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 

  • The use of business software has become indispensable in numerous industries, especially now in the age of digitalization

  • Costumer Relationship Management in particular, with its wide range of options 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 on-premise solutions for CRM and ERP, Salesforce exclusively offers a cloud-based CRM system as software-as-a-service. 

  • In contrast to SAP, which focuses primarily on a compact CRM solution, Salesforce comes up with numerous features and applications that can be flexibly combined and adapted to one's own needs. 

  • While SAP's software licenses are payable in advance as an annual fee, Salesforce offers monthly packages with various 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 vs. 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 a software-as-a-service for a monthly fee, one pays a one-time license fee for SAP's on-premise solution to install and use the software. However, on-premise installation incurs additional internal costs, such as implementation and maintenance. In contrast, the use of a cloud-based solution entails few further costs. 

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

SALESFORCE

SAP

Sales Cloud

€ / month

CRM Cloud

€ / month

Essentials 

25 € 

Standard Edition 

50 €

Professional 

75 € 

Professional Edition 

100 €

Enterprise 

150 € 

Enterprise Edition 

170 €

Unlimited 

300 € 

Functions  

As a cloud solution, Salesforce offers a wide range of tools and extensions that can be added or customized as needed. 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. While SAP also offers a cloud-based CRM module, it is less flexible and configurable than Salesforce's Sales Cloud, for example. In addition, Salesforce has focused on the cloud solution since its founding and accordingly brings a great deal of experience in this area. The use of artificial intelligence for comprehensive analyses in real time is a given in both systems. 

Here is a brief overview of some important features of the two competitors: 

SALESFORCE

 

SAP

CRM as core business 

Yes

No

CRM Offer Holistic 

Single module 

Features & Add-Ons 

Flexible selectable 

As a package

Process automations 

Yes

Yes

Multi-channel distribution 

Yes

Yes

Extensive marketing functions 

Yes

Restricted 

Many configuration options 

Yes

Restricted 

Use of artificial intelligence 

Yes

Restricted 

Analyses in real time 

Yes

Yes

Offline mode 

Restricted

Yes

System Maintenance & Data Security  

Another crucial difference lies in the business model and access to the software. On-premise license software from SAP must be installed and set up on site at the company. On the one hand, this requires the appropriate IT landscape with sufficient server performance, and on the other, regular care and maintenance of the system. Data protection must also be ensured by the company itself, which can be quite 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 large administrative effort nor powerful servers are required internally in the company. In addition, the data security of cloud-based systems - contrary to frequent fears - is considered to be very high. Maintenance is only necessary in the event of malfunctions or similar. 

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. 

Conclusion

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.

Do you still have questions about Salesforce or are you ready to go digital?

We will be happy to assist you in an initial consultation.

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