Using Airtable as a CRM to Increase your Sales Pipeline (Step by Step Guide)

Mariam Ispiryan • August 10, 2022 • 14 min read

So, you need a CRM to help nurture the relationship between your business and your customers. But every traditional CRM software out there is either too expensive or has a bunch of features you have no use for. 

So why pay for something you’re never going to use? Especially if you’re a small business, startup, or solopreneur, every unnecessary expense is a stressor. 

Airtable is a flexible database-spreadsheet hybrid that helps users build collaborative apps, like a sales CRM. 

But an Airtable CRM can only take you so far. So in this article, we’ll walk you through the steps you need to take to create an Airtable CRM and explain how you can use tools like Softr to supercharge your CRM and increase sales. 

Table of contents:

  1. Is Airtable a CRM?
  2. Why you shouldn’t use Airtable as your CRM
  3. How to create an Airtable CRM: 5 easy steps to follow 
  4. How to get the most out of your Airtable CRM (and increase sales)
  5. If you use Airtable, take it to the next level

One of the best things about Airtable is its flexibility.

Connect your Airtable database to Softr and turn your CRM into a flexible no-code web app in minutes.

Is Airtable a CRM?

Airtable isn’t a CRM, but its flexibility, various automations, and data collection and organization functions allow people to use it as one. Think of Airtable as providing the car parts you need to build a unique, specialized car.

If having three wheels and tinted windows is useful for you, you can make that happen. And if someday you realize you only need two wheels, you can drop one without any fuss.

This makes Airtable an especially useful solution for entrepreneurs and smaller businesses who need a solution that’s: 

  • Affordable. Airtable’s free plan allows smaller teams to get started easily while still offering enough functions and features to create a strong CRM. 

  • User-friendly. Airtable’s familiar spreadsheet-like interface and in-depth documentation help users build tools without needing any previous technical knowledge. 

  • Scalable. As your business needs grow and change, so will your CRM. Airtable helps users scale easily by offering high record limits, alerts for field dependencies, and granular insights. 

  • Easy to integrate. With native integrations and third-party solutions like Zapier, you can connect any part of your workflow with external data sources and tools like Mailchimp, LinkedIn, and Typeform.

  • Uncomplicated. Off-the-shelf solutions like Salesforce are powerful but can get complicated fast. So if you’re not looking for a full-blown CRM solution with all the bells and whistles, Airtable is a better choice. 

  • Relatively customizable. As opposed to ready-made solutions that are pretty rigid in their design, Airtable allows you to customize your solution to match your unique needs. That means you can develop your Airtable CRM as your business grows and changes, and add and drop functions as you see fit.

“After spending a few hours working on my very own custom CRM according to my requirements, I absolutely loved the end result. It had all the things I needed! All the other CRM programs had way too many things I didn't need and weren't customizable enough for my needs.”

Kimberly Ortiz,

Owner and Creative Director at Boost Web Studio

Why you shouldn’t use Airtable as your CRM 

Despite all the perks, there are a few potential drawbacks to using Airtable as your CRM. For example, the customization options can get overwhelming, and the lack of an organized front-end might lead to chaos as your bases grow. But of course, there are ways to remedy that (more on this later!)

It lacks native communication capabilities 

As a CRM, Airtable works by collecting, storing, and helping you manage data from various channels. However, it doesn’t automatically create a single communication hub.

For example, dedicated CRM software will alert team members when another colleague has already emailed a customer. Airtable doesn’t have that capability, which might cause employees to mistakenly reach out to people who have already been contacted.

To enable similar communication tracking functions, you could connect a chatbot or set up automated notifications to make sure everyone stays on the same page. 

The design process can get overwhelming 

The flexibility of Airtable can easily get overwhelming. How do you know if adding another custom field or extension would be helpful to your sales pipeline? And how many automations is a good number to start with? 

Before you start building your CRM, make sure you understand your sales process so you know exactly what tools and features will best suit your business. Having a roadmap will help you stay focused—and remember, constant iteration is key.

An Airtable CRM doesn’t automatically prioritize leads

With an Airtable CRM, you won’t automatically get notifications on actions like who clicked on or opened your emails. And not knowing how long it’s been since your last interaction with a lead can make follow-ups more difficult. 

So to make lead tracking easier, you’ll need to set up automated tasks, notifications, and reminders.

Using Airtable as your CRM

Pros Cons
Affordable ✅ Lack of native communication tracking functions ❌
User-friendly ✅ Can get overwhelming ❌
Customizable ✅ Doesn’t automatically prioritize leads ❌
Uncomplicated ✅ -
Scalable ✅ -
Easy-to-integrate ✅ -

How to create an Airtable CRM: 5 easy steps to follow

Sales and personal CRM tools help you nurture relationships with customers, clients, and leads, so you don’t miss out on opportunities to grow your business. They save you time and mental energy and make sure nothing falls through the cracks. 

