The global sales force automation market is bifurcated into software on-premise and software-as-a-service (SaaS). Over two-thirds of SFA sales have been SaaS-based and 64% of the total revenue has been generated in North America. The global sales force automation market is expected to grow to $8B by 2023 – approximately a 10% CAGR between 2017 and 2023.

Over the past year, SFA vendors made significant progress toward embedding predictive analytics into their solutions. By 2020, 30% of all B2B companies will employ artificial intelligence to augment at least one of their primary sales processes. The SFA market is expected to grow to more than $9.4B by 2019, and SaaS-based solutions are expected to account for most of that growth.

Although SFA is a mature market with more than 50% market penetration, innovation in SFA continues with:

  • Improvements in ease of use
  • Better mobile use cases, and
  • Early applications of artificial intelligence

SFA Definition

SFA applications automate the sales activities, processes and administrative responsibilities for an organization’s sales professionals.

SFA is a foundational technology providing core sales execution capabilities: account, contact and opportunity management, sales forecasting, reports and dashboards, and mobile applications.

Additional noncore capabilities that are often part of SFA offerings include lead management, sales enablement (content management and guided selling), quote management, partner relationship management (PRM) and analytics.

Expectations for SFA

Innovation from SFA vendors is expected in:

  • Opportunity predictive analytics
  • Business process modeling functionality
  • Vertical-specific functionality

Implications for SFA in Different Types of Sales Organizations

The top three types of sales organizations:

  • Product-driven, transactional sales organizations, such as those engaged in short-cycle B2B sales, will value basic lead and opportunity management capabilities to reduce sales cycles and improve sales management visibility.
  • Product and service organizations selling enterprise-wide deals, such as long-cycle B2B sales organizations, will value account management and forecasting capabilities.
  • While organizations engaged in relationship selling or those with indirect sales processes require SFA tools to manage their customer and prospect data, they also require sales enablement tools for content distribution and sales activity capture.

SFA Vendor Selection Strategy

A good vendor selection strategy assesses providers that support data requirements, access modes and functionality for each sales role. It’s important to ensure that your organization understands how sales processes impact the functional components and individual sales requirements.

Five common sales use cases are:

  • Long-cycle B2B sales
  • Short-cycle B2B sales
  • Short-cycle B2C sales
  • Long-cycle B2C sales, and
  • Indirect/relationship sales

Implementation methods for SFA vary, ranging from self-implementation to global systems integrator (SI)-led efforts for comprehensive global implementations involving multiple business units. Companies with low to moderate sales process complexity (and not needing to integrate with back-end systems) can self-implement some of the SFA solutions on the market, while others require dedicated projects.

Organizations with complex processes spanning multiple departments and requiring data integration commonly employ third-party SIs. In cases with exceptional process complexity, it is usually necessary to engage with professional services for a successful implementation.

What to Expect in SFA

Shaping the SFA market during the next three years will include:

  • Predictive analytics for improving sales forecasting
  • Lead conversion
  • Relationship intelligence
  • Greenfield opportunities
  • Embedded AI

Sales Force Automation is simply applications that businesses use to help manage contacts, orders, opportunities, sales forecasts, leads and dashboards.SFA applications are becoming more powerful and valuable as they incorporate AI. Market leaders in SFA are implementing AI and many are preparing to embrace AI into their solutions to remain competitive. Currently, Salesforce is considered to be the SFA market leader, followed by Microsoft and then Oracle.