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Moving off Spreadsheets and onto a CRM

The Benefits of Switching from Spreadsheets to CRM for Your Business

There comes a time in every person’s life when he must abandon his training wheels and go forth into the night on just two of them.

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As a very young person, you may have thought this was absolutely ludicrous.  Why abandon the safety of the training wheels?  (Maybe you saw a sibling get into an accident and it scarred you for a while.)  Whatever the reason, you may have held out for a while, but, when you finally got up the nerve to go out on two wheels – or, into the pool without water wings – or, onto the street in your car without a supportive parent in the passenger seat – it probably felt much better than you thought it would.  Much more freedom!  Many more possibilities.

And, so it is with your business.

For years, you may have been dealing with your customers in a very simple way, just keeping track of them on a spreadsheet you periodically update.  Maybe that’s just the way it’s always been.  Maybe you tried learning a different way of managing your contacts before, and it didn’t take for one reason or another.  But, that’s the way it is for now.

What if there was a better, more streamlined way of reaching out to and keeping track of your customers and prospects, though?  The very possibility of this can be a lot to take in, especially for someone who’s used to doing the same thing day in and day out.  But, the fact that you’re reading a tech blog – and, this blog post – means you’re probably open to the idea of it.

What does a spreadsheet do?

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(other than cramp your style, obviously)

The thing about spreadsheets is they’re very passive.  If you want a spreadsheet to tell you a piece of information, you have to pull a few strings, write a few formulas, and make it happen yourself.  Your record-keeping must be very precise, and, the spreadsheet probably demands a lot of your attention, and will keep on doing so in higher quantities as your business expands.

Moving through a sales cycle is a tedious, manual process, comprised of many copy+pastes and cross-references with other documents (or programs, if you use an inventory management system or QuickBooks).  Calling customers is completely manual, and, taking notes can be quite messy.  When it comes time to email those customers, you’d better have a special folder set up for correspondence, too, or else say goodbye to ever finding customer records without knowing what you talked about before – so you can enter search terms into your email client.

In short, spreadsheets are great if you’re keeping track of just a little data, not needing to modify it or move it very much…

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But, is your business small and simple?

If you’re reading this, I have a hunch it isn’t, or, it’s reached the point where it’s about to break out…with a little help from a customer relationship management system – a CRM.

What does a CRM do?

Essentially, a CRM is like a spreadsheet in that it can certainly list all of your contacts, leads, and other records; however, it’s equipped to help you manage all sorts of business scenarios with a little more finesse.  For example, filtering certain leads or contacts (so, for example, you’re only looking at clients who have birthdays this month), which is impossible with a spreadsheet, is easy with a CRM.

Want to move someone from one category to another in your database?  It’s as easy as clicking a button, or, selecting an option from a drop-down menu.

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Keeping track of past correspondence with customers, one of the best parts of having a CRM at your disposal, is suddenly second-nature, as all your notes appear on the same page as your contact, complete with dates, a sales history, and, of course, all the requisite contact info.  With a CRM, taking notes is as easy as typing what you want and pressing OK.

Even the act of calling customers itself, historically a manual task, can become nearly automatic with calendar reminders and integrated calling features within a CRM, as well.

Data security is much better with CRM, as opposed to spreadsheets

Have you ever been entering information in your spreadsheet, when suddenly – poof – a column disappears?  Or, it disappeared minutes ago and you aren’t sure when, and you don’t know how many CTRL+Zs it will take to get anything back?  With spreadsheets, being vigilant is a constant struggle.  One great thing about CRM is fields are protected, and you have to verify info before saving it.  This means there’s virtually no chance of accidentally mass-deleting 1000 phone numbers.  Sure, this may not be a problem if you’re a super-human, methodical worker.  But, most people aren’t perfect.  And, people tend to become less perfect as their workloads increase.  Which is what you’re trying to do with your business, hopefully.  So, why not use something that in essence catches your mistakes?

CRM improves security in another way too, however, by restricting or granting access to certain data modules (tables) or fields based on permission level.  Of course, you can solve this problem in spreadsheets by simply creating multiple sheets.  But, like all things related to using spreadsheets, it simply isn’t a sustainable solution in the long run.  It’s better to have a system that allows for creating system users that can be added or deactivated at will, and whose permissions can be changed easily, with just a few clicks.

spreadsheet vs crm wheel spokes

Just like this!

You can use CRM as your hub, and connect different spokes at will

Everything else notwithstanding, one of the best parts of having a CRM is the ability to connect other apps to it, hands down.  There’s only so much you can reasonably track in a CRM itself – and, there’s only so much you’ll want to give your sales staff access to.  But, with other apps to track things like customer orders and invoices, project statuses, and the like, you can give yourself and your sales team a 360-degree view of any given customer, so they know just how to react whenever that person gives you a call.  And, they’ll know just how to market to that person when it comes time to do so.

With great spreadsheets come great paper waste

Well, maybe not all the time.  But, if you’re using a spreadsheet – something that inherently doesn’t connect to anything else in the business – you’re probably making some kind of waste.  It’s likely you’re either sending loads of emails back and forth, or you’re printing out physical documents to send to accounting.  Having a CRM eliminates the need for any of that.  Of course, sometimes printing physical documents is harder to avoid, like in the case of warehouse pick sheets when employees don’t have access to mobile devices – but, in most cases, CRM drastically helps in this area.

Are you ready to do away with the training wheels?

The first step to eliminating a problem is at least admitting the existence of one.  You may be satisfied with your way of contacting clients at the moment.  But, can you imagine the difference without being encumbered by the manual labor of a spreadsheet?

Take off those extra wheels and explore the two-wheeled world – by taking a look at some CRMs!  You’ll probably find it’s a lot easier to get around, you can go a lot faster, and, you get a lot more done at the end of the day.

As Zoho consultants, we’re happy to give you a training of Zoho CRM, an intuitive, simple CRM solution, as it applies to your style of business – with all the Zoho support you need, to boot.  If you’d like to explore apps other than Zoho CRM, too, that’s no problem.  Zoho One is packed full of apps aside from the CRM, and they are all related or integrated to each other.

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Musician, car junkie, and burgeoning tech guy.

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