore accounting, it does the job—and does so while offering you a more secure place to house your data.

Sheets are only accessible by authorized people who are given different levels of permissions over the document: Editing, Suggesting, or View-only options are available. It also has version control, tracks changes and who made them, and will tell you exactly who’s viewing a document.

google sheets interface
Google Sheets has a very similar interface to Excel, so team adaptation will be easy.

2. Excel isn’t scalable.

The problem:

Your customer base is what keeps you in business, so it’s important they’re well taken care of.

If your company’s just starting out, then sure, you may be able to get away with using Excel to organize lead and customer details and sales data. Once you start adding more customers and salespeople to the equation, however, your Excel tracking system will get messy, fast. Messy data means it’ll be harder to effectively take care your prospects, inevitably leading to lost sales.

The solution:

Start with a good lead/customer and sales management software from the get-go if you have plans to grow.

Check out the difference between what lead management looks like in Copper’s CRM (top) vs. in one of Excel’s lead management templates (bottom).

crm comparison with excel templates
excel templates
A CRM may sound like a grandiose expense to some, but the reality is there are many affordable options out there and the investment will be well worth it in the long run.

3. Excel can’t integrate with the rest of your data.

The problem:

No matter how fond you may be of Excel, the sad truth is that it simply can’t house all of your data.

So, your data is spread out throughout your emails, your desktop computer (which you’ve been meaning to organize), and on physical sheets of paper scattered around the office.

This means your customer contact information are kept separate from your email conversations which are kept separate from corresponding invoices, and so on.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all this data was in one place?

You could try consolidating it all into a spreadsheet but come on, who has time for all that manual data entry and going through rows and rows of data to find what they’re looking for?

The solution:

Three letters: CRM.

We suggested switching from Excel to Google Sheets in our first solution. Well, get you a CRM that integrates with Google Sheets and the rest of your tech stack (like email and your invoicing software). As for physical sheets of paper, the right CRM will keep your data so organized, you won’t even need to print things out or save them on your computer for “quick reference” anymore.

4. Excel doesn’t offer much for visuals.

The problem:

Excel is a champ at producing number-based tables and spreadsheets.

Cool trick, Excel, but there are so many solutions out there that generate easy-to-understand graphs and other visuals that there's no reason to settle for Excel-level graphics.

In fact, the human brain is able to process visuals 60,000 faster than text alone, so visuals help—a lot.

Data is useless if your team can’t understand it and unfortunately, Excel isn’t the artistic type.

The solution:

Data visualization software was made to make data easily understandable by everyone in your company—not just the spreadsheet pros or formally trained data scientists.

For example, Google Data Studio can integrate directly with your CRM and turns your data into user-friendly visual analytics.:

google data studio reports

5. Excel is built on manual data entry.

The problem:

Excel is practically synonymous with “data entry.”

Besides being incredibly time-consuming and tedious, manual data entry means you’re almost bound to make errors. In fact, according to a study by the University of Hawaii, up to 88% of spreadsheets contain at least one error.

And these errors can have serious consequences.

Imagine relying on data from an Excel spreadsheet when preparing an earnings call presentation for an investors meeting and then realizing later someone added an extra “0” to a cell and skewed all the numbers. Ouch.

Saving a few bucks on software definitely isn’t worth the enormous risks that come from having to manually enter everything into Excel.

The solution:

Stop manually entering your sales data into a spreadsheet and set up your CRM to record these numbers automatically for you instead.

For example, integrating your CRM with a program like Grow.com or even directly with Google Analytics will allow you to see your sales numbers—accurately—at a glance.

6. Excel isn’t mobile-friendly.

The problem:

You need your data to be ready, at your fingertips, for whenever you may need it.

So, having it sit on your computer’s desktop or in a shared folder only accessible via VPN isn’t going to help you much when you’re working remotely or anywhere besides sitting at your desk.

(To be fair, Microsoft does let you work on Excel files on their cloud-based Office 365 server now, but the user experience on mobile is still a bit choppy.)

The solution:

Let’s go back to our good friend, Google Sheets.

Google Sheets’ mobile app lets you view, edit, and create new spreadsheets wherever you go, from any device. All you need is the internet.

Oh, and the user experience is pretty smooth too.

google sheets mobile app
The Google Sheets mobile app is available for both Android and iOS devices.

7. Excel makes it difficult for sales teams to collaborate.

The problem:

Does your Downloads folder look anything like this?

cluttered downloads folder

The same spreadsheet has been emailed back and forth so many times, it’s hard to know which one is the most up-to-date version.

This is not how collaboration should be done.

Excel doesn’t let multiple people work on the same file at once. If the spreadsheet is located in a shared folder, multiple people may open it, but only one person can make edits at a time.

Passing a spreadsheet on from one person to another to make edits is a slow way of doing things. Plus, there’s no version control, so you can’t tell who made what changes when edits are made.

May as well call it Microsoft Bottleneck.

If you’re dealing with time-sensitive issues that require input from multiple people, using Excel as collaboration software is not the best option.

The solution:

Google Sheets. Gmail. CRM. The whole shebang.

Integrate them all together and you’ve got a well-oiled collaboration machine.

Leave Excel to the accountants.

If you try using it as a sales management tool, Excel can cost you money and time.

Retiring it doesn’t need to be a cold-turkey thing. Try out one or two of the solutions in this post and see how they work for you instead!