The 2007 Market Awards: Sales Force Automation

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The Market Sales force automation (SFA) is evolving into something larger and more comprehensive than it has ever been. Vendors have been trying new angles to add more functionality, such as proposal management, analytics, territory and quota management, guided selling, and more. In fact, SFA is beginning to feel so much like a sales management package to complement CRM that we strongly considered rebranding this category as Sales Management. We might not be there yet, but the wise will keep an eye on this market space and especially on those vendors providing "SFA Plus." Sales Force Automation: The Chart
One to Watch This year's SFA One to Watch was a hard choice, because of the changes we see coming in the category itself. Several companies generated enough excitement that we came close to restructuring the entire category. One such innovator is Landslide Technologies, which, despite not quite having the SFA chops, got some glowing comments from analysts. "We have benchmarked several Landslide users," says Jim Dickie, partner with CSO Insights. "Sales management loves the fact that they can easily integrate sales process and technology to give them laserlike visibility into the quality of the pipeline." The Leaders Entellium held steady this year, achieving scores similar to those it earned in 2006. The company's innovative design and willingness to try the untried have led to solid analyst reviews, especially in terms of direction and customer satisfaction. "Entellium recognized the challenges companies were having getting sales forces to adopt software, and decided to rethink the user experience," says Rob Bois, research director with AMR Research. "Entellium pulls design elements from video games, the iPod, and the Web to give sales users an almost fun experience." Andrew Boyd, senior vice president and research director at Aberdeen Group, concurs, saying that Entellium "is the sales management solution designed for the next generation of sales professionals." Pragmatech Software may be making its debut on our leaderboard, but it came on strong--its scores nearly gave it the overall victory in the SFA category. Small surprise, then, that its best performance was in company direction. "Pragmatech is on the cusp of doing some significant things; CEO Brian Zanghi has great vision about where he wants to take the company and it is evolving quickly," says Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of Beagle Research. "Pragmatech's position seems to be that SFA is necessary but no longer sufficient for most sales needs [and] tries to fill in many of the emerging gaps." By virtue of its purchase of Salesnet in May 2006, coupled with its own efforts to develop SFA, RightNow Technologies emerged as a force to be reckoned with in last year's ratings. Its scores slipped slightly for 2007, but the company's commitment to customer satisfaction has not. "RightNow [makes] it easy for firms to start with a quicker-to-deploy [software-as-a-service] option, expand incrementally into new functional modules or larger user populations, and migrate to on-premise if needs change," says Bill Band, principal analyst with Forrester Research. More than one analyst felt RightNow's SFA play was still coming together, as though the company were figuring out how to deploy its capabilities. "RightNow is a company that thinks of itself first as a service and support vendor," Pombriant says. Sage ACT! is our oldest living competitor, and still strong. "ACT! is still just as pervasive as ever, especially in relatively small companies," Bois says. "Over the past two releases, ACT! has made demonstrable in-roads in moving...to a collaborative sales solution," one analyst says. While some feel it's light on functionality, "this may be just fine for many organizations moving from spreadsheets and basic calendaring applications," another analyst says. Also helpful is the fact that ACT! can support up to 50 users before customization. However, Ol' Reliable may be starting to show its age: "After 20 years there isn't a great deal left to do to improve the product aside from verticalizing it, and the partners are responsible for most of the customization," Pombriant says. The Winner Despite strong competition, Salesforce.com grabbed the top spot again, notching back-to-back wins in the SFA category. Analysts were most impressed with the company direction, granting it a category-leading score of 4.3 in that area. "Salesforce.com dominates the software-as-a-service SFA market in customer share with more than 29,800 customers," Band says. "Although it has expanded far beyond its early SFA roots, the vendor continues to provide strong core sales automation features that are used by most of its customers." Bois adds that we can probably expect more of the same: "Now the third-largest customer management vendor by revenue, and fueled by some of the best marketing in the software business, Salesforce.com shows no signs of slowing down." --Marshall Lager
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