Difference between CRM and SFA

Let me try to describe my personal view on the differences between two business applications, CRM and SFA. Recently, the acronym of CRM has been very frequently used and has become unavoidable in business environment. CRM providers say that CRM is necessary for every sales team; however, the same is claimed by the SFA providers for the SFA application. Nevertheless, there are important differences between the two. Both types of applications are intended to support professional sales but

there is quite a significant difference which should be considered especially by the suppliers of FMCG goods.

Basic definitions of both terms:

  • CRM – Customer Relationship Management deals with people who are customers or make a choice to purchase. Buyers are in the focus through the entire CRM process, also in the period when they have already purchased a product and are still using it.
  • SFA – Sales Force Automation manages the FMCG sales team and finds ways to increase its efficiency. SFA often involves some elements of CRM, such as contacts and products.


CRM focuses more specifically on a customer and his decision makers and usually it also contains a module for monitoring after-sales events with every customer. It is useful when a customer is buying something to meet his own needs. In FMCG companies, the CRM tools are only applied exceptionally since retailers are not real buyers. They only resell products to consumers. For FMCG companies, real buyers are final consumers and the latter are actually anonymous to the suppliers of FMCG products. It makes sense to implement CRM at FMCG distributors only if integrated with direct e-marketing and social media tools, where consumer is not longer anonymous.


SFA is more centered around the sales team and not on an individual buyer. In addition, SFA focuses on points-of-sale which do not purchase for themselves but offer the products to consumers. The FMCG suppliers use SFA tools or the tools focusing on the shelves and their appearance and not on consumers more often than CRM tools. An important function of the SFA tools is managing the visits of salespersons and the activities performed during such visits. SFA addresses tactical and operational objectives of salespersons and measures their achievements. Sometimes, the SFA tools are also called Retail Execution as the FMCG business strongly addresses the utilization of shelves in individual stores. Furthermore, the SFA tools are applied to collect data from the market (prices, presence, campaigns, promotions etc.).

What to use, CRM or SFA?

When trying to determine whether a company needs CRM or SFA, the most important factor to me is the number of visits made daily by sales representatives and salespersons respectively. If they make at least three visits to buyers daily, this is a sign that they need an SFA tool. When they mostly work from their offices, either by phone or mail, they need CRM.

Špica and its projects where we use the Frontman SFA solution: http://www.spica.si/resitve/prodaja-na-terenu/pregled 

Being part of the Spica management team for more than 15 years, Andrej Planina is considered a leading regional expert in the field of business mobile solutions and technologies for automatic identification. He obtained extensive knowledge working as a project manager for major organizations in the region. Well aware of the business aspects in information processes, Andrej is the author of some of Spica’s successful products. An award-winner for the best innovation for the "Intelligent safety control system“, he is regularly invited to share his knowledge as the lecturer at the University of Ljubljana (Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science, Faculty of Economics). When not working for Špica, he is a passionate wine taster and blogger. Find out more at https://vinovino.si/