Salesforce vs. SAP - the direct comparison

Estimated reading time: 15 minutes

Salesforce and SAP are market leaders in the areas of cloud and ERP solutions. We have compared the two software providers for you.

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Everything important at a glance 

  • Especially theCustomer Relationship Management with its diverse possibilities for sales structuring, marketing automation and customer interaction is becoming increasingly important.

  • SAP and Salesforce are among the most widely used CRM systems in the world.

  • While SAP's core business focuses on ERP solutions (on-premise and cloud-based), Salesforce exclusively offers an ERP system.Cloud-based CRM system as Software-as-a-Service.

  • Both SAP and Salesforce rely on a modular system in which the various modules for service, sales or marketing can be licensed individually.

  • While SAP's software licenses are payable in advance as an annual fee, Salesforce offers monthly packages with different editions of the Sales Cloud depending on the scope and number of users.

Salesforce vs. SAP: Introduction

Today, it is impossible to imagine most industries without the use of enterprise software. Since its founding in the early 1970s, SAP has established itself as the market leader in this area, offering a powerful enterprise resource planning (ERP) system as an on-premise solution in its core business that is used worldwide. For some years now, SAP has also expanded its offering to include a module for customer relationship management (CRM). In this area, however, the comparatively young Salesforce has become a strong competitor. Salesforce focuses on a cloud-based CRM system and offers a powerful complete package in this area. In the age of digitalization, such cloud solutions are becoming increasingly important. 

But how do I find out which system is better suited to me and my needs? In our following guide, we present a comparison of the two alternatives.

Salesforce explained

The US company Salesforce was founded shortly before the turn of the millennium and offers a powerful and highly adaptable CRM system as SaaS (software as a service). This is made available to users via the Internet on a central cloud platform and offers a wide range of applications and tools that can be flexibly combined and continually adapted to the needs of the company. All relevant customer relationship management data is collected and monitored on an intuitively designed platform and, thanks to analyses, can provide valuable insights for future decisions. The system enables your employees in sales, marketing and service to work together smoothly and highly efficiently so that you can focus even more on your customers. 

That's what sets Salesforce apart: 

  • Completely cloud-based CRM system 

  • Numerous tools and applications available 

  • Flexible use depending on needs 

  • Many configuration options 

  • 360-degree view of customers 

  • Important interfaces to other systems 

  • Innovative use of artificial intelligence 

  • Constant updates 

Salesforce offers a variety of different clouds that can be used and combined as needed: 

  • Sales Cloud 

  • Service Cloud 

  • Marketing Cloud 

  • Experience Cloud 

  • Field Service Lightning 

  • Pardot 

  • Commerce Cloud 

  • CPQ 

  • Einstein Analytics 

  • Nonprofit Cloud 

  • Trailhead 

SAP explained

SAP was founded in Weinheim, Germany, in 1972 and has long been one of the world's leading software manufacturers. With its core business of Enterprise Resource Planning as licensed software, the company is the clear market leader and is used in numerous industries worldwide. The software provides users with several modules that are specialized for use in different areas, such as finance or logistics, but are linked to each other. This allows each company to use the modules it needs. Meanwhile, SAP has also developed a cloud-based CRM solution to specifically cover the areas of marketing, sales and service. This can be fully integrated into the ERP. 

SAP offers users a proven and globally used licensing software with many options:  

  • Many years of experience from the market leader 

  • International and used in many industries 

  • Different modules as a package 

  • Work also in offline mode 

  • Easy integration into existing IT landscape 

  • Interfaces to other systems

Salesforce and SAP CRM in comparison 

Costs & Prices

A key difference between the two providers is that they each focus on a different core business, which also has an impact on costs. While Salesforce is provided as Software-as-a-Service for a monthly fee, SAP's on-premise solution requires a one-off license fee to install and use the software. However, on-premise installation incurs additional internal costs, e.g. for implementation and maintenance. If you opt for SAP's cloud solution, you will also have to pay a monthly license fee.

Salesforce offers different editions of the individual cloud solutions, depending on the scope of functions and number of users. The costs for the system increase accordingly if additional clouds or components are to be used. SAP now also offers a cloud-based CRM solution. The pricing models are similar to Salesforce, but usage is less flexible and usually linked to longer annual contracts:


As a cloud solution, Salesforce offers a wide range of tools and extensions that can be added or adapted as required. With uncomplicated updates, you can react quickly to the latest technologies and innovations, which is not possible to the same extent with SAP as an on-premise solution. The SAP Cloud CRM solution (SAP C4C), on the other hand, also offers remote maintenance of the system. It should be added that the CRM solution from SAP is less flexible and configurable than the Sales Cloud from Salesforce, for example. In addition, Salesforce has focused on the cloud solution since it was founded and therefore has a lot of experience in this area. The use of artificial intelligence for comprehensive analyses in real time is a given with both systems.

Another key difference lies in the business model and access to the software. SAP's on-premise license software must be installed and set up on site in the company. This requires an appropriate IT landscape with sufficient server performance on the one hand, and regular maintenance and servicing of the system on the other. Data protection must also be ensured by the company itself, which can certainly be a challenge.

No on-site installation is required when using Salesforce CRM. The system is completely cloud-based and the connection is established via the existing Internet access. All data and processes are backed up in the cloud, so that neither a great deal of administrative effort nor powerful servers are required internally in the company. In addition, the data security of cloud-based systems is considered to be very high - contrary to frequent fears. Maintenance is only necessary in the event of malfunctions or similar.

