Why building business cases in Excel doesn't work

We discuss the problems faced by both the salesperson and customer when Excel spreadsheets are used to build business cases.

Vicky Barnes
February 24, 2021

When customers start their journey with Shark Finesse they will often come from an environment where a spreadsheet-based tool is used to create a business case with their customers. We have learned many reasons why our customers moved away from this type of tool and here we explore the key factors as to why this type of tool isn’t fit for purpose for both the customer and the salesperson.

Customers do not respond to Excel spreadsheets.

Let’s be honest, a spreadsheet is not very engaging. But this is just the start of issues related to using a spreadsheet to build a business case and why a customer might not respond in the way a salesperson may hope.

Spreadsheets are static and do not allow for live shaping of business cases which can become frustrating for both the customer and salesperson, they have little or no flexibility to allow for start and end months of benefits, however, one of the biggest reasons for this lack of desired customer response is trust. Spreadsheets hide formulas in the background, so the customer doesn’t really know where a figure is coming from (and sometimes neither does the salesperson, but more on that later). This lack of trust is huge when it comes to creating business cases. You need your customer’s buy-in, you need them to believe what you are saying and agree to the potential benefits for their business so that they can champion, promote, and defend the business case internally when you’re not there.

Sales teams do not like using Excel spreadsheets for building business cases.

“There are no outputs!”

Using a spreadsheet to build a business case takes a lot of time, time which is valuable especially in a sales environment where targets and quotas need to be met. This process becomes even more time consuming when you need to reuse this information to create a written proposal and / or presentation. It is important to be able to give you customer a business case quickly, you’ve spent time with them, they’ve been engaged and agree with what you’ve put in the business case, if you take weeks to get back to them, they may have forgotten your conversations and you could have lost your chance.

“We don’t really know how the spreadsheet works.”

In addition to the time factor, in most cases the spreadsheet will have been built by one person and it may not be clear how the tool works. This can cause problems when a customer asks specific questions about the calculations, the salesperson may be stuck for an answer which can negatively impact their confidence and so they do not (and will not) use the spreadsheet with customers.

“We can’t update the spreadsheets easily!”

An issue that we regularly see is that the original spreadsheet that sales teams are using to build business cases was designed by one person (or an expensive external consultant), and in some cases this person no longer works for the company, so no-one really knows how the spreadsheet works. Therefore, it is difficult to change or update. When this happens, salespeople start using their own versions of the spreadsheet which ultimately leads to an inconsistent value approach.

If you would like to know how to overcome these objections by using Shark to create business cases, take a look at this page - Shark vs. Excel

What we do

At Shark Finesse we have developed an enterprise-grade cloud application to help businesses standardise and simplify their value engagements across the entire customer journey.

Shark, a business value engagement platform used by 1000’s of customer-facing teams globally (e.g. pre-sales, sales, value teams, and customer success) is easy to use, intuitive and usable directly with the customer to negotiate the likely business returns from investing in a solution.

By adopting the Shark approach you will fundamentally transform conversations with new and existing customers, close more business, and differentiate from the competition.
Find out how


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