CRM Transformation - From Spreadsheet to Scaling

We’ve heard from a number of our customers that the process of sales automation is a difficult transformation when a team’s already grounded in their existing processes. CRMs are sticky for a reason, and we’ve recently gone through the process of migrating from one popular CRM to another, and have decided to break down our CRM needs to the most basic visualization first - through spreadsheets.

Here are some things we learned from our CRM transformation:

Start with an MVP

We used the same process for transforming our sales team as we did for building our company’s core legal deal workflow technology. At Clausehound, we’ve spent years creating taxonomies and technology to scale deep legal, deal-closing knowledge, and we felt like the process of sketching out a rollout plan could be similar. Legal deal-closing software has a lot of parallels with sales technology. The process of closing legal deals or sales deals was historically managed by people with deep subject matter experience - sales transformation software aims to capture that experience and share it (and scale it).

So we started with an MVP, as we did with our own software. We started with simple spreadsheets, as that gave us the clearest way to watch legal deals progress (and to break down the elements of the deal - a Company’s precedent language and legal knowledge. Same goes for our sales transformation: We purchased the CRM software but, before we started loading it up with all of our leads, we started by building out the informational content and the lead storage database and structure within spreadsheets. For months, we rolled forward with thinking through content and sales workflow within the sheets, mapping almost nothing to our CRM other than preliminary templates. This was a really effective way for us to manage our deals and to think about what information we wanted to capture.

Moving to a management dashboard (while still in spreadsheets)

Within our core technology we eventually began implementing similar spreadsheet-based strategies for our document reviews, document negotiations, and workflows in general. Similarly within the CRM, after we laid the groundwork, we quickly started to automate our individual processes to determine (first within the sheets) how we’d want reports to look like by using sheet formulas to create management “dashboards”.

These dashboards pulled a subset of the master data sheet into new tabs that contained a snapshot of information. We copied and pasted that snapshot into emails that would circulate. Once we were able to make decisions on a daily basis using these snapshots, we knew we had what we wanted.

Migrating to a grid-based view of the CRM

We then began transferring that data organization to our CRM software. At that point, we now had a structure of what we wanted to see in our CRM reports, and made sure that our columns matched in our data uploads. As new data was entered, we’d frequently check to make sure that our lead lists and our management dashboards matched our spreadsheets.

The initial results were great! We migrated away from the sheets and now rely on the CRM for lead management and management reporting.

Now, on to scaling

The real test was scaling. Based on our prior entrepreneurial experience, we knew that one of the biggest challenges to scaling is dealing with the unexpected surprises that make sales communication or deal mechanics complicated. The type of surprises that have you running to your head of sales, or in the case of our company’s core software - the senior deal negotiator, to ask questions. So, once again we unrolled the blueprints of our Clausehound technology to try and map a scaling exercise. Within our core technology, our software manages hundreds of clauses per document review, along with negotiation decisions, and retains those for future decision-making. Could we map a similar knowledge capture and mapping process to our CRM?

First pitfall: We quickly found that we were swimming in sales knowledge and email templates, having hundreds of variation language and case-by-case scenario decision trees mapped out. The edge case scenarios and the “what about this customer?” questions resulted in variation after variation, not unlike the massive clause and decision library that we were managing for deal decisions.

How we iterated: Similar to our negotiation scenarios, we used a visual mapping exercise to determine which template was to be used under which circumstance, with a pre-planned “roadmap” of what to do in the first 7 or 14 or 21 steps of a customer’s journey with us.

Understanding a deal taxonomy is just as important in sales messaging as in Clausehound’s deal negotiations - so one of the key items our team kept in mind when iterating was the importance of categorization. We built our initial knowledge to address case-by-case scenarios, therefore when we set out to scale, we applied taxonomic-thinking to uncover the root categories to map specific sales segmentation knowledge. By grouping templates into their own customer segments, this allowed us to see more clearly where recipients funnel and where recipients could potentially “fall through the cracks”. Filling in those cracks based on assessments as to what the key goals and calls-to-action were for each segment, we were then able to see how segments interacted with each other, and how a recipient could flow through their segment messaging seamlessly, with goals and calls-to-action either compounding, or by honing in on the most important ones. At the end, we now had a clearly defined map (a visual map was key for this - to manage the massive volume of segments and messages that start to unfold!) of how our team interacts with recipients and how recipients could interact with us.

Further, we started monitoring the progress of our sales patterns, similar to in our core business (for deal progress, negotiation success) to see what decision was made regarding which item, what the other alternatives were, what the logic behind it was, and how it could be improved and done differently, among others.


The spreadsheet is the hero of this transformational story and, without a doubt, now that we’re in a CRM, we’re able to benefit from automations, reporting dashboards and metrics that were not possible using spreadsheets. By converting from spreadsheet to CRM, we achieved the desired outcomes: (1) fast access for the sales team to the correct templates using our visual map; (2) fast decision-making on which templates to apply, and most importantly; (3) access to management and reporting dashboards to help us to determine the effectiveness of our efforts.

These outcomes mapped to our own platform’s outcome, in which valuable deal-by-deal intelligence and knowledge could be captured automatically within our platform’s database, to increase the efficiency and speed of reviews, to explain variances logically to anyone from an auditor to a new employee, and to track success of each process.

It was helpful that we started from our Clausehound taxonomy-first approach to building our CRM content, because from the start we could see that an obstacle to smooth sales processes (or deal negotiation) is knowledge capture and retention. We all invest a lot of time in making calculated decisions towards sales messaging, just as our customers spend a lot of careful time considering contract language edits and legal deal decision-making. Our team has found that investing in categorizing, retaining and reusing this knowledge for future deals is very important as the team scales to new levels of hiring, as well as for effective team management through transitionary periods.

About Us: Clausehound has created the first mobile first legal document review platform with document commenting, editing, and access to a document library completely accessible by “thumb”. Contact us to learn more!