How to build a CRM in Excel
So your business is starting to outgrow its current organizational system.It can happen in the blink of an eye.
Suddenly, you have more leads coming in than your sticky-note system can handle. Important information is starting to fall through the cracks, and your customers are the ones who suffer.
Sound familiar? Then you’re ready for an upgrade.
Using an Excel-based CRM can be an easy solution to a growing problem in your business. In this article, you’re going to learn exactly how to use Excel as a CRM tool, and whether that’s really the solution your business needs.
Let’s dig into:
- How to determine if a simple CRM in Excel is right for you
- How to use Excel as a CRM in 4 easy steps
- Tips to use your Excel spreadsheet CRM effectively
To show you exactly how to build a CRM in Excel, we’ll be using our own spreadsheet CRM template. Download it now for free:
How to determine if a simple CRM in Excel is right for you
You’re ready to take on a better solution to track lead data and customer information. But is an Excel CRM the right solution for your business? Or do you need something more powerful?
Yes, it is possible to build a CRM in Excel, but that can’t replace the real deal. So, check this list to see if you can get by using Excel as a CRM:
- You have a very low number of leads in your sales pipeline at any given time
- You have a very simple sales process
- You’re a one-person sales team, or a solopreneur with a small customer base
- You need a way to store contacts and track revenue, but don’t have the budget for a real CRM
Still on the fence? Why not test both options?
Pros of using Excel as your sales CRM
Why should you consider using Excel as a CRM database? Here are 4 advantages it can give you:
- It’s free: The most obvious benefit of an Excel spreadsheet CRM is that you can get started with $0, and it’s free forever.
- You’ll see customer and lead data in one clear view: With an easy spreadsheet list of your leads and customers, you’ll have one place to view all of your important data.
- Allows you to focus on current deals: Being able to quickly filter and organize your Excel CRM database allows you to put fast focus on the right deals (instead of sifting through papers on your desk), provided that you're dealing with a low volume of prospects and can easily keep all the pertinent facts in mind.
- Fast and easy to implement and start using: Since Excel is a standard business tool, almost everyone knows how to use it. That means you can quickly set it up and get going without training or implementation delays.
Cons to using Excel as your sales CRM
Sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but there are quite a few limitations to an Excel-based CRM software. Here are some cons you’ll need to consider seriously:
- Limited space for notes: Keeping track of direct interactions you’ve had with prospects and customers is important to maintaining good relationships. Unfortunately, a CRM in Excel just doesn’t give you the tools or the space you need to keep good notes.
- Adds time to your workday with manual data entry: You’ll need to manually input every interaction, lead, email address, etc… if you're running a one-man (or woman) operation, that might be fine, but once you grow a team this can become increasingly impractical. We've seen teams with bloated, inconsistent spreadsheets full of bad data way too many times—and almost always do deals get lost that could easily have been won with a better organizational system.
- No direct integration with other sales tools: Excel can’t be linked to other tools you’re using for your business, meaning you can’t create any of the automations that a real CRM can give you.
- No place to store contracts, proposals, email threads, or other important documents: That means you’ll just need to remember where these things are (good luck!).
Thinking maybe Excel isn’t the right place for your customer data? Test out a real CRM with Close’s free trial—you’ll get automated email sync, integrated SMS and calling features, and easy reporting all for an attainable price tag.
How to use Excel as a CRM in 4 easy steps
Ready to get started creating a CRM database in Excel? Here’s how to do it in 4 fast steps:
Step 1. Download our free CRM Excel template
The first step to build a CRM system in Excel is to download a pre-made template that is ready to use:
Hit download, then check your email for the download link.
Once you’ve downloaded and opened the template, you’ll be greeted with an easy set of instructions to set it up for your sales team:
Step 2. In the Opportunities sheet, delete sample data and add your own
Next, head to the Opportunities sheet at the bottom:
On this sheet, you’ll see some example data set up already:
You can go ahead and delete the example information that’s included, and start to input your own prospects and customers.
In this spreadsheet, there are 17 fields set up for you to fill with customer information, including:
- Company name
- Date created
- Opportunity status
- Opportunity stage
- $ value
- Primary contact
- Email address
- Phone number
- LinkedIn profile
Add as much information as you can about each of your prospects and leads (this will help you with lead tracking down the road).
Step 3. Define your own sales process and opportunity stages
This CRM Excel template is customizable to your own sales process. We’ll show you how to adjust the spreadsheet to your needs in the next step, but first you need to make sure you have a clear, structured process that your sales team can follow.
