Evaluating sales force automation (SFA) software vendors

In this section of the sales force automation (SFA) guide, review top vendors and options including hosted SFA to help you decide if SFA is the right choice for your organization.

 Table of contents:

Evaluating SFA software

This section was designed to review sales force automation (SFA) software options. Learn how to start evaluating SFA, how to weigh the pros and cons of hosted SFA software and how to weigh SFA vendor options. Once you've reviewed SFA technology, move on to the next section of the Sales Force Automation Learning Guide to learn more about mobile CRM.

What to consider when evaluating sales force automation

When evaluating SFA tools, think about the size of your sales force. Many of the self-described "midmarket" sales force automation vendors place their sweet spots between 40 and 250 users. In very broad strokes, organizations with sales forces of less than 250 users should look at midmarket vendors; between 250 and 500 users can be a coin toss between midmarket and enterprise vendors, and anything over 500 should look at only enterprise vendors

According to sales effectiveness expert Liz Roche, an organization with a 250-member sales force should consider the following top SFA vendors:

  • Microsoft CRM
  • NetSuite Inc.
  • Salesforce.com Inc.
  • RightNow Technologies Inc.

Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., evaluated eight of the leading on-premise midmarket SFA vendors based on its Forrester Wave methodology in a report in November 2005. The tools and vendors considered were FrontRange Solutions Inc.'s GoldMine, Maximizer Software Inc.'s Enterprise, Microsoft CRM, Onyx Software Corp., Pivotal, SageCRM (formerly ACPAC), Sage SalesLogix and Siebel Professional Edition. According to the report, the best SFA systems for midmarket CRM were Siebel's Professional Edition, Sage Software Inc.'s SalesLogix and Pivotal. FrontRange and Maximizer Software were said to best fit the needs of small businesses.

According to Forrester analyst Liz Herbert, Microsoft was a victim of timing, as Forrester evaluated its 1.2 CRM product and not the 3.0 version, which was not yet out.

Microsoft, along with Sage, was identified as the company best positioned to offer an all-in-one solution. The companies were the only ones evaluated to have ERP applications in their product portfolios.

On the other hand, Gartner's Magic Quadrant for SFA from July 2006 put Siebel in front. The analyst firm's regular market report on technology for sales professionals placed Siebel, a part of Oracle Corp., in the leader position. Germany's SAP AG was called visionary, and San Francisco-based Salesforce.com was named the sole challenger. The Magic Quadrant takes into account a vendor's functionality, presence in the market, sales execution, customer experience, and market and product strategy.

Is hosted SFA right for you?

Hosted SFA products generally offer a much quicker time-to-value and lower up-front financial risk. The downside is they are generally more difficult (if not impossible) to both customize and integrate with existing systems.

Much of the interest in hosted sales force automation applications has come from small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) looking for quick deployment and lower initial investments in their SFA technology. Pricing has been a prime motivator for SMB investment in hosted SFA, and vendors are responding.

Forrester evaluated eight vendors in the hosted SFA market in 2005. The analyst firm considered each product's setup and configuration, sales management, sales analysis, usability, offline and wireless access, integration, vendor strategy and market presence. Siebel OnDemand and Salesforce.com were identified as leaders. RightNow, NetSuite, Salesnet and Entellium ranked as strong performers in the study, and SalesCenter was named a strong contender.

Recent trends in hosted SFA have been a move toward verticalization and the resurgence of interest in wireless options.

Top SFA vendors: News and advice

Salesforce.com

News:

  • Do-it-yourself software: Salesforce.com takes customization one step further
    CRM software isn't just for CRM anymore -- at least according to Salesforce.com. It's the non-traditional uses of the software that have piqued the interest of some in the CRM industry. Read how three firms are incorporating Salesforce.com screen tabs, data fields and workflow into applications that have little or nothing to do with sales or CRM.
  • Salesforce.com boosts CRM integration
    As it looks to extend its platform, the CRM and Software as a Service (SaaS) company will release features to help users integrate with Oracle 11i, middleware vendors and legacy systems.
  • Salesforce.com launches site to report outages
    Following a rash of outages with its software service, the hosted CRM vendor has launched a site to keep customers informed of its system performance.

Advice:

Microsoft

News:

Advice:

Oracle/Siebel

News:

Advice:

SAP

News:

Advice:

This was first published in October 2007

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