CRM vs. Sales Force Automation

By Robin Wilding
Updated: February 12, 2014

CRM vs SFAWhile Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Sales Force Automation (SFA) are often used interchangeably, they are two different types of software.

To oversimplify the terms, CRM is more focused on customer service for existing and new customers, while SFA focuses specifically on the sales cycle needed to prospect, attract, and sell to new clients. People confuse the terms as CRM solutions can have elements of SFA, and vice versa; but each of these solutions focuses on different tasks.

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CRM’s main services

  • Tracking campaigns and offering usable data for future sales and marketing campaigns.
  • Customer profiling including purchasing and shipping history.
  • Providing usable and searchable account data.
  • Keeps track of sales history, both in broad company-wide terms and customer specific.
  • Data warehousing.
  • Customer communications tracking.
  • Customer service tools and support.
  • Processes designed for customer retention.

SFA’s main services

  • Tracking sales people and providing actionable goals and targets.
  • Closing ratio information designed to improve closing percentages.
  • Cold calling and customer contact records.
  • Appointment scheduling and tracking.
  • Sales funneling and pipe filling.
  • Industry specific sales targeting and prospecting.
  • Lead assignment.
  • Information sharing between collaborative sales departments.
  • Pricing information
  • Calendars and to-do lists.
  • Contact management.
  • Knowledge base of sales and product information.
  • Workflow management.


Many people associate these two as they both offer sales tracking, analytics/reporting tools and offer customer data profiles, but that is where the differences end. The sales tool within CRM is fine for rinky-dink sales data but is not a tool that can be used by salespeople for in-depth prospecting, collaborative selling, and contact management (a CRM will monitor support issues but generally not other forms of contact).

  1. A CRM solution is most commonly used by customer service departments, marketing departments AND clients (through web applications) whereas an SFA tool is solely used by the sales agents and their management team.
  2. CRM is primarily focused on reactive information like customer support issues, customer profiling, data management, and customer retention campaigns. An SFA comparatively is a pro-active tool designed to store task-oriented information and actionable items.
  3. SFA focuses on the beginning of the sale cycle: prospecting, initial contacting, courting and the first sale. After this the CRM solution takes over and begins to manage customers that are placed in the system from an SFA.


These two tools can be used interchangeably or considered adversaries but are actually complimentary tools. An SFA attracts new customers and then the CRM solution takes over and ensures that those customers remain clients.

For more information on CRM and Sales Force Automation, visit our CRM index page or compare solutions with our CRM Comparison Guide.
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