System maintenance & data security

Another key difference between Salesforce and SAP CRM lies in the business model and access to the software. While SAP's on-premise license software traditionally has to be installed and set up on site in the company - which requires a corresponding IT landscape with sufficient server performance as well as regular system maintenance and servicing - SAP now also offers cloud solutions. These can minimize the need for an extensive internal infrastructure and the associated costs. Nevertheless, with SAP cloud solutions, data protection must largely be ensured by the company itself, which can pose a challenge, particularly in terms of compliance with global data protection standards.
In comparison, no local installation is required to use Salesforce CRM. As a completely cloud-based solution, connections are established via the existing Internet access. All data and processes are secured in the cloud, which reduces the administrative effort and the need for powerful servers in the company. Despite the cloud connection, Salesforce's data security is rated as very high - contrary to frequent fears - as regular updates and strict security protocols are implemented. System maintenance is largely automated and only required in the event of malfunctions or similar incidents.

User interface and customizability

Salesforce stands out from other CRM systems, such as SAP CRM, thanks to its particularly intuitive user interface and high level of customizability. Companies can easily configure their processes and workflows using Salesforce without having to invest in extensive development work. It allows many ways to achieve a specific goal through a purely declarative approach, reducing the need for specialized development expertise. However, if Salesforce's declarative tools do not meet business needs, the APEX programming language - a fully JAVA-based language - provides an easy way to make customizations at the code level, unlike the often complex and limited options in SAP CRM products.

Compatibility with other systems

Salesforce also offers extensive options for integration with third-party systems. Without the need to purchase additional middleware, point-to-point integrations can be set up both unidirectionally and bidirectionally. In the case of incoming callouts, Salesforce offers several standardized API types that are easily accessible from the outside due to their cloud-based nature. If a user-defined interface is required, this can also be implemented in Salesforce with little effort. For outgoing callouts, Salesforce offers more advanced tools compared to SAP Cloud for Customer to create a holistic integration with APEX code that can run directly in the same cloud instance.
In comparison, the integration of homogeneous SAP systems is relatively straightforward, but a middleware such as MuleSoft or SAP CPI is usually required to connect heterogeneous systems.

Is Salesforce suitable for me?

Salesforce offers a very powerful and flexible CRM solution that can be easily adapted to the individual needs of users thanks to a wide range of tools and functions. This makes Salesforce suitable not only for all industries, but also for any size of company - from small start-ups to large corporations. 

Salesforce was one of the first companies to offer a fully cloud-based CRM system, and can accordingly draw on a high level of expertise in this area. It scores particularly well for complex sales structures and large marketing departments, with intelligent solutions that can be put together individually and configured according to user requirements. Meanwhile, numerous other software solutions are also offered in addition to the CRM, so that Salesforce can be used in a wide range of company areas. 

However, those who do not want to work cloud-based and prefer to rely on an on-premise license solution will have to resort to another provider, as Salesforce offers its CRM exclusively as SaaS. 

Salesforce is particularly suitable for: 

  • Any size company 

  • Most diverse industries 

  • Technology-savvy customers 

  • Flexible solutions 

  • Future-oriented users:inside 

  • Complex sales and marketing structures 

  • Specific partial solutions

Is SAP suitable for me?

SAP can look back on a long company history and thus brings a lot of know-how with it from which users can benefit. The business software is used by many customers worldwide and can be excellently integrated into existing systems through numerous interfaces. If a company already uses SAP's Enterprise Resource Planning, CRM can be integrated very easily and even purchased at a reduced price. 

Although SAP has caught up well technically with its new CRM suite launched in 2018 and has adapted to the trend toward cloud-based solutions, it has comparatively little experience in this area. Due to its core business of licensing software, SAP is less flexible overall and can implement updates or adjustments more irregularly and only with great effort.  

The CRM from SAP is particularly suitable for: 

  • Medium-sized companies and large corporations 

  • Conservative companies 

  • Many stakeholders 

  • Complex corporate structures 

  • Use in offline mode 

  • Compact solutions

Salesforce CRM and SAP ERP: Two market leaders combined 

Salesforce and SAP do not necessarily have to be regarded as competitors. If you don't want to choose one provider but want to benefit from the advantages of both systems, you can also combine SAP's Enterprise Resource Planning with Salesforce's Customer Relationship Management. This also enables you to collaborate more effectively with your stakeholders, who may be working with different systems. The Salesforce SAP Connection module creates an interface between the two systems that enables bidirectional data exchange in real time. This enables you to exploit new synergies and draw the greatest potential from both systems to optimize your business processes. 


For companies that already use SAP's Enterprise Resource Planning, the CRM module definitely has advantages and can be integrated without any problems. SAP has also caught up well technically here with its cloud-based solution and offers a compact package even for complex marketing structures. In a direct comparison, however, Salesforce not only has significantly more experience in this area, but also offers a considerable range of different solutions and tools. For example, the Sales Cloud can be flexibly expanded with further specific clouds, useful features or user-defined applications, and an individual package can be put together to suit the customer's own requirements. In addition, Salesforce offers regular updates and thus adapts quickly and easily to new developments. Thanks to Salesforce's SAP connection, the cloud solution can also be linked to SAP so that you can easily take advantage of the benefits and potential of both providers.

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