There are quite a few options when you are looking for wholesaling lead management software. Probably one of the most popular lead tracking tools out there is simply Microsoft Excel. I have seen countless forum posts on Bigger Pockets asking what CRMs other wholesalers use. The one consistent answer that I see is to use Excel as a CRM. It’s not necessarily the best, only that there is always a couple of people who swear buy it.
In my efforts to explore many of the top lead management systems out there I’d be remiss if I didn’t look at Excel. Almost everyone is familiar with it and you can put together a simple spreadsheet in no time at all.
- Open Excel
- Go to the first Spreadsheet
- Enter Column headings in the first row
- Start inputting your lead information into the sheet
No other System can have you up and running faster…Period!
The Easy Features
Once you start to use Microsoft Excel you’ll start to realize the full power of the product. Without getting into too much detail, here are some features that I think you can use to make a simple spreadsheet become even more useful. In fact you may find that these things are all that you need.
- General Formatting
- Conditional Formatting
- Field Validation
- Linking Multiple Spread Sheets
Many of these features are great for formatting and organizing your data better. They are the most commonly used features in Excel and you may be familiar with them already. If so that is wonderful! Here is what I would possibly use each of the above items for…
- Auto calculate my offer from ARV, Repair Estimate and Wholesale Fee fields = (ARV * 70%) – REPAIR COSTS – WHOLESALE FEE
- Create a summary sheet that calculates the total number of leads you have per lead type
- Create a link field to link out to Google Maps to see a property address
- Change text color of leads that have responded, dead or Under Contract
- Change background color for leads that you need to follow up with by keying off a Follow Up Date field
- Create a selection box for the Status, Condition and House Type Fields
- Make sure a valid date is used in a date field
- Make sure a zip code has 5 digits
- Convert data into tables which allows me to use Table features like summaries.
- Easy way to setup Sorting and Filtering
- Dynamic Charting
Linking Multiple Spread Sheets
- Use other spreadsheets to hold select values
- Create work tables that hold values like “Wholesale Fee” and “Percent off ARV” that you can use in formulas throughout the workbook
- Excel has an Auto-Filter feature that when you turn it on you can filter records by any number of field values. Perfect for when you just want to view leads for a specific area.
- Find a property that I’m looking for by name, address or phone number
Taking it to the Next Level (Advanced Features)
While the features I mentioned above are great, the real power of excel is the Macro Engine. If you have never heard of (or used) macros, think of them as a way to automate many manual tasks. For example..
You routinely want to Filter all your Property Leads to see Probate properties in Morristown that you need to follow up with. To do this you would have to go through many steps to get this result each and every time…
- Turn on Filtering
- Set the filter for Lead Type to “Probate”
- Set the filter for City to “Morristown”
- Set the filter for Followup Date to Current Date
That would annoy the crap out of me for sure. So why not create a macro that does this for you? What is great about macros is that they can be EASY to create. Just go into the VIEW Ribbon Menu Item, Click On Macros and then Record Macro. Then actually go through the steps listed above. Once you are finished press Stop Recording. That’s It!
Now the next time you want to view Probates in Morristown that you want to follow up with Today just run the Macro. Crazy simple and Useful!
Under the Macro Hood
When you record a Macro, what is really happening is that Excel is creating Code. This code is the representation of the actions you took while recording the macro. This CODE is written in a language called Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). What is awesome about that is you can leverage VBA to create your own custom macros to do pretty much anything you want.
Some examples of what you can do if you learn how to code VBA (or hire someone)..
- Create User Input Forms
- Scan all leads and Move certain ones to other sheets
- Popup a Custom form telling you what leads need to be handled today
- Connect to an access database to upload leads to a database
- Mail Merge with a word document with a push of a button
The possibilities are endless.
What are my thoughts on Using Excel for a CRM
In the previous sections I just wanted to give you an overview of the power that excel offers. It’s greatest strength is it’s flexibility. With little skill you can create a custom spreadsheet that will help any beginning real estate investor keep organized. Then as one’s business grows you can expand/modify your spreadsheet.
Over the past 30 days I took to creating a Lead Management spreadsheet from scratch. It has been a while since I’ve worked in Excel so I pretty much had to re-learn many of the things that were required. I think this gave me a fairly good perspective on what it takes to get up and going with excel. Here are my findings…
What I Learned About Microsoft Excel?
Excel is so much more powerful then I thought it could be. What ever my needs where to track a lead it could handle in one way or another. In reality Excel is a development environment that gives you the tools to create some elaborate spreadsheets. As I did research into what could be accomplished, I was amazed with the complexity of the examples I’ve seen. This just went to the point of how powerful excel is.
The best part about Excel is that anyone can create a spreadsheet and modeled after how they do business. We aren’t stuck using a system that someone else created based off their knowledge and business. Wholesalers, rehabbers and landlords can all use excel to keep track of their properties. Oh and I almost forgot….You probably already have Excel on your computers so it is FREE!
How Long did it Take to Get Up and Running?
I fired up Excel, opened up a new workbook and………Now What? I quickly realized the first downfall of using excel as my lead management system. I had to develop it from scratch. What that means is a lot of time was going to be spent thinking about…
- What information I wanted to capture/record
- How i wanted to organize that information
- How was I going to status and keep track of each property
Answering these questions takes much longer then you can possibly expect. I’d say it took me 2 days to get my framework down and then another day as I tweaked. As a software developer in my day job, these decisions are some of the most important decisions you make when developing an application. Make no mistake about this…its an application!
