The 2016 CRM Market Leaders: Sales Force Automation

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Analysts agree that, increasingly, providers of sales force automation software are expected to offer technologies that are convenient and accessible to end users. This means that the vendors in this category must supply sales teams with tools that are mobile friendly and allow access to analytics that can be understood with ease. Analysts recognize contenders such as PipelineDeals and Zoho (while not listed here), the latter of which is the category’s “best price performer,” says Jim Dickie, a research fellow at CSO Insights, a division of MHI Global. Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, notes that CRM giant SAP (also not listed here) offers what is “probably the best user experience in the market,” but that its sales representatives still struggle with demonstrating its full capabilities and thus it hasn’t gained as much traction as it should.


Bpm'online maintains a strong reputation for cost effectiveness, as it scored the highest of all vendors in that area (4.1). Its lowest score was for functionality (3.6), but Dickie notes that the company has been “seeing success in niche markets like real estate.” Rebecca Wettemann, vice president at Nucleus Research, adds that the vendor continues to invest “in usability and functionality for sales,” and that Nucleus’s research reveals that its offerings deliver “significant value for process-driven sales organizations.”

Microsoft has taken a back seat to Salesforce.com this year, but the company remains a strong contender, posting healthy scores for cost (3.9), functionality (3.8), and customer satisfaction (3.8). However, Wang points out that “customers and partners are extremely concerned that core Microsoft sees Dynamics as a rounding error” and that the company’s Envision conference compounded the concern with a poor showing of customers. “Microsoft must do a better job of understanding the Dynamics customer base instead of trying to force it into the new [Cloud and Enterprise] approach if they are serious about Dynamics. That being said, this is one of the best products in the market,” Wang says. Wettemann says that “Microsoft continues to leverage its broader machine learning and artificial intelligence investments in the CRM roadmap for sales productivity.”

Analysts gave Oracle a solid functionality score (3.9), but cost (3.2) holds it back. Dickie says that the company offers “solid analytics and mobile support to the salesperson.” Meanwhile, Wang calls it the “most improved product of 2016,” noting that “the team has rethought SFA from the end user’s point of view and early adopters have appreciated the design improvements.” Joe Galvin, an independent business analyst, adds that its offerings “should be considered by dedicated Oracle clients.”

SugarCRM gets a spot on the leaderboard after spending last year as our One to Watch. The company earned its highest score for price, where it racked up a 3.9. Dickie says that Sugar is the best option for a company “if a lot of customization is required to match [its] selling process.” But the company is still lagging in customer satisfaction (3.5).


Salesforce.com regains its spot at the top, after finishing behind Microsoft last year. The company earned its highest marks for functionality and direction (4.4). Cost is a concern, as the company earned its lowest score in that area (3.5). Yet Dickie goes so far as to say that the vendor offers “nearly everything a sales professional and a sales manager would need.” And Galvin calls the company a “leader without question.” 

One to Watch

Bullhorn, one of our Rising Stars this year, also gets recognized in this category for the first time, as the One to Watch. The company stands out in functionality and direction, where it earned scores of 3.8. Its lowest score was for cost (3.5). Unfortunately there is still some confusion over the vendor’s status and position in the sales force automation market, as Dickie calls this company “more of a sales recruiting platform than SFA,” and Galvin says that the company is “just getting started” in this arena.

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