• September 1, 2008
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

The 2008 CRM Market Awards: Market Leaders -- Sales Force Automation

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The continuing trend in sales force automation (SFA) toward “SFA plus something more” accelerated this year, as many vendors began or continued plans to build knowledge management, analytics, performance management, and other features into their sales applications. While that’s reflected in this year’s scoring, the true focus is still where it has always been—providing salespeople with the tools they need to do their jobs better. “Pure” SFA may be a dying breed—with the addition of marketing and customer service functions, a product may as well be a CRM suite—but it’s a breed that still values innovation.

Entellium is no longer truly new to the SFA space, but it’s still one of the relative newcomers: “While newer to market and overshadowed by the bigger [on-demand] vendors, Entellium is a vendor to watch,” one analyst says. And the company’s Rave solution sports a look that’s more than just a fresh coat of paint. Brent Leary, cofounder and partner of CRM Essentials, a CRM consulting/advisory firm focused on small and midsize enterprises, praises its clean interface, solid functionality, and good support. “Entellium is a very innovative company willing to do things differently,” he says, noting that it’s “more suitable to smaller sales forces.” One area to watch is company direction and messaging, according to Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of CRM consultancy Beagle Research Group. “The impression I get from their marketing is that they are trying to be the low-cost leader in an already low-cost market,” he says.

What was previously Pragmatech is now Kadient following a name change in October 2007, but it’s still the same core company that started with request-for-proposal automation in 1995. “Coming out of the sales proposal management space, [it’s] coming at [SFA] from a different perspective than those that evolved out of contact management,” says Robert Bois, research director with AMR Research. “[It’s] done a good job modeling the actual sales process, and driving value to reps, rather than sales managers, and achieves very high user adoption rates as a result”—scoring a very respectable 4.33 in customer satisfaction. “They have really turned the corner in terms of providing superior sales knowledge management capabilities that allow sales managers to ensure reps have access to and use the best sales practices,” one analyst says.

RightNow Technologies broadened its capabilities from the reverse direction, coming from a service background and growing into SFA through a combination of internal development and the 2006 acquisition of Salesnet. The company sees salespeople as serving an important customer-facing role, and supports them with built-in best practice workflows as well as pipeline and opportunity management. “RightNow really gets sales process,” one analyst says. “RightNow provides SFA as part of a well-rounded CRM suite that supports sales, service, marketing, and analytics,” another says, adding the caution that “the solution is well suited to midmarket and large enterprise deployments, but too complex to fit the needs of a typical small business.”

Sage Software’s Act! by Sage continued its record of longevity in 2008, both in the market and on our charts. It also bucked the trend of expanding functionality footprints, sticking to what it does best. “While Sage has made Act! a bit more scalable, we still see this more as a desktop sales productivity tool,” Bois says. Another analyst called Sage’s product “a rep tool, versus a sales management tool,” which is what salespeople in the trenches want. “Lots of functionality for solo sales folks,” Leary says. “But team selling would be challenging compared to other alternatives.”

Salesforce.com can’t get away from its roots, and likely doesn’t want to anyway—it keeps winning the category, and in fact blew away the nearest competition this year by nearly half a point. “While generally considered a full-suite CRM vendor, Salesforce.com is clearly strongest [in SFA] as its name would imply,” Bois says. Leary hails Salesforce.com’s “great mobile support, including native iPhone apps” as well as “solid workflow automation and nice dashboard support.” “This company gets it,” Pombriant says. “Salesforce.com is the closest and most likely to pull off the idea of an integrated end-to-end business process involving sales or the front office—that’s why they get it.” One analyst, though, says the solution is still light on analytics for sales managers. “While AppExchange offers add-on tools, that is not the same as being in the platform.” 

one to watch : sales force automation
We’re still watching Landslide Technologies after its arrival in our awards last year. “Landslide is targeting one of the biggest problems with sales software—user adoption,” Bois says. Its following is still growing, and the analysts who have seen Landslide seem to love what the firm’s doing, but the market share and awareness aren’t there yet. “Sales is a very difficult audience to address, but Landslide is removing many of the traditional barriers,” Bois adds. For example, the VIP service allows reps to phone in their call details to a service rep—still a major advantage.

To view the other 2008 Market Leader categories, click here.

To view the rest of the 2008 CRM Market Awards, click here.

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