The other day we were approached by a council to see if we would be interested in a lunchtime training session entitled ‘Managing Sales Leads Effectively with Excel’. This course is aimed at SMEs/SMBs and it’s about exactly what is says.

Now, I know Brand9 is in the tech sector and we’re always looking at ways to improve our work processes but we haven’t managed our sales leads, contacts etc on Excel for about 10 years. Don’t get us wrong, Excel is a powerful and probably under-used tool but the world has moved on massively.

Many of the small businesses out there are run by IT literate people. The generation that used BBC Model B Micros back in the 1980s in school are businesses owners now in their 40s and are, as a guess, 90% of them are IT literate. Not to mention the younger generation of entrepreneurs that are now running successful businesses. If you were to offer them Excel as a tool to manage their sales process they’d probably say something like ‘Isn’t Excel something that accountants use?’.

If councils are to encourage start-ups with courses, and to be fair it was free, then they need to get to know what’s out there in terms of tech. This is 2016. Offering Excel courses for this type of use can sometimes highlight how far behind the times councils are in terms of thinking and what tools are out there – and what it’s like in the corporate world. Maybe they’ve just upgraded to Windows XP and Office 2003! Copying and pasting training offerings from one year to the next isn’t going to work forever.

So what do we use? Not Excel that’s for sure. After trailing numerous CRM systems, some free, some paid, and some freemium models we settled on Hubspot. And no, we’re not associated to them, paid by them or whatever else. It just works for us. We just Googled something like ‘best crm systems for small businesses’ and went through all the results, reviews and signed up for free trials.

Brand9 chose Hubspot because it didn’t have a limit on how many contacts we uploaded. But our needs will differ from yours. The point is though, why would you want to use Excel? Are we missing something? I don’t think we are though. Using a CRM like this can actually work out cheaper as some of the basic plans are free, whereas you invariably have to pay for Microsoft’s Excel.

So if you’re a new business looking thinking about how you’re going to manage your contacts and where you’re up to with each client or potential client then look to something like this, it’ll give you more automation and you’ll probably find it easier to use too.

And if any councils are reading this, we do like the support you give, but ask around the small businesses you’re in contact with (especially the tech ones) and ask them what they use.