[This article was originally published on March 3, 2016 and has been updated with products based on the methodology outlined at the bottom of this piece.] 

If a company doesn’t know which software to use, it will usually default to Excel. When starting out with sales, for instance, all you really need to capture is a customer’s contact details and credit card info. Excel seems suitable enough to do that.

But, as your business starts to grow, managing your sales pipeline quickly becomes more than a simple spreadsheet can handle.

Companies start losing out on deals because they’re being mismanaged with tools such as Excel that don’t properly support the sales pipeline.

They need more sales-focused features, including pipeline management, lead scoring, and task assignment.

If a business continues managing its sales pipeline with Excel, it’s going to let key deals fall through the cracks and miss out on high revenue opportunities.

The good news is that there are many cloud-based Excel substitutes that can transform the way you manage your sales pipeline, enabling you to better manage the sales process and connect with your customers at the right time and saving sales teams a lot of time on manual data entry, tracking, and reporting.

Based on GetApp user ratings, we’ve put together a list of six Excel alternatives for managing your sales pipeline that will make you ditch those spreadsheets for good.

Scroll to the bottom for more info on the methodology we used for choosing these alternatives.

Highest overall rating: Close.io

Overall rating: 4.95/5 (21 reviews)

One thing that the wizardry of Excel can’t do is send reminders. Rated highest overall for CRM by GetApp users, Close.io is a CRM for inside sales that’ll not only help you manage your sales pipeline, but will make sure that you remember when to get things done (or do them for you with automation).

It lets you create and assign tasks, set automatic follow-ups, and send SMS reminders to your clients from within the app to make sure they’re not forgetting about your scheduled meetings either.

An example of a
An example of a “smart view” that you can create for frequent searches in Close.io (Source)

Its full text and contextual search function means that you can save your most common searches. If you frequently search a company, customer, or deal status, you can save these search as “smart views” so that the next time you need the data, you won’t have to search and filter the results again.

If your sales team is on the phone making calls, Close.io excels there too (get it?). It has built-in calling so your team can automatically make calls from the CRM and log them to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Highest ease of use rating: Tubular

Ease of use rating: 5/5 (12 reviews)

What could be easier than Excel? According to GetApp ratings: Tubular. The sales pipeline and CRM software will ween you off Excel by importing all of your contacts from your spreadsheets and setting them up in Tubular. You can also import leads from other sources if you’ve got them scattered throughout different apps, such as MailChimp and Autopilot

Tubular's timeline lets you see which tasks are upcoming or have been completed
Tubular’s timeline lets you see which tasks are upcoming or have been completed (Source)

Once you’ve got your leads imported, you can start making use of Tubular’s features including a unique one called DNA, which will create profiles of clients based on data pulled from their email addresses.

If getting your employees motivated is your biggest challenge, gamification features help you set up leaderboards to show how other members are performing, while collaboration features such as comment threads and file sharing ensure everyone is working together.

Highest functionality rating: ConvergeHub

Functionality rating: 5/5 (12 reviews)

Despite its fancy formulas, Excel lacks functionality compared to a proper sales pipeline management system. What doesn’t lack functionality, however, is ConvergeHub, which has the highest functionality rating by GetApp users.

The small business CRM has features for leads and deal management, which give you detailed info about the status of each deal, its value, the stage of sales that its in, and who it’s assigned to. Aside from just CRM features, it also has other features for marketing, customer support, billing, and collaboration.

An example of a contact entry in ConvergeHub
An example of a contact entry in ConvergeHub (Source)

Marketing automation features let you send automated campaigns to your clients based on which stage of the sales cycle they’re in, while customer support features give you case management and case history info to make sure that you’re up-to-speed on any customer service issues your clients might have. Its billing features let you create and send invoices, while its collaboration features let you store files and share not just with other team members, but channel partners too.

Highest customer support rating: Anthill

Customer support rating: 5/5 (11 reviews)

Microsoft doesn’t exactly offer a help line for figuring out how to use Excel (although there are plenty of forums to help with that). If you’re looking for more hands-on customer support, a tool like Anthill might do the trick; it’s rated highest in customer support by GetApp users.

