Where do we begin? Google Sheets is a spreadsheet tool, as an alternative to Excel, and for that, it works great! We've used it in our own business in-place of Excel, but for most things that you might think Google Sheets would be good for, you'd likely be better off using another tool like Airtable (but more on that later).
When talking to companies that are thinking of using it as their core CRM, we strongly advise against it. A spreadsheet should be left for exactly what it was built for—building complex financial reports—not sales outreach, or especially anything to do with relationships. Here's a candid answer to the FAQ, should I use Google Sheets as my CRM?
❌ Google Sheets can't be the central hub for communication or prioritize leads
Part of the purpose of a CRM is not just storing contact records (that's the most bare-bones use-case of a CRM) but rather to be a central hub of communication across your company.
You email a customer and someone else on your team emails that same customer, how do you know this happened? You don't when using Google Sheets as a CRM. So customers may get 2-3 emails from different team members and it's a mess.
A proper CRM is going to ingest emails automatically, count the number of interactions you've had with someone, and nudge you when you're not doing a good job at staying on top of leads. Your Google Sheets "CRM" on the other hand will not be able to handle this type of communication tracking.
In addition, tracking who opened or clicked your emails is helpful information that can help close a sale.
A CRM can roll up these actions into a score, so your team can easily identify engaged leads. A good CRM will also mention the last date of a specific interaction, or how long it's been between interactions so you know it's time to follow up.
Also trying to manually update Google Sheets every time you've had an interaction (like an email) is time-consuming and will quickly become a burden to your team.
❌ Integrating Google Sheets is temperamental
Yes, integrating with Google Sheets is possible, but can quickly become a nightmare.
Because Google Sheets is a spreadsheet (and not a database), the API works with "Columns" instead of "Fields". What's wrong with that? Well, what if you've integrated column "D" (Opportunity Status), with say PandaDoc, to update the status to "won" upon the proposal being signed. Cool, no problem!
But then someone on your team decides that they want "Opportunity Status" to be in Column C instead of D so they simply drag it over to the left a single column...
Well what if someone simply just adds an additional column in-between "Opportunity Status" and "Opportunity Stage"?
All quite common things you'd want to do in a CRM, no? 😅
❌ Google Sheets flexibility can be overwhelming
Google Sheets is super flexible with absolutely no forced structure, which makes it great in theory, but also the core problem with it. It can technically be or do "anything" (within reason), so companies confuse that and start building out their own custom "CRM" (I mean it's free, right), making decisions that they think are sensible, essentially turning into the role of a product manager. But you're not a product manager.
The decisions and restrictions added to most CRMs on the market are made for a reason. SO much thought and discussion goes into adding another custom field (Sheet Column) or adding a feature. Adding too much to Google Sheets will hurt company adoption, and create future confusion amongst team members.
Try to envision yourselves for a moment as a new team member at your company, and someone shares with you a gigantic Google Sheet with 10 tabs, dozens of columns, and thousands of rows in each tab (oh, and internal color coding to get across various additional points), all without documentation. How would you react?
At least, with a proper CRM, there's baked standardization that every industry agrees upon with how everything should be structured. There's a reason for that, believe us, you will not set up a better solution by creating your own new standard (we appreciate the goal of that though, you're our kinda people!).
Google Sheets is better than nothing, but any CRM on the market, that was built specifically to be a CRM, is also going to be light-years better than building your own CRM.
❌ Companies that use Google Sheets as a CRM often feel disorganized
99% of companies that I've spoken to who have been using Google Sheets as their CRM after a year, feel like their data is messy and disorganized. Google Sheets starts to feel too disconnected from the company communication, as it wasn't built to be a CRM.
It'll "work" as a contact book, but it'll never actually be what a business needs to scale.
Overall, while as tempting as it may be to use Sheets as your business CRM, it is actually a pretty lackluster CRM. If you truly care about what makes a tool good at relationship management and managing your business processes, look to using a proper CRM.
❌ Google Sheets doesn't build business IP
Tracking client communication and engagement in a proper CRM gives your business intellectual property and acts as a single source of truth for all your customer interactions.
In the case that you ever wanted to sell or hand off your business, this information will be super valuable.
When should I use Google Sheets?
As much as we don't recommend using Google Sheets as your CRM, we do believe it serves a place in specific departments within a business. For instance, Google Sheets can serve as a fantastic Excel replacement for complex financial formulas and graphs, when unstructured data is critical.
More and more, we're finding it surprisingly difficult to recommend Google Sheets for anything, really. Businesses used to be built on spreadsheets, because databases were complex, and then we moved to a world where countless companies built a more user-friendly experience atop a traditional database (e.g. Airtable, Coda, even Notion).
Over the past 8+ years, we actually replaced just about every single internal Google Sheet with Airtable. We've done this because it provides way more structure (it being a proper database), while also having an incredibly powerful API (for integrating and automating).
All of that said, every single CRM on the market, from Copper to Salesforce is simply a relational database on the back-end, Google Sheets simply is not—so why go through the impossible effort to try and make it work like it is one?
Okay wait, so should I use Airtable as my CRM then?
The simple answer is no. For many of the same reasons as the above, believe it or not, with some slight differences. Anyway, we wrote an entire article on this topic → Read here.
What CRM should I use instead of Google Sheets?
We wrote an entire article on this as well → Read here.
Looking for a CRM? Our team can give you an unbiased opinion and point you in the right direction based on your business needs. Request a free CRM Audit here.
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