It will play out differently from one small or medium-sized business to another, but that moment — when spreadsheets fail to offer the benefits of full-fledged CRM solution — is inevitable.

For some SMBs, for instance, there may come a time when critical information about a customer is needed to close the sale, but no one knows where the spreadsheet containing the information resides. In other cases there may be different spreadsheets being used by marketing and sales departments, who end up duplicating efforts or who miscommunicate how they’re going to talk to a particular customer. Or it might be the CEO or owner of the SMB who one day looks at all those rows and columns and realizes they’re not providing any actionable insights  to further business growth.

This is usually when CRM solutions such as Salesforce Sales Cloud get a closer look. Even at this stage, however, some SMBs may be reluctant to make a move, because client relationship management software seems like a complex unknown compared to the comforting familiarity of spreadsheets.

If you’re on the fence — or just not sure about how make a smooth transition to a CRM solution — this blog post is for you. Rather than look at a post-spreadsheet world as something to fear, let’s play a few games that will make it crystal-clear why the time is now.

Play ‘The Newlywed Game’ With Your Sales And Marketing Team

One of the most popular game shows in the late 70s was “the Newlywed Game,” where recently-married couples would be asked a series of questions to explore just how well they really knew each other. Some of the disconnects were surprising — and hilarious. However, when sales and marketing teams within the same SMB have different views of the same customer it’s not a laughing matter — because it leads to lost revenue.

Try this exercise: take an account that may grow in terms of how much it buys from your organization. Ask your sales and marketing teams to dig into their spreadsheets to answer the following:

  • When was the last time this customer was contacted in any way by your company?

  • What do we know about their purchase plans or upcoming business needs?

  • How long does it typically take to close a deal with this customer from start to finish?

If spreadsheets have been a mainstay, the sales and marketing teams will likely have different answers to these questions, or no answers at all. That’s why a CRM solution makes sense, because it brings those departments  closer together with more accurate data.

Play ‘How Does My Spreadsheet Grow?’

If your company keeps good records, see if you can unearth one of the very first spreadsheets you used — you know, back when you only had a handful of customers and each sale was a milestone event. It probably has a few simple fields with the company name, address and other contact details, along with what products and services they bought and what they spent.

Now find your most recent spreadsheets, whether they’re used by sales teams, marketing teams or both. There are probably a lot more rows and a lot more columns. You may be breaking down who’s a recurring customer, for example, or those who are merely prospects at this point. There may be multiple pages or tabs within the same spreadsheet.

Now think about how those columns would need to change as your business grows. Imagine needing to sort by geography, product line, size of company, vertical industry, account team members and more. Next, factor in all the data that might not fit comfortably in a spreadsheet cell — like the particularities of a specific  customer’s procurement process, or the fact that this  customer prefers to communicate by phone instead of email.

Chances are, this is the kind of minutiae that exists only in the minds and memories of your best sales and marketing team members. What happens if they’re not there, or if they leave? CRM software for small business ensures that data is not only captured, but can be woven into the fabric of your processes as the organization grows.

Play ‘Road Test’

A lot of what’s been covered so far probably brings to mind sitting in a room with a laptop in front of you, free from other distractions. Of course, that’s not how life tends to work, especially in an SMB where people often wear multiple hats. It also ignores the fact that a lot of the most successful SMBs have their best people working far from the office — in front of customers and prospects.

Pretend you’re sitting in your car just outside a customer’s headquarters. You’re about to go in to close the sale when you remember an important detail that needs to be clarified. You could call back to your own head office, but the person you need to look it up in the spreadsheet may not be there, or may be locked in a meeting of their own. You could open your laptop and start looking for the spreadsheet yourself, but that assumes you have access to all the spreadsheets remotely, and that you’re easily able to distinguish which is the latest version.

Contrast this with best-in-class client relationship management software like Sales Cloud, which not only makes information easier to organize but can be accessed by the same smartphone you carry around with you at all times. Do the same “road test” and you’ll probably find it’s a lot quicker and simpler to get the answers you need before you walk into your client, or before you embarrass yourself in front of them.

None of this is to suggest that life running an SMB is some kind of game. Managing information to build a company takes serious effort, which is why you should start getting serious about using the right CRM solution that represents a natural evolution from basic spreadsheets. You’ll soon discover how CRM turns SMBs into winners every time.

Learn more about the benefits of Salesforce’s CRM solutions—and how they can help your company succeed—with our ebook, “How a CRM Helps Your Business Grow.”

CRM success series: How a CRM helps your business grow. Get the ebook.