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Gartner Sales Force Automation Ranking Is Out - The 2009 Report

Investing in technology to automate critical sales processes may be the best way to meet sales targets

The importance of automating the sales processes and capturing buyer data has perhaps never been more important.  Many organizations are finally waking up to the fact that having thousands of leads isn't as important as doing better with the leads you have.  From Gartner...

What You Need to Know
Despite slow sales due to the economy, organizations continue to invest in sales force automation (SFA). Gartner has not seen a drop-off in customer requests for help with vendor evaluations related to SFA. We have seen slightly more emphasis on software as a service (SaaS) due to tight capital budgets and the use of smartphones to drive salesperson adoption. Most vendors have come up with service and/or integration capabilities with fast-growing social networks, but sales organizations have been relatively cautious in embracing social-networking integration with SFA.

All vendors shown on the 2009 Magic Quadrant for SFA have customers that are successfully using their products and services. However, we are not offering an exhaustive list: Other regional and/or vertical-industry SFA specialists do not meet our inclusion criteria. This Magic Quadrant encompasses a wide cross-section of vendors, including those that offer different delivery models — including on-premises, hosted and SaaS — and differing levels of functional breadth and sophistication. Regardless of the provider you're considering, ask yourself, "Will this vendor help my sales organization sell more effectively?"

Use this Magic Quadrant as a reference for evaluations, but explore the market further to qualify the capacity of each vendor to address your unique business problems and technical concerns. Depending on the complexity and scale of your requirements, your shortlist will be unique. The Magic Quadrant for SFA is not designed to be the sole tool for creating a vendor shortlist. Use it as part of your due diligence, and in conjunction with discussions with Gartner analysts.

Figure 1. Magic Quadrant for Sales Force Automation

Source: Gartner (July 2009)

Market Overview
Despite a down economy, we continue to see investment in SFA. With shrinking sales resources and market opportunities, investing in technology to automate critical sales processes may be the only alternative to still meet sales targets. The economy has affected vendors in different ways; some vendors on our 2008 SFA Magic Quadrant continued to see double-digit growth, while others dropped out of the market completely.

The focus of SFA deployments continues to be on core functional capabilities for accounts, contacts, opportunities, selling processes and sales operations. SFA requirements are unique for each B2B sales organization, based on the maturity and culture of the organization in its use of technology, sophistication of sales practices and anticipated return on investment. Smartphones continue to rise in importance as the devices grow in adoption and in the ability to handle more sophisticated functional requirements. Greater usability and accessibility are encouraging interest in smartphones among sales organizations. In the past year, we have also seen a further uptick in SaaS, primarily fueled by the lack of investment capital for on-premises deployments due to the global financial crisis.

Just as each sales organization is different, not all SFA systems are created equal. Sales automation has unique implications for each company, because factors like selling style, organizational size, sales processes, integration demands, diversity of roles, number of users and organizational structures are unique to each company:

* Product-driven transactional sales organizations will find value in basic lead and opportunity management capabilities to reduce sales cycles and improve sales management visibility.
* Large, complex sales organizations that support multitier, matrixed sales teams require role-specific functionality for inside, field and strategic account salespeople, as well as scalability and performance attributes to manage large volumes of data. Many vendors in our Niche Players quadrant have better price/value alternatives for less-complex uses.
* Consultative solution selling will require rich-content process support to tie proposals, bids, configurations and quotes together with authorizations and order capture systems.

A successful vendor selection strategy will assess providers that support data requirements, access modes and functionality for each sales role. The sales processes will dictate the functional components that best satisfy organizational and individual sales requirements.

You can read the full report here.

More Stories By John Ryan

John is an experienced leader with a strong background of defining and executing company strategies. He is especially skilled in channel management, market analysis, brand marketing and selling technology products and services. He has successfully served in a number of executive positions and has been in management for 20 years. John is currently writing a book on increasing revenue generation. He has been a co-author of a comprehensive marketing methodology for high tech companies and has helped venture capitalists and private equity firms gauge their technology investments. In 2004, John served as Vice President of Marketing for the NA arm of the $6B IT Services division of Siemens, AG. John served on the board of directors at WebTrends, purchased by NetIQ (NTIQ) for $1 billion in 2001. WebTrends was highly successful dominating the web site analysis and reporting space. Prior to WebTrends, John was the Vice President of Marketing for Tivoli Systems. John has worked as a contracted consultant for established companies, start ups and top analyst firms. John can be reached at john@johnwryan.com or you can follow him on Twitter @buyersteps

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