"it's in my purse… somewhere…"
Brenda's handbag is a stylish Tory Burch; bottomless but cute at the same time. Were an archaeologist to unearth it 500 years from now, the life of a typical 21st century professional could be reconstructed to a fairly high degree of accuracy.
Brenda is aware that if she lost the bag, she might as well lose an entire lobe of her brain. It's her expanded short term memory, archive / supply closet / filing cabinet. Without her bag, life as she knows it would not go on.
It's just so easy to throw everything in there. Her phone, receipts, appointment cards from the dentist, meeting notes, post-its with contact info ("I'll have to enter that into my phone before I forget!")… so many bits of information snuggled neatly next to Brenda's other necessaries.
But in a Shakespearean-tragedy-kind-of-way, something is rotten in the state of Denmark. And it's not just that week-old banana peel in the bilge of the USS Tory Burch.
Monday Brenda's daughter missed play practice husband never got the time change. That post it note reminder is still on the road to oblivion somewhere down in the dark recesses.
Tuesday, she was embarrassingly late for a lunch meeting because she had "lunch meeting" entered into her calendar, but she couldn't recall where or with whom. Had to call the office on that one.
Wednesday a tense flurry of emails resulted from her well-meaning call to a lead who had just yesterday asked very nicely to be taken off the contact list for the next six months.
Now it's Thursday and Brenda and Tory are not speaking to one another.
Moral of the Story: Your Excel spreadsheets will someday make your life miserable. It might be time to bag them.
Every business acquires, stores, updates, retrieves, shares and uses information. The ones that do this the most efficiently will win. Companies that treat their data like the stuff in Brenda's bag will lose.
Too many organizations have great gobs of high quality data, but it's stored in impenetrable silos, or handbags or whatever. Acquiring and storing it is not a problem, it's the capability to quickly update, retrieve, share and use it that separates the Shetland ponies from the Thoroughbreds.
Excel is GREAT for storing numercial information but it was only designed to do spreadsheet-y things with those numbers. Yes, it's easy to use, has some really slick formulas and analysis features, and most folks are reasonably familiar with it as a core MS Office application. Excel is that familiar old handbag where you can throw everything and at least know it's in there somewhere. For a one-person show, it works fine.
To nutshell it for you, Excel can only do so much. Don't make it try to be what it's not.
Multiple users? You can try Google Sheets, but how do you feel about someone else messing around in your carefully created spreadsheets? Or try to get everyone to follow complicated protocols or templates for all their data? And keep them all shared all the time?
Spreadsheets can't talk to other spreadsheets in real time. Make a change in spreadsheet A, and Spreadsheets B,C, and D might as well live on Bouvet Island
It takes a lot of time to get those spreadsheets to really tell you what's happening. Excel is great at math, but not so good at generating effective reports.
God forbid there's a crucial error somewhere. You have to know who did it and when they did in order to correct it. Excel, help us? Nope.
Oh, and since everyone has Excel or Google Sheets everywhere, how you gonna secure that data?
Keeping Focused on Your Leads and Customers with CRM Software
CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) software like Salesforce (which actually runs in the cloud) can reunite you with your customers. Not only does it do its own thing really well, it plays nice with a huge number of external integrations that plug into the core database, such as project management. It's great for your sales force, but also your marketing force, HR force and customer service force.
Imagine clicking on a specific account and seeing every point of contact anyone has had with them (emails, phone calls, meetings), but also a nice Gantt chart showing up to the minute progress on delivery.
"CRM software really does equip you to shift a lot more of your time and energy to making all your customers feel like they are your only customer."
Here at United WebWorks Savannah, we're experimenting with an upgrade in our customer relationship game, because we are really serious about that customer focus. A CRM can deliver instant:
Accountability- tracks real numbers, plus who entered the data and when they did it. There's no hiding or stonewalling if everyone can see everything.
Real-time transparency- everyone can all company data from one source, anytime, anywhere. Nice to have when sales needs crucial information before making promises.
Security- you can set up permissions that limit access to fields, records or even entire swaths of sensitive data (like commission or salary figures). You can also activate a lockdown if there's a serious problem.
CRM software can do a lot of work for you. Workflows can automatically make things happen based on how you enter information. For example, if you acquire a lead from your website, and you've set up your CRM to know this, it can send your eloquently pre-written thank you email to the lead, inform you it was sent and even tell you when the email was opened. Let's see Excel try to do that!
Everything that used to be difficult to manage become practically invisible, especially all athe detailed information you used to keep track of...
Acquiring it- Most CRM's are completely online, so mobile devices become the eyes and ears feeding data directly to a single universally accessible database.
Storing it- Would it help if everyone stored information in the same way, every time? Yes. How many times have you wasted valuable kitchen time looking for the measuring spoons because each member of your family has their own opinion about where they should go? A CRM like Salesforce gives everyone ONE drawer where everything goes!
Updating it- Being out of the loop can be terribly inconvenient. Like when your client keeps receiving three of everything from you- phone calls, emails, mailings. You look way less competent than that other company where everyone knows everything about every client.
Retrieving it- Most people are now accustomed to getting an answer from a search engine online at pretty much the speed of light. When a VIP asks for a piece of your unconnected data your hesitation is a dead give away of your disorganization
Sharing and using it- Excel can generate some fine looking charts and graphs, but once again, reporting is not really what it's made to do. Most CRMs are built to configure data into highly communicable reports, easily specialized and fine-tuned. AND once again, sharing vital data becomes a non-issue since everyone is looking at the same real-time pool of information.
A CRM such as Salesforce, Workbooks, or GoldMine can reunite you with your customers. Salesforce is a great example of an automated, omnipresent, super-intelligent assistant who can keep you and every other stakeholder in your business focused on LEADS and CUSTOMERS instead of spreadsheets.
- Your memory is out of its depth
- Everyone's emails are Top Secret
- You have no way of knowing what's working, or not
- Your leads' statuses are a mystery
- It would really be nice to know what water has been under that customer's bridge
- You've lost more information than a termite-infested library
- Forecasting is more like "guess-casting"
- Tracking tasks and events is harder than tracking bigfoot
…You might think about trading that old Excel handbag for something a little more "professional."