Using Outlook and a spreadsheet for CRM is like swimming with a rock on your back. The future is bleak, unless you're doing it for the wrong reasons in the wrong way, in which case you shouldn't be doing it at all.
Then again if you're the sort of guy who enjoys making life difficult with nothing working the way it should I guess you and Microsoft deserve each other and you're in the wrong place now.
If, on the other hand, you want a new way of managing sales, service and internal projects you've come to the right place. This blog is all about cutting out the garbage and focusing on what makes a difference - helping you get more done on time with as little effort and confusion as possible.
You'll understand success isn't about being clever with spreadsheets. It isn't about manipulating software to do something that was never intended for. Success is about adding value, and the way you add value is create more with less effort. And that takes planning - figuring out how to something better, scheduling and executing actions, then reviewing results and finding an even better way of doing it.
And the reason using Outlook and spreadsheets for CRM is like swimming with a rock on your back is the Plan, Act, Review function isn't there, in the dimensions you need it.
OK I'll accept you can make an effort with notes and email folders and memory, but that approach adds complexity and overhead when you really need to reduce those handicaps. They are the rocks on your back, making staying afloat and moving forward much more difficult than need be.
You can easily fix the problem, once you've understood it. Try planning whatever you want to achieve in Milestones (not Actions). Each Milestone is a review point. Is this thing going where you want it to, when you want it to.
Then decide on Actions which will reach those Milestones, and Schedule them, assigning each to a Person. If they don't happen as planned change the Person, or the Milestone, or the Plan. Each Action is a review point.
Be prepared to can the deal or project. If it isn't going to happen, recognising the reality early helps you focus on other stuff which will, rather than waste time on stuff that won't.
The biggest single problem for any small business guy, or sales professional, is knowing when to stop throwing good money after bad. And that's the problem you can solve with a strong, maybe unpalatable, dose of realism and Plan, Act, Review.
Now all you need is some software to help manage the process and information while your brain gets on with the new ideas.