Many business buyers might be wondering about the difference between Sales Force Automation (SFA) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). What do these two types of enterprise software do, and how do they complement each other?
The answers can be hard to come by. Some companies actually use the two terms interchangeably, and others have their own definitions for the particular feature sets that may be housed under either Sales Force Automation or Customer Relationship Management architectures.
However, with some background on both of what these terms mean, it’s a lot easier to understand the difference between them, and how to pursue both kinds of functionality for a business.
SFA vs. CRM: Different Philosophies
One of the most fundamental differences between Sales Force Automation and Customer Relationship Management is that while Sales Force Automation looks at the entire sales process and tracks the efforts of salespeople internally, Customer Relationship Management is different. It’s all about the customer.
Customer Relationship Management has emerged as one of the most prominent types of enterprise software. In its early days, Customer Relationship Management was a bit less sophisticated, and had several core features that all pointed in one direction. Customer Relationship Management has always been a customer-focused tool, and focuses primarily on relationships between a business and its customers.
One of these most common and fundamental CRM tools is a set of detailed customer profiles. Many CRM vendors and people describing the software talk about ‘putting names to faces’ and ‘doing business intelligence’ on individual customers. Many CRM systems have been adapted into videophone systems, to help call center workers or sales people to have customer profiles in front of them while they speak.
Another major feature of CRN is customer histories. A repository of customer behavior and purchase information is stored in individual accounts, to help people understand customer motivations, and what their relationship with the business has been like.
Sales Force Automation is very different philosophically. It’s aimed at looking at the sales process, and automating a lot of what used to be done manually. Sales Force Automation tackles logistical and practical issues involved in generating leads, making sales and closing deals.
SFA vs. CRM: Different Features — Unique Features of SFA
With that in mind, Sales Force Automation and Customer Relationship Management platforms will have different sets of features.
For example, as mentioned, since CRM is customer-focused, many of the main features may include different types of customer profiling tools and communications tracking features. Some features will be geared towards customer retention, and others may aggregate data for general business intelligence. Essentially, many businesses use CRM as a communications tool, to know more about who they’re speaking to at every single touch point on the way to an eventual deal.
So what are the unique types of functionality that businesses use sales force automation for?
Think of SFA platforms as a comprehensive set of features for navigating the sales process. Many Sales Force Automation packages start with lead management, with lead evaluation and lead handling resources. These platforms may include pricing tools, call center functionality, or workflow handling resources. They’ll often monitor the sales funnel, and help to make sales operations more transparent, while putting in place automation functions that remove manual complexity and labor-intensive sales maintenance.
These are some of the major assistive technologies that Sales Force Automation delivers — it’s not CRM, it’s comprehensive sales support. Many features are focused on internal operations, tracking quotas, helping with competitive sales contests, and generally making sure that the business is doing all it can to boost its profits through capable sales force management.
Integrating Sales Force Automation and Customer Relationship Management
When it comes to practically integrating Sales Force Automation and Customer Relationship Management, understanding the vendor choices can be difficult.
For example, while Salesforce is a well-known CRM platform, the company also sells Sales Force Automation software and talks about it separately on its website. The same is true for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, another customer relationship management leader.
The best rule of thumb is to talk to vendors, and ask about functionality for individual Sales Force Automation and Customer Relationship Management packages. Look in detail at the semantics to understand which types of functionality are part of Sales Force Automation, and which are part of a Customer Relationship Management offering. Then figure out which types of tools are the most helpful to your particular business, and act accordingly. Buyers might end up having a CRM tool that includes Sales Force Automation functionality, or purchasing two different standalone pieces and connecting them to an entire IT architecture.
Take a look at our CRM/SFA leaderboard to figure out which SFA and CRM tools are best for your business.