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CRM vs SRM: What’s the Difference?

Written by:

Victoria Yu is a Business Writer with expertise in Business Organization, Marketing, and Sales, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business.

Edited by:

Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.

CRM vs SRM: What’s the Difference?

CRM vs SRM: What’s the Difference?

You’ve probably heard of customer relationship management (CRM) tools, but do you know much about supplier relationship management (SRM)? 

Focused on vendors and suppliers rather than prospects and customers, it’s the lesser-known counterpart to CRM, yet it can play a vital role in streamlining your operations and budget. 

Used wisely, CRM and SRM can go hand-in-hand to boost efficiency and revenue. But exactly how do they differ? And how are they able to complement each other? Lucky for you, this guide lays out all you need to know about CRMs and SRMs and how they could drive the growth of your business.  

What is CRM?

The concept of CRM refers to the widespread sales practice of tracking all customer-company interactions in order to learn more about those relationships and strengthen them to increase sales. 

To that end, CRM systems are software tools that track and record all customer interactions with the company and maintain all customer-related data with the goal of strengthening those relationships. 

CRM software supports sales reps by presenting customer data in one easily-accessible location, enabling them to view customer profiles and tailor their sales approach to each customer. CRMs also typically include functions like database management, contact management, sales automation, lead generation, lead nurturing, and customer analytics. 

With these features, a CRM system aims to improve customer retention, increase sales, and ultimately drive business growth by better understanding customers and their needs.

What is SRM?

Much like CRM, SRM refers to a variety of practices, tools and technologies that aim to oversee and improve a company’s relationships with its suppliers and vendors. 

In SRM, supply chain and procurement managers create profiles for each supplier and vendor and aim to quantify their value to the company based on criteria such as product quality, delivery speed, geographic location, ethics, and legal compliance. 

With this scorecard ranking, SRMs aim to optimize the business’s supply chain by determining a supplier’s value to the business, appraising the risk of new suppliers, and improving the most important supplier relationships.

SRM tools provide a live database of supplier data, helping avoid information silos. Certain SRM systems also function as touchpoints for the suppliers themselves, providing live updates on order fulfillment.

If your company makes laptops, for instance, you might source your processor chips from two different suppliers. An SRM scorecard could show that one supplier offers a great price while the other is only a few miles away, making shipments cheaper and faster.

Armed with this knowledge, management now knows to prioritize the relationship with the second supplier, maybe give them good deals and check in more often to ensure reliable cooperation and build trust. And if money gets tight, you’ll know which supplier to let go.

Companies have much fewer suppliers than customers, so SRM is a less familiar concept than CRM. A company could even have one exclusive supplier, making SRM irrelevant. And for companies with only a handful of suppliers, it’s easy to build strong relationships with all of them.

Likewise, SRM software is much less popular than CRM tools. If a company has few suppliers, it could just make decisions using pros and cons or hand-calculate scores with a simple decision matrix. 

But for businesses with sizable supply chains, prominent SRM tools on the market include SAP SRM, Fishbowl Inventory, and Kodiak Hub.

Similarities Between CRM and SRM

Both CRM and SRM refer to a set of practices involving business relationships, and both are also software tools that aim to improve those relationships by tracking, storing, and evaluating key bits of information. 

Both SRM and CRM aim to streamline business processes and improve the bottom line. They both emerged in the 1980s, though CRM quickly became the more widely embraced methodology and software tool. 

Differences Between CRM and SRM

By now you probably have a good idea of their differences, but it’s still worthwhile to go through the who, what, when, where, and why of CRM versus SRM.

Who Do CRMs vs SRMs Focus On?

CRMs focus on leads, prospects, sales in progress, and existing, future, and former clients. They’re generally used by employees who interact with customers, which usually means the marketing, sales, and customer service teams.

SRMs focus on suppliers and vendors. They’re used by procurement and supply chain managers to track purchases and relations and inform decisions. SRM tools are used by very few employees. 

What Do CRMs vs SRMs Manage?

CRMs manage customer data, recording the customer’s personal details, level of interest, purchases, and every interaction the customer has with the company.

SRMs track supplier activities and manage relevant data in an effort to assess each supplier’s value to the company and gain insights on the supply chain.

When Do CRMs vs SRMs Focus On?

CRMs and SRMs both focus on the company relationships, the former with customers and the latter with suppliers. Yet SRMs are more useful for forward planning, while CRMs are better for retroactive analysis and archiving. 

An SRM’s supplier scoring criteria can be used to judge in advance whether a supplier is a good fit. CRMs provide a database of all customer interactions, which is useful for determining which sales strategies worked best and which failed to deliver.

Where in the Company are CRMs vs SRMs Used?

CRMs are used mostly by marketing, sales, and customer service, while SRMs are mainly used by the supply chain and procurement departments. 

They both deal with essential business functions, but don’t overