The Best Sales Force Automation Software and Solutions: The CRM Market Leader Awards 2018

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THE MARKET

Sales is currently one of the top two spending priorities in the software-as-a-service space, according to research from the May 2018 Cowen IT Spending Survey, and sales force automation solutions in particular are projected to account for some of the biggest growth. In fact, analysts expect the global sales force automation software market, which includes tools for lead management, sales forecasting, order and invoice management, opportunity management, and more, to reach $7.4 billion by 2023, rising at a compound annual rate of 10.6 percent.

Increasingly, vendors in this space are developing custom versions of their software specifically to address niche business needs. And as that happens, competition is particularly tight in this category. After all, our winner and several leaders were separated by just a tenth of point, underscoring the caliber of today’s sales force automation solutions

As vendors strive to automate sales activities, processes, and administrative responsibilities for companies’ sales professionals, customers benefit from the fast pace of innovation. 

THE LEADERS

Bpm’online scored well in company direction (4.2), but its sales force automation product is very highly regarded as well. In fact, Paul Greenberg, managing principal at the 56 Group, calls it “a gem within their offering.” Beyond that, Greenberg also credits the vendor for offering “a fully integrated CRM suite that includes sales force automation, marketing automation, and customer service,” while at the same time packaging “one of the best SFA integrations around.” Its solutions are also available as stand-alone products, he adds.

“Productivity is key” for Microsoft, says Rebecca Wettemann, vice president at Nucleus Research, as evidenced by its strong scores in both depth of functionality and company direction (4.2). “Microsoft’s investments in LinkedIn, Azure ML, and other technologies are paying off in driving higher productivity for sales users as well,” Wettemann adds. Microsoft also received a 4.1 in customer satisfaction. 

An “old industry sales force automation veteran,” Oracle has “what it needs and scales really well,” Greenberg says. The vendor scored an impressive 4.5 in depth of functionality, and analysts have also praised it for doubling down on artificial intelligence capabilities. “The user experience has improved, as well as the capabilities in AI with Adaptive Intelligence,” says Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder of Constellation Research. As it typically does, though, Oracle struggled on cost, scoring a lowly 3.2. “Despite good functionality, Oracle is losing ground in sales force automation because of perceived high cost and cost of implementation versus competitors,” Wettemann notes.

Analysts agree that Zoho’s affordability makes it one of the best values in the sales force automation market, especially when it comes to smaller client companies. “For the SMB world there is no competition, and in a relative sense they are arguably the best around. Especially with the release of Zoho One, the sales force automation applications are nearly free,” Greenberg says. Unsurprisingly, Zoho scored a whopping 4.7 in cost, but also received high marks in company direction (4.2) and customer satisfaction (4.1).

THE WINNER

Salesforce.com continues to dominate the category, thanks to its high marks in depth of functionality (4.6), customer satisfaction (4.5), and company direction (4.3). Salesforce is “still seen as top of the heap for overall offerings and considered by customers as the market innovator,” Wang explains. Plus, customers moving to its Lightning platform are finding greater sales and developer productivity with more support, according to Wettemann. But analysts say that high prices, reflected in its cost score (3.3), could hurt it in the long run. “Average costs per user have gone up over time, and many companies are grappling with integrating multiple clouds,” Wang says.

One to Watch

SugarCRM fell off the leaderboard this year, with analysts worried that its sales force automation product isn’t as powerful as it used to be. “The product has become stale over time,” Wang says. And “the direction of the company is a question,” Greenberg agrees, reflected by the vendor’s score of 3.4 in company direction. Still, some big changes could be coming soon, Wang predicts. 

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