Built for process-centric CRM, Anthill is meant to be tailored to your specific sales process. Its sales pipeline lets you see which deals are in the works, while its “health status” reports let you monitor customer happiness to see which accounts might need a bit more attention.

A sales report overview in Anthill
A sales report overview in Anthill (Source)

You can set custom workflows depending on the type of customer interaction you’re dealing with, as well as automate repetitive tasks by setting triggers based on customer actions. Its dashboards give you an overview of your sales to let you see your most important metrics upfront (and you can even export as a CSV if you really don’t want to let Excel go). Its marketing automation features let you send targeted marketing campaigns and get customer feedback via surveys.

Highest value for money rating: Salesmate

Value for money rating: 5/5 (18 reviews)

If you’re using the Microsoft suite, then Excel might seem like a low-cost option for managing your sales pipeline. But, it won’t have all of the features that’ll help bring your sales to the next level. That’s where Salesmate could help; it was rated highest value for the money by GetApp users.

Salesmate is a CRM and sales acceleration software to help small businesses grow their sales ops. Its sales pipeline gives you an overview of sales stages, letting you drag and drop deals along a visual pipeline. You can also create different pipelines depending on how many different sales processes you have (for different products, for example).

You can connect and sync your email to Salesmate to manage your emails inside the app
You can connect and sync your email to Salesmate to manage your emails inside the app (Source)

Its automation features take some of the work out of manual data entry by automatically importing fields from your website or lead forms and creating new deals. Email tracking is also automated by syncing your emails into the app and sending you notifications when an email’s been opened so that you can follow up at the right time.

Highest recommendation rating: TeamGram

Recommendation rating: 9.6/10 (17 reviews)

Excel could very likely be recommended for some things, but sales pipeline management isn’t one of them. TeamGram, with the highest recommendation rating on GetApp for CRM and sales management, is a better option.

Made for collaborative sales, TeamGram is a CRM and sales tool that makes sure everyone stays in the loop. Its CRM features let you collect and store info about your contacts and segment them for better targeting, while sharing notes will keep your colleagues up to date on your latest deals in a company newsfeed.

Teamgram's newsfeed give you a summary of the latest actions and sales news updates from your team
Teamgram’s newsfeed give you a summary of the latest actions and sales news updates from your team (Source)

You can receive notifications to your mobile phone when a task’s been assigned to you, as well as see a calendar overview of all upcoming tasks to help you better plan your days. If you’re selling products, you can also set up product listings and manage your inventory to make it easier to send quotes to clients or see when it’s time to reorder stock.

Ditch Excel for pipeline management

It’s pretty clear that dedicated software outshines Excel when it comes to CRM and sales pipeline management. If you’re looking to streamline your processes and make sure that your deals don’t fall through the cracks, adopting one of the solutions mentioned above is your best bet to ensure your company’s not missing out on any deals. The features that help you do that include:

  • Pipeline management: Gives you an overview of your deals and where your customers are in the sales process.
  • Task management: Assigns tasks to team members and makes sure that people know their next steps for moving a deal through the pipeline.
  • Automation: Sends automatic follow-ups or triggers based on a customer’s place in the sales pipeline, as well as imports data to create contact listings.
  • Email integration: Helps track emails and follow-ups with people at the most appropriate stage in the sales cycle.
  • Reporting: Provides an overview of your company’s performance in areas such as sales goals and team progress.

Whether you’re looking for an option that’s easy to use, has lots of functionality, or gives you the biggest bang for your buck, the options above are great places to start.

If you’re ready to ditch your spreadsheet and get started with a CRM, there are other options too:


METHODOLOGY

Apps for this article were chosen based on user ratings on GetApp. A list of all applications listed in the “CRM” category were considered for inclusion. Each app was vetted for inclusion based on whether it had >10 ratings published in the last 18 months, as well as whether it offered sales pipeline management features including contact management, interaction tracking, and lead management.

The highest rated app was selected for each rating factor, including: overall rating; ease of use; functionality; customer support; value for money; and recommended.

For apps that appeared in the top for more than one rating factor, the next suitable app was chosen to provide a unique list of applications.