A guide to spreadsheets vs. CRMs for CRE brokers

Spreadsheets are canceled

Are you still using spreadsheets and other archaic technology and processes to manage your entire book of business? Then it’s time to reevaluate. Read on to learn how you can evolve your tech stack to save yourself time and better support your clients.

Apto has been at the forefront of the CRE tech revolution since we opened our doors, and we have varied and thorough channels to collect feedback from commercial real estate brokers in real-time, whether customers or not. We know what tools brokers need to become—and stay—successful. And we know that managing your entire book of business in a spreadsheet will put you at a competitive disadvantage.

Spreadsheets are unwieldy and riddled with errors. If you’re looking to optimize every stage of the deal process, from collecting data, to managing contacts, to prospecting, and to closing, there is a better way. 

If you haven’t yet, don’t forget to check out our Commercial Real Estate Tech Maturity Model for even more technology and process best practices.


Technology: Spreadsheet, Email, and Data Source

Example solutions

  • Spreadsheet - Excel
  • Email - Outlook, Gmail
  • Data provider - CoStar, Reonomy, Cherre, Landvision


  • Data Research: Check data source without regularity/a set cadence
  • Contact Management: Make notes/update spreadsheet when you remember
  • Prospecting: Block time on email calendar for prospecting
  • Deal Flow: Update spreadsheet before weekly team meeting to discuss pipeline


  • Have some lightweight repeatable processes in place
  • Some individual solutions are free/low cost


  • A spreadsheet in Excel, for example, is static and does not reflect the most up to date information. Especially if you’re on a team, you’re always searching/asking around for the most recent version of the team pipeline spreadsheet. This can lead to communication breakdowns and potentially multiple teammates reaching out to the same client, making you look unorganized and unprofessional.
  • If Excel unexpectedly quits/your computer freezes or crashes, your changes won’t be saved. Needless to say, this can be a huge headache/waste of time and lead to bad/stale data.
  • If you accidentally delete a row or a column, that could mean forgetting about a client altogether and not remembering to reach out to them when an opportunity arises. And worse yet, a competitor will get to them instead and you’ll lose out on potential commission.
  • Relying on an email client for contact management is also not the most efficient solution. Emails get deleted, chains get confusing, and you will still waste considerable time trying to dig up an old message for context for an upcoming conversation.
  • While a lot of these solutions have free or low-cost subscriptions, you’re still having to piece together multiple pieces of technology and juggle multiple browser windows or applications to get your end result. In the long run, it’s not that cost effective and difficult to manage.

Tips & best practices

If you absolutely must use spreadsheets and email to manage your entire book of business, consider working in some of these best practices:

  • Maintain a regular cadence of friendly follow-up with prospective, current, and past clients. Monthly, or even quarterly, just send a simple “checking in” email. In doing so, you can check a contact’s email signature to see their most up to date phone number, or read an automatic reply to make a note of when someone’s email address has changed. 
  • If you’re still using Excel, check out these shortcuts to save you a little bit of time.

Starting to see how managing your entire book of business in a static spreadsheet can be time consuming and risky? Then keep scrolling...


Technology: Cloud-based spreadsheet, lightweight email marketing, communication platform, and data source

Example solutions

  • Cloud-based spreadsheet - Google Docs
  • Email marketing - ConstantContact, MailChimp
  • Communication platform - Slack, Zoom
  • Data provider - CoStar, Reonomy, Cherre, Landvision 


  • Not much different from 1.0, except…
  • One shared, cloud-based pipeline spreadsheet (like a Google Sheet) for your team that everyone has access to and can make updates to on the fly 
  • A little bit of email marketing to help with prospecting efforts
  • Communication platform that allows for instant messaging and video chatting


  • Don’t always have to be emailing an Excel attachment to each other/looking for the most up to date version. Helps your team stay coordinated and improve communication with each other and clients.
  • Email marketing helps to supplement your cold-calling efforts.
  • A communication platform fosters more collaboration and helps with requests for teammates that require a more urgent response than email.


  • A lot of your processes are still manual and time consuming.
  • While adding email marketing into the mix helps with increasing your prospecting efforts, it’s not really about quantity of outreaches. It’s about quality. There still aren’t many insights you can glean from sifting through a spreadsheet (even if cloud-based) to help you make the most out of each connection.
  • You’re still paying for/managing a lot of pieces of technology/applications. With information living across multiple platforms, communication is bound to get lost in translation. Siloed data can mean missed follow-ups, which could mean losing a deal.

Tips & best practices

Welcome to the cloud! While storing data here is a step in the right direction, using a cloud-based spreadsheet plus multiple other softwares to manage your business still isn’t the most efficient. Keep scrolling… 


Technology: CRM, email marketing, listings platform, multiple data sources

Example solutions

  • CRM - Salesforce, HubSpot
  • Email marketing - ConstantContact, MailChimp, SharpLaunch
  • Listings platform - LoopNet, Crexi
  • Data source - CoStar, Reonomy, Cherre, Landvision 


  • Data Research: Organized cadence of conducting research/updating data in CRM
  • Contact Management: Contacts are well organized and connected to other data points like related properties
  • Prospecting: Cold-calling (CRM might have a built-in dialer), email marketing, and using a listings site/sending sleek marketing materials
  • Deal Flow: Can update deal stages in isolation and get task reminders for deal activities


  • A lot of your processes have evolved from manual to automatic, helping save you time
  • Your data on contacts and properties is a lot more organized and easily accessible because it’s stored in one location, in the cloud.
  • A lot of CRMs (like Salesforce) centralize communication within the platform. You can notify colleagues of changes and share files without ever having to leave the software.


  • If your CRM is not designed specifically for commercial real estate, you’re likely overwhelmed by all of the functionality and/or spend a good chunk of change on customizing the solution. 
  • While investing in a CRM is a great first step, CRE-specific CRMs are organized the way you think so you can apply them the way you work. In other words, the names for different fields or records within the system are words you know and use to describe parts of your business on a daily basis.
  • CRE-specific CRMs also integrate with a lot of the tools you are already using, so you don’t have to leave the software to send emails, create marketing materials, etc.

Tips & best practices

  • If you want to stay competitive and successful you need to invest in technology. Period. Check out what tech and marketing strategies some commercial real estate brokers are using to stay at the top of their game.

Ready to make the switch to commercial real estate technology designed by brokers, for brokers? Request a demo of Buildout's CRM, Marketing, or Prospecting solutions today.

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