It's almost like a chicken and egg question. What should come first: a certain number of customers or leads, or a CRM software?
Most new companies would probably choose the first option, and it makes sense why they would. After all, what's the point of paying for customer relationship management technology before you even have customers? Spreadsheets will certainly suffice until a business breaks a certain threshold.
But the flip side might actually be more compelling. Consider the confusion that's associated with using spreadsheets for tasks they're not designed to handle. What if your sales process suffers as a result? Opting for spreadsheets to tackle CRM for the time being may actually cost an organization customers -- and the sad part is, you'd probably never know it.
According to Brent Leary, cofounder and partner of CRM Essentials, there's no such thing as too soon when it comes to CRM systems.
"In today's world, you need to have a customer engagement process right from the very beginning," he said. "If you start blogging and somebody likes what you're writing about and they want to learn more, you have to have an engagement process that helps you respond quickly and effectively so you can keep the momentum going."
And this isn't just about process. "A modern day engagement strategy means you have to have modern technology to implement it," Leary added.
Robert Peledie, a CRM consultant, agreed. "I feel that companies of any age and any size should have a CRM system," he said.
But what about the cost? Small companies just starting out don't have a lot of cash to burn.
In Peledie's view, this is a non-issue. "CRM systems range from very low cost SaaS solutions, right up to enterprise-size solutions, so any business can implement one," he said.
And while spreadsheets are cheap, they might cost a sales organization in speed.
"We all know the speed of customer engagement is not the same as it was. That means you have to have information at your fingertips so you can provide the right feedback and content in the right channels, and turn their interest into a full blown customer relationship," Leary said. "Today, you need a system that allows you to speak [personally] to a number of people in a short amount of time, and you can't do that in a spreadsheet."
To be fair, Leary admitted that many companies do rely on spreadsheets for CRM tasks. But they're probably not making great impressions.
A company can use spreadsheets as a temporary CRM fix, "if they're moving at the speed of the 1990s," Leary said.
His verdict? "Spreadsheets are good for managing information, not building relationships." And that's what sales is all about.