So, before anything else, take some time to write down the exact steps that are in your current sales process. Then, check to see if there is any way you can improve or simplify that process.
In the downloadable template, you have 7 pre-made opportunity stages:
There are also 3 pre-made opportunity statuses:
Once you’ve defined your sales process, you can see whether it matches with the pre-made options in the template. If not, follow the next step to customize this Excel CRM software.
Step 4. Modify opportunity status and opportunity stages in the Settings sheet
First, right click on the tabs at the bottom of your Excel CRM. In the list of options that appears, select ‘Unhide’:
This will open a box where you can select which tabs you want to unhide in the spreadsheet. Select ‘Settings’, then click ‘OK’.
Once you click that, you’ll be able to see the Settings tab along with the others at the bottom. Here, you’ll find the pre-made Opportunities Stages and Opportunities Statuses:
Finally, you can customize these lists to match your own unique sales process. Anything you add will automatically be available to add in the Opportunities sheet.
And that’s it! In these four easy steps, you’ve learned how to create a simple CRM in Excel.
Tips to use your Excel spreadsheet CRM effectively
After you make your own CRM in Excel, you’ll need to manage it well to stay productive and keep your sales process healthy.
Here are four quick tips to successfully maintain your CRM Excel spreadsheet in top condition.
1. Clean up the data in your CRM Excel sheet at regular intervals
While using a spreadsheet is a step up from keeping customer data on paper, we all know how easy it is for an Excel database to get out of hand.
That’s why it’s absolutely essential that you set a regular time each month or quarter to go through the data in your Excel sheet and clean up any information that is out of date.
You might start by going through your different opportunity stages and checking the leads in each stage. Is this information accurate? Have any of these deals changed stages or closed? You could also sort through the opportunities that are closed-lost, and remove them from the database. That way they won’t clutter your spreadsheet.
By regularly cleaning up the data in your spreadsheet, you’ll make sure you have a tidy, updated database of customer and prospect information.
2. Set a time each week to check your Sales Dashboard
In our CRM Excel spreadsheet download, you’ll find a pre-made dashboard that you can use to monitor the health of your sales process.
At least once a week, it’s a good idea to pull up this dashboard and check your current sales situation. Use the information here to see where your leads are distributed across your sales pipeline, and identify where leads are getting stuck or dropping out of the sales process.
Also, take a look at the closed deals—how many of those were unqualified leads? If you have a high number of unqualified leads, you might want to update your qualifying process.
Finally, by checking your open opportunities and the estimated deal size, you can more accurately forecast upcoming sales.
3. Put someone in charge of the spreadsheet
If you have multiple people on your team sharing and using the same CRM Excel sheet, you should put one person in charge of maintaining the data inside. This person can follow up with the rest of the team to make sure they’re regularly updating the information as needed.
This isn’t a fun job, but it’s important to make sure the data in your spreadsheet is accurate and up-to-date.
4. Know when it’s time to upgrade to a real CRM
Once you’ve learned how to make a CRM in Excel, you can use it as an immediate solution to keeping your customer data organized in one place.
But a spreadsheet can’t scale with your business.
As you use this spreadsheet to consolidate your lead and customer data, watch out for warning signs that it’s time to upgrade to a dedicated CRM system.
Here are some signs that your business is ready for a real CRM:
- Customer and lead data is getting lost on a regular basis
- Manual data entry is chewing up hours of your busy week
- Your sales team is growing, and you have no way to share important documents with them
- You can’t effectively assign tasks to other people on your sales team
- Your sales cycle seems to be getting longer and longer
- You can’t clearly see how your sales reps are interacting with customers and leads
When you start to see these warning signs, it’s time to consider upgrading to a CRM that’s built for efficiency and can help your team be more productive.
When you’re ready to level-up your sales stack, we’ll be here for you
You love your Excel CRM because it was easy to set up and fast to get started. But now, you’re wasting more time with it than you’re saving.
Ease of use is essential, but so is productivity and accurate customer data. Which is why sales teams around the world have fallen in love with Close.
Close is a high-adoption, high-performance CRM that’s built to save sales teams time without getting in their way. It’s more than just a place to store data—it’s an all-in-one CRM with integrated calling features, two-way email sync, easy pipeline view, and meaningful automations.
If you're a solopreneur or just testing the waters with your sales efforts, a spreadsheet can be a good choice, and in that case, you should download our (free) ready-to-use Excel CRM template.
And if you're ready to try the CRM that can help you scale your results without scaling your efforts?
Sign up for your free, 14-day trial today!