Wading Through the Ultra-Competitive CRM Market

So you want to choose a platform for customer relationship management (CRM) -- one that will help automate repetitive sales tasks and ultimately boost sales and customer satisfaction. The question is, "Where do you begin?" Fortunately, Gartner's recently released 'Magic Quadrant for Sales Force Automation' (SFA) offers a wealth of comparative data that can help you narrow down your choices, especially with so many newcomers to the market.

First, let's understand Gartner's definition of Sales Force Automation. Gartner lumps into the SFA category applications that support the automation of sales activities, processes, and administrative responsibilities for business-to-business (B2B) sales professionals. As Gartner characterizes it, core functionalities of sales force automation include account management, as well as contact management and opportunity management.

Gartner also lists add-on capabilities that focus on improving the effectiveness of salespeople. These include sales configuration, guided selling, proposal generation, and content management, plus sales performance management support, including incentive compensation, quota management, sales coaching, and territory management.

With that understanding in mind, let's do a quick review of the top vendors, complete with a summary of what Gartner calls "strengths" and "concerns" about each of the products included in its Magic Quadrant analysis.

We'll begin with the leaders in the field, including Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics in the top spots, as well as SAP and Oracle. Gartner positions SugarCRM fairly high on the chart as a visionary, and NetSuite as a key challenger. Other, more niche players include Sage CRM, Swiftpage, Pivotal, CRMnext, and Zoho. Let's take a look.

Meet Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Microsoft Dynamics CRM has many strengths, according to Gartner. For obvious starters, it integrates with Microsoft technology stack assets, including Microsoft SharePoint for collaboration and content management, Microsoft Lync for presence and IM, Microsoft Visual Studio for extended customization, and Microsoft Outlook for customer contacts and email, all to...

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