So let’s take a look at how you can develop an Airtable CRM that’s a more affordable and user-friendly alternative to traditional, ready-made tools like Zoho.

Step 1: Create a new base and decide between a template or starting from scratch

The first thing you need to do when building any sort of tool with Airtable is to create a new base and name it. Your base will be your new workspace where all your information will be stored. 

Once you’ve set up your new base, you have the option to import your information list, start from scratch, or duplicate a ready-made CRM template. 

Templates make the design process more straightforward, but starting from scratch allows you to address your business’s unique needs more easily. 

airtable base to build a crm

To create a CRM on Airtable, you first need to build a base. Then, decide whether to start from scratch or use a ready-to-use template.

For a more in-depth tutorial on how to build your CRM from scratch, check out the video below by Airtable expert Gareth Pronovost at GAP Consulting.

Building your own CRM with Airtable is a user-friendly and affordable alternative to off-the-shelf solutions.

Pro tip: if you want to duplicate a template but don’t like any of those Airtable offers, check out the Airtable Universe CRM templates. They’re built by real users and might fit your unique use case better. 

Step 2: Gather sales information in a spreadsheet 

Next, it’s time to put all your sales information in a spreadsheet that you’ll later import to your base. This saves you the headache of manually entering each record. 

Gather all the customer and prospect data you find relevant from email lists, social media, websites, internal tools, and other sources. Make sure the fields in your Google Sheet, Excel, or CSV files correspond with the field types you want to have on Airtable.

Of course, your fields will depend on your use case and requirements. Some of the most common include:

  • Full name 
  • First name
  • Last name 
  • Email address and other contact information
  • Account 
  • Date of last interaction 
  • Onboarding documents
  • Lead source 
  • Deal probability

Step 3: Edit contact list fields based on sales process

Before importing your data, define your sales process stages so you know exactly how to edit the pre-populated fields. 

The template comes with many of the common essential fields like:

  1. Full name and organization
  2. First name
  3. Account
  4. Email 
  5. Phone number 
  6. Title 
  7. Company name 
  8. Interactions
  9. Opportunities

But these fields aren’t set in stone, so you can rename, delete, or add depending on your sales process.

define your sales process and edit the Airtable fields

Before importing your data, define your sales process and edit the fields based on the required stages in your workflow.

Step 4: Import your data and edit field types

Next, under Import your work, click on the appropriate source and import the spreadsheet you made in step two. By clicking on CSV/Other, you get the option to upload a file directly from your device, paste a link, or import information from sources like Dropbox and Google Drive.

import your data to Airtable

Collect your sales information in a spreadsheet you can import to Airtable to save you the trouble of filling in fields manually.

Once imported, Airtable converts all field types into single-line text, so be sure to make adjustments as required. 

For example, you can choose the email field for rows where a prospect or client’s email address goes. To do that, simply click on the field you want to change and select customize field type. Then, pick the appropriate field.

customize field type

After importing your information, make sure the field types match the kind of information you want to store.

Step 5: Set up views

With your data set up, you can go ahead and establish various views that help you visualize your workflow in the most efficient way possible. 

For example, the calendar view gives you a high-level look at upcoming meetings, calls, and follow-ups, so you never miss a deadline. With the Kanban view, you can monitor each client or prospect as they move through the customer journey.

customize your crm with Airtable views

To further customize your CRM, set up different views and visualize your data however you prefer.

And with that, your CRM is set up and you can start tracking sales activities. If you’re interested in taking your CRM to the next level without breaking the bank, read on as we discuss some best practices and practical tips.

How to get more out of your Airtable CRM (and increase sales)

Your CRM design journey doesn’t have to end with Airtable. With Softr, you can supercharge your Airtable CRM and extend your customized solution even further without any code (and smaller teams and entrepreneurs can even build for free!)

So what do we mean by “extending your solution?” Softr is a no-code website and web app builder that uses your Airtable data to create tailored software solutions like CRMs by using simple building blocks. 

So, for example, Softr could help you do the following with your Airtable CRM:

  1. Create a beautiful and organized front-end 
  2. Set custom user permissions 
  3. Use your solution on the move
  4. Securely accept and manage payments

Let’s take a look at these points in more detail so you better understand what the Airtable - Softr duo can accomplish.