So that was one side of the story. The other side is actually creating the spreadsheet…Piece of cake. It took me only a few hours to lay it out and in no time at all I had a usable tool to keep track of my wholesale property leads.
3 days of planning
3 hours of setup
Up and Running Rating: 6/10
Is the Learning Curve Steep or Shallow?
There are multiple levels of Excel, so it makes this question difficult to answer in one statement. Most people will start off with a simple spreadsheet and over time want to add more advanced features. This is actually a great way to learn how to use excel. Microsoft does a great job of shielding the users from the complex features of excel until you are ready to use them.
Here is my view on the learning curve of Excel…
Very Shallow – For doing basic things like setting up a table with rows, columns and formatting the data
Moderate – For using general features such as Formulas, Conditional Formatting and Validation
Steep – For leveraging Macros and developing your own VBA functions
Learning Curve Rating: 5/10
How Much Time Does it Save?
The entire point of having a property lead management system is to save you time right? And Excel definitely will do this for you, but not right away. You are going to spend quite a bit of time setting up your first spreadsheet. Then after that you’ll be doing a lot of tweaking over the next year as you use it in real business situations. Nobody gets it perfect the first time.
All of your time savings will be on the back end once you have the spreadsheet setup exactly how you need it. Just like anything new, most of your time spent will be trying to figure out how to do things with in the Excel Universe. You might spend 2 days trying to figure out how to do something as trivial as changing the back color or a row without the border lines disappearing.
My Time Savings Rating takes all that into consideration. My best guess is that the average person would take about a months worth of work to get their spreadsheet to where it does some pretty cool things.
Time Savings Rating: 3/10
Is it worth the time/money cost?
With my free time dwindling these days I tend to value my time very highly. I love developing applications and creating things from scratch. Even with all the positive things I’ve said about Excel and the fact that it is essentially Free, I have to say it’s not worth developing the spreadsheet yourself. Hire someone from Elance or oDesk. It won’t cost a lot of money but it’ll get done more quickly and probably better.
Like I said before…you are creating an application here. It’s far more complex then you could imagine which means you will spend far more time then you thought. It took me two weeks to create the version I’m including for free in this post. I even had to forget about adding a ton of features or I would have never finished. I am a software developer with experience in Excel and VBA and it still took me that long. Imagine someone with little to know experience.
Time/Money Rating: 3/10
Final Thoughts on Using Microsoft Excel as a Lead Management Tool
There is no arguing the price or the capability of Excel to help you manager your wholesale leads. What really holds me back from recommending it is the time and effort required to set it up the way you will need. Even the minimum for a novice Excel user will take a few weeks. Do you have the time, energy or passion to learn?
Here is my quick breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages I see with Excel…
- Extremely Flexible
- Free (assuming you have MS Office already)
- Easy to create a simple spreadsheet to get up and running
- Customize it to how you work and do business
- You can add what you need as you go
- Plenty of Help Resources out there
- Could get very complicated
- You have to develop it yourself and that takes time
- Being familiar with using macros is a must to add valuable features
- Understand how to use VBA (macro scripting language) is not for a beginner
- No real user interface (unless you create one with VBA)
Final Rating: 4/10
I believe you can get away with using Excel when you first start out as an investor. But as you grow you’ll quickly find that your spreadsheet will start to get out of control.
You’ll have 1000s of leads and 50+ data points per lead to keep track of. It drove me crazy trying to find the field I wanted, for the lead I wanted. Sure you can build some nice macros to help you out, but that is just more time you are spending away from the important parts of your business.
FREE DOWNLOAD! Property Lead Manager Spreadsheet
To really investigate what it takes to use Excel as a lead manager I developed one myself. I wanted to make it as simple as I could by only including the most basic of fields. Because I understand VBA more so then Excel Functions/Formulas most of what I did was created in Macros.
Here is a quick Video Demonstration of the Spreadsheet.
The Spreadsheet has the following features to help you get started. Feel free to add additional features or improve on what I’ve done.
- Input Forms to Add and Edit new Leads
- Statusing with color changing text and backgrounds
- Clicking address opens up a Google Map of the location
- Add Up to 18 Custom fields
- Easily Delete a Lead
- Dropdown Selection for Status and State Fields
- Filtering of Leads
The base fields that I included in this spreadsheet are as follows…
- Property Info (Address, City, State, Zip & County)
- Contact Info (First Name, Last Name, Company Name, Address, City, State, Zip, Phone & Email)
- Custom Fields (Units, Bedrooms, Bathrooms, Rooms, Condition, House Type, Reason for Selling & Motivation Level)
Of the 18 custom fields you can add, I used up 8 of them. If you don’t like certain ones I’ve added, just delete them and add new fields that you would like to have. I believe this Property Lead Sheet is an excellent tool to get started and grow with. I used some advanced features but it’s nothing you can’t figure out with a little testing.
To get the lead manager just click the button below. I’ll be happy to email it to you if you are interested to see what I developed.
Free Excel Lead Manager
Download the FREE Excel Lead Manager I created to go along with this post.Click Here to get the Excel Lead Manager
What tools do you use to keep track of your wholesaling leads?
It’s hard to decide which tool you should use because there are so many out there. I’ve always liked to follow the crowd and use what most others are using. The main reason is because if there is a large enough community of users the support will be easier to find. So What do you Use?
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