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3 things your business needs that Excel can never give you

Feb 12, 2019

There’s no denying Microsoft Excel revolutionized the way businesses approach data.

Originally launched in 1985, Excel's strong graphics and fast processing speeds helped it beat out Lotus 1-2-3 to become the dominant spreadsheet software by the mid-1990s. For the next decade it helped businesses around the world analyze and present their data more effectively than ever before.

geolocation-mapsBut times have changed.

Given the options available today, Excel simply isn’t the best tool for commercial real estate professionals who need a platform to analyze data, prospect, and help them close deals. Modern customer relationship management (CRM) software, especially those focused specifically on CRE, create new possibilities and give brokers new ways to act on their data.

If you’re thinking about investing in new technology, now is the time. And if you’re still using an outdated spreadsheet, while shortcuts and tricks can help, ultimately you risk falling behind.

Still not convinced?

Whether it’s translating your data into actionable, geographical information or seeing it through the lens of a relational database to gain new insights, here are three things Excel can never give you. 

1. Geography

It’s easy to get caught up in comps, leasing specs and other important bits of data, but at the end of the day, this business is about physical properties. Those properties sit in certain neighborhoods, and while you can change almost everything about a property, you cannot change its location.

To make sense of location, explorers, and commercial real estate brokers alike have turned to one time-tested technology maps. Today, top CRMs incorporate mapping tools to help brokers make sense of their data graphically. From building location-driven call lists to filters that make it easy to decipher neighborhood trends, putting data to life on the street level helps brokers uncover new opportunities.

As far as Excel is concerned, making a “location” column is about as far as you can go towards piecing your data together geographically.

2. Time

Time is your most valuable resource, but when it comes to maximizing efficiencies and integrating data, you shouldn't be relying on Excel.

Top CRMs are based in the cloud and automatically update in real time across a variety of devices, ensuring the entire team stays on track and is using accurate information. On the other hand, Excel databases are only shared when a file is shared, often leading to different versions of the same data. That can easily lead to a communication breakdown and different members of the team using different sets of the same data, ultimately wasting time and possibly leading to costly mistakes.

And while Excel makes it easy to store data in rows and columns, it’s not as easy finding the best ways to connect and make sense of that data. Sometimes it’s possible, but it takes time to figure it out, and often you simply cannot connect data in the ways you need. With the right CRM, data is integrated and connected in ways tailored to commercial real estate professionals all on one screen.

Any discussion of time would hardly be complete without mentioning the place most of us increasingly spend our time—on our phones. Brokers are out and about more than most other professionals, so being able to effectively access your data on your phone is essential. Some smartphones and tablets do have Excel access, but the interface can be difficult to manage and often is not designed with mobile use in mind. It’s exactly the opposite with a good CRM — mobile use is a priority and the interface is specifically designed to work well on smaller devices.

So if want to avoid communication errors, boost efficiency and work effectively on the go, it’s time to look beyond Excel.

3. Insight

In the end, the main reason you keep track of so much data is to gain actionable insights into new opportunities. Excel may be a fine place to store data, but it doesn’t do you any favors generating those insights. That’s because it’s a two dimensional system, meaning it doesn't interact or integrate with the other tools you rely on. That forces you to spend precious time sifting through static databases trying to decipher the most effective course of action.

CRM takes a different approach. Rather than being static, it’s a three dimensional database that integrates with the other applications you rely on, like email and marketing tools, and uses filters to help you easily spot new opportunities. This organic, holistic approach is perhaps the biggest difference between CRM and Excel — Excel is a static place to store data, whereas CRM is a living system that helps you identify and work towards your goals.

Nobody can deny just how important Excel has been in helping people make sense of data. It was a revolutionary software that consistently created new possibilities for businesses over its decades of innovation.

Today, CRM has taken the baton from Excel and is unlocking a new era of possibilities. Tomorrow’s top brokers will be those who embrace these possibilities first, so whether it’s unlocking the geographical potential of your data or saving time and driving efficiencies, now is the time to thank Excel for the past and embrace CRM for the future.

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Erik Dolan-Del Vecchio

Written by Erik Dolan-Del Vecchio

Erik writes about the people, the deals and the trends that move the commercial real estate industry.

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