Create a beautiful and organized front-end 

As your records and sales processes grow, Airtable’s interface tends to get crowded and disorganized in a hurry. With Softr, users can rely on Airtable as their database solution and build an organized, customized front-end that helps them easily view their data at a glance. 

softr template crm

Softr lets users create CRMs and other custom web apps with pre-generated templates and building blocks. 

Softr even has a pre-built sales CRM template you can use to get started in minutes. All you need to do is connect your Airtable data, customize the CRM building blocks, and publish!

An organized front-end positively impacts the customer experience and helps you increase sales by:

  1. Reducing your team’s manual tasks
  2. Allowing customers to help themselves to information

When you build a CRM that’s a powerful web app, it isn’t just for you and your employees, either. Customers can also use it to connect with you and get answers to their questions. 

With Softr, you can set up a knowledge and FAQ base where customers can help themselves without bothering human reps. Setting up a customer-facing side to your CRM frees up time and lets you and your team members focus on doing what you love.

Set custom user permissions 

By establishing custom user permissions for your new CRM, you can reduce information overwhelm, make sure the right people see the right information, and increase security.

You can set up user group permissions on Airtable, but they’re rather limited and only include:

  1. Read-only
  2. Commenter
  3. Editor
  4. Owner/creator

But with Softr, you can restrict access based on criteria like:

  1. User roles
  2. Departments 
  3. User groups 
  4. Logged-in users

One of the best things about Airtable is its flexibility.

Connect your Airtable database to Softr and turn your CRM into a flexible no-code web apps in minutes.

gated content and user permissions with Softr

Setting granular user permissions increases your CRM’s security while reducing information overload for you and your team.

Use your solution on the move 

While Airtable gives users lots of flexibility, the mobile experience is still quite limited when compared with desktop apps. This is a pretty big drawback, especially for those who work remotely or want to use their CRM on the go.

For example, on both iOS and Android, Airtable users can’t:

  1. Export or import CSVs
  2. Undo or redo actions
  3. Create or view extensions (mini-apps) natively 
  4. Create formula and lookup fields
  5. Create or view forms 
  6. Access timeline or Gantt views
  7. Use automations or the interface designer

However, with Softr, you can conveniently use your CRM whenever and wherever you are and even turn it into a no-code Progressive Web App (PWA) with mobile app capabilities.  

Securely accept and manage payments

Airtable is a great solution for many processes like data storage and organization. However, if you’re thinking of building a client-facing CRM and accepting payments, you’ll find Airtable quite limiting. 

As of now, users can’t natively integrate their Airtable CRM with payment solutions like Stripe. But with Softr, you can securely manage payments using our native Stripe integration. That way, you can keep all your processes in one place and provide an exceptional customer experience.

If you use Airtable, take it to the next level

All in all, Airtable is a great alternative to off-the-shelf CRM software due to its:

  1. Affordability
  2. Flexibility
  3. Customizability 
  4. User-friendliness
  5. Scalability

However, it’s not without its drawbacks. For example, while Airtable’s wide customization options are a huge plus, they can also overwhelm new users who have never built their own CRM before.

Additionally, as your base grows, it will become increasingly prone to chaos. That’s where having the option to build an organized front-end for your Airtable database solution comes in handy.

Softr is a no-code website and web app builder that helps you build your own CRM without needing to spend weeks mastering a steep learning curve or hiring a specialized CRM tool expert to handle the day-to-day. 

All you need to do is connect your Airtable database solution with Softr, use our pre-made building blocks to assemble your CRM, and you’ll be good to go. So if you’re determined to go the Airtable route and just need to supercharge your CRM, the Airtable-Softr duo is for you.

Thank you for inspiration and insight to:

Matt Hammel, COO and Cofounder at AirOps

One of the best things about Airtable is its flexibility.

Connect your Airtable database to Softr and build beautiful no-code web apps in minutes.

Frequently asked questions about using Airtable as a CRM

While Airtable isn’t a dedicated CRM tool, it can still be used as one. Its powerful data organization capabilities, variety of handy automations, and customizable templates make it a cost-effective and flexible alternative to CRM software.

1. Login or Sign up to Airtable 2. Create a base 3. Gather sales information in a spreadsheet 4. Edit contact list fields based on sales process 5. Import your spreadsheet 6. Set up views

Thanks to no-code tools like Airtable and Softr, you don’t need a technical background or dedicated software development team to build and maintain your customer relationship management (CRM) database. 1. Sign up or sign in to Softr 2. Duplicate the sales CRM template 3. Connect your Airtable database 4. Set up and adjust Airtable List Block settings 5. Move, adjust, and customize other pre-built blocks 6. Review and finalize settings before publishing

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