When kicking of a new sales effort it can be tempting to dive right in to selecting and configuring a customer relationship management system. If you are an experience sales executive and know exactly what you want to accomplish with your CRM, then this is a great idea to get started early. But, if you don’t have a ton of experience with tracking the sales process then it is a good idea to take a more flexible approach in the early days.

A simple Google spreadsheet is a great short term CRM for many reasons.

  • There is basically zero setup involved.  Launch a new spreadsheet, add a few headers and start typing. Even better, if you guess wrong about the types of things that you will need to track then it is as simple as cut-and-paste or adding some additional rows and columns. This also means that you can punt on some of the structural decisions that go in to setting up a CRM out of the gate. This is a big win because it is easy to guess wrong when you are first setting up your CRM system, particularly if you are new to sales process development.
  • It allows you to focus on customer development and selling versus administrative tasks. Researching, trialling and configuring a new CRM system can be time consuming. You can spend the time that you save actually learning about your potential customers need or, even better, closing sales.
  • It makes it easy to share and collaborate. Even if you are a one person sales team you likely have interested stakeholders- a cofounder, investor, boss or mentor. Sharing updates and getting feedback on progress is as simple as sending a link to your spreadsheet.
  • When you are ready to level up it is likely that getting your spreadsheet data into your new CRM will be totally painless. Every CRM system that I have experience with has a simple CSV import feature.

So, when is the right time to onboard a full blown CRM? As with most things, it depends. One big factor is how long you expect your sales cycle to run end-to-end. If you have a very short consideration timeline then you may be able to get enough of a feel for your long term needs in a few weeks or months. If you have a longer sales cycle then you may want to take a little more time because your process will likely be a bit more complex. A good, but admittedly arbitrary, rule of thumb is to track 25 to 50 prospects through your sales cycle before jumping into a true CRM solution.