The Best Sales Force Automation (SFA) Software and Solutions: The 2020 CRM Industry Leader Awards

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The Market

Grand View Research valued the global sales force automation market at $7.3 billion in 2019 and predicted it would reach $7.9 billion by the end of this year and $13.8 billion by 2027, growing at a compound annual rate of 8.3 percent.

It attributes much of the growth to the increasing adoption of cloud solutions, which held a 60 percent share of the market in 2019.

Solutions are being bolstered by the growing use of artificial intelligence, particularly for lead scoring and sales forecasting. Order and invoice management and opportunity management capabilities are also coming into high demand, as are mobile capabilities that cater to on-the-go and increasingly remote sales teams.

And while large enterprises still make up the majority of users (6o percent), small and midsize businesses are finally starting to invest in the technology, Grand View observes.

The Top Five

It took a while for Freshsales (a unit of Freshworks) to capture the attention of analysts, but this year it has done just that. A One to Watch honoree last year, the company has taken a place on the Leaders awards stage this year. “Nobody is kicking sand in its face,” observes Marshall Lager, an independent CRM industry analyst and consultant. “Freshsales is one product that has been in the gym since its early days.” Kate Leggett, vice president and principal analyst for CRM and customer service at Forrester Research, shares that enthusiasm. “Freshsales has a clean, modern, consumer-grade user experience geared for small deployments,” she says. “It’s easy to buy, set up, and use.”

HubSpot is far smaller than most of the other players in the SFA space, but it has started coming on strong with simple, very capable solutions. A complete newcomer to the awards stage, HubSpot offers “an innovative play designed for smaller firms,” according to Jim Dickie, a partner at Sales Mastery. “It has a freemium model that you can build off with additional modules.” Lager also likes HubSpot’s business model, centered on offering a suite of products that can stand alone or be combined in a much larger bundle.

Microsoft bought LinkedIn in 2016, and since then, it has put lots of resources into making LinkedIn Sales Navigator the powerful sales tool that it is. “As Microsoft further integrates its LinkedIn capabilities, it now has a lot to offer in the SFA arena,” observes Rebecca Wettemann, CEO and principal of Valoir. But LinkedIn isn’t all that Microsoft has to offer in the SFA space. Its Dynamics CRM 365 solutions come with “full functionality” and a good partner network that further extends its capabilities, she says. Wang agrees, calling Microsoft “a strong alternative to Salesforce, not just because of its price-to-value ratio but also the rich features and integration to Office 365.”

Oracle is a perennial favorite for its deep capabilities, but this year it is catching the spotlight for other reasons. These include a “growing focus on automation, adaptive intelligence, and next best actions,” according to Wang. Leggett, meanwhile, calls it “the most comprehensive solution for enterprise sales deployments” that is only getting better as Oracle makes “new investments in inside sales solutions and a blending of sales and service capabilities for relationship selling.”

Salesforce has received praise year after year since incorporating its Einstein artificial intelligence technology into the Sales Cloud, and this year was no different. In fact, Wettemann sees Salesforce continuing to lead in the SFA space “with its investments in areas like High Velocity Sales and Einstein-driven coaching.” Wang calls Salesforce “still the gold standard for SFA,” and Dickie names it his top recommendation, largely because of its AI functionality. Salesforce this year has also invested heavily in making the technology more collaborative, highlighted by a partnership with Microsoft that brings Sales Cloud into the Microsoft Teams environment and a partnership with UJET that leverages UJET’s technology for supporting sales-focused communications.

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