How Does Using Excel as a CRM Impact Your CRE Deals? Learn the Pitfalls and Benefits of CRM vs. Excel

May 20, 2024
6 min

Excel has stood the test of time and proved to be a #1 MS Office application loved by thousands of brokers around the CRE industry. Excel allows any CRE broker to handle many aspects of their business, such as tracking customer data, creating charts and graphs, and using formulas to complete quick calculations.

It’s true—Excel is great at what it does. But when your business scales, Excel can be far less effective than mature workflow management tools tailored to brokers’ needs.

The streamlined increase of CRE Tech is changing the market and business workflow. It makes brokers step back slowly from Excel and choose the CRM tools that automate the repetitive tasks so they can focus more on revenue-generating activities.

Today, we’ll walk you through CRM vs spreadsheet comparison and help you clarify whether you need to stop using Excel as a CRM or not.

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Excel is a popular spreadsheet program that makes it much easier to manage all sorts of data. For many people this tool seems more familiar and easier than CRM. However, as the market gets more and more competitive each year, brokers start to consider smarter solutions for sealing deals.

Below, we’ll try to identify the main differences in using Excel vs. CRM for CRE business.

When Using Excel as a CRM is Effective?

Excel continues to be a lifesaver for many CRE brokers and small business owners who are just getting started and have limited financial and human resources. It provides advanced functionality for statistical and financial data tracking analysis.

Using Excel as a CRM for CRE business is effective, if:

  • You are starting your career in commercial real estate
  • You’re developing your customer database
  • You’re messing up with numerous notepads and need to organize your data
  • You have a simple sales process
  • You’re an individual broker and a sales manager at the same time
  • You have less than 5 Properties on your deal pipeline.

But when using Excel as a CRM is no longer an option?

When your business is growing, it’s time to move beyond a spreadsheet.

Excel has many benefits but running a growing business only with it limits your business development. Excel was not designed primarily as a collaborative platform—an environment in which the commercial real estate industry thrives.

That’s why savvy business owners and big CRE corporations use CRM instead. They know that as their business grows, they need a CRE-centered solution that maximizes sales, empowers customer experience, and tracks relationships between Clients, contacts, Property, Deals, etc.

You can’t show or capture the relationship between a property and how it moves between sellers and buyers when you’re just in a standard table.

-Michael Brondello, independent Salesforce consultant

How CRE CRM Differs from Using Excel as a CRM?

If you’re at the point where Excel no longer works for your business, consider CRM a solution for your CRE business.

CRM duplicates some Excel features but makes them better. CRM holds all your information about potential, current, and former prospects and keeps it in secure, accessible cloud storage.

Yes, compared with Excel, CRM is expensive. But think about the return on investment (ROI) you will get from the CRM solution. According to a customer survey conducted by Salesforce in 2020, 95% of customers have met or exceeded their ROI goals with Salesforce, with 40% reporting they exceeded ROI expectations.

It’s also worth mentioning that in CRM, compared to a spreadsheet, changes made to a customer or lead’s profile are updated instantly for everyone.

For example, suppose your colleagues don’t enter this information manually. In that case, you lack data about recent communication between your sales team and prospects, meetings or demos that have been scheduled, and tasks that need to be completed.

For the commercial real estate market losing such information = losing prospects = losing deals.

As CRE CRMs host data in the cloud, it eliminates the risk of losing data in multiple versions of documents that arise when everyone in your team is working on a separate Excel spreadsheet.



6 Pitfalls of Using Excel as a CRM for CRE Brokers

If you’re still hesitating whether to stop using Excel as a CRM or not, this passage will shed light on six pitfalls commercial real estate brokers face relying upon Excel.

Pitfall #1. Isolated Data Storage

Because Excel spreadsheets are static, they don’t always reflect up-to-date information. You probably spend a lot of time searching for the most recent versions of spreadsheets. Excel often isolates data, making it difficult to access.

Pitfall #2. Poor Data Security

Anyone with a link can open an Excel file in a few seconds. As the CRE industry is very sensitive to data security, such features pose a security risk.

If an employee saves files to their personal computer and then leaves your company, they may still have access to company data — unless you remember to change the password on every single spreadsheet.

Pitfall #3. Time-Consuming Reporting

Without proper organization, overly complicated spreadsheets slow down the workflow of commercial real estate brokers. The more clients you have, the more spreadsheets that lead to data overload you’ll get. Unless you know the commands and formulas to extract and summarize small amounts of information, it can be tricky to get valuable data and transform it into a nice-looking report/marketing collateral/etc.

Pitfall #4. Poor Sync with Non-Office Software

Excel is a core product of MS Office 365 and has great sync with other Microsoft Office products like Word, Access, or PowerPoint.

However, if some of your business operations rely on non-Office software, data import/export between programs becomes a hassle. Excel makes collaboration more challenging.

On the contrary, CRE CRMs are designed to integrate seamlessly with third-party tools required for business processes in commercial real estate.

Pitfall #5. Customization Requires Deep Knowledge

Sometimes creating complex Excel spreadsheets is akin to custom software development. Ideally, a person with a deep understanding of all Excel limitations and formulas can make such customization. Typically, that’s 1-2 people in the whole team.

But what if that person leaves the company—does anyone else understand the concepts used to create those customized spreadsheets and support them correctly?

Pitfall #6. Excel is not as accurate as you think

Perhaps the last reason for you to stop using Excel as a CRM is that it isn’t as precise as we used to think. According to the study by MarketWatch, up to 90% of spreadsheets contained errors: human errors, programming errors, and capacity limitations. (Source)

When using Excel, entering the wrong number into a single cell can throw off an entire spreadsheet- consequences that can result in extensive losses in commission calculations.

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Top Benefits of Using CRM Instead of Excel in Commercial Real Estate

Commercial real estate brokers are busy people. They don’t have time to manually compile their comps in every Excel spreadsheet to generate charts or reports for their clients.

If you feel you are struggling to operate numerous Excel spreadsheets, it may be time for a change.

CRE-centric CRM software offers a better way to manage data about your customers, prospects, and finances, whereas its further customization and implementation bring benefits worth every penny. With a CRM system tailored to CRE needs, you can:

  • better serve your prospects
  • increase the productivity of your team
  • get a 360-degree view of every contact
  • make the sales process more effective
  • provide personal communication
  • easily navigate through massive amounts of data around contacts, companies, and properties
  • get real-time data access
  • show up very prepared and ready to have a very specific conversation with client about their needs.
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As CRE CRMs are explicitly designed to meet the market needs, they include seamless integrations with mapping, property searching, document/report generation, email, and calendar tools.

In a nutshell, a CRM takes all the data you as a broker track over multiple cells in different Excel spreadsheets and presents it to you and your team on a single easy-to-understand screen.

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If you want to customize the way comps appear in your documents and have fine-grained control over the data and its layouts, try AscendixRE CRM.

What fits one business doesn’t necessarily fit yours. Only you decide whether you need to switch from Excel to CRM or not. However, if you want to grow your business, you need to think of data management beyond just columns and rows.

Changes are never easy, but they are the keys to your brokerage’s growth, success, and progress.

If you’re looking for a reliable solution, try AscendixRE CRM. It eliminates your manual work and makes switching from Excel spreadsheets seamless. Contact us and schedule a demo to explore how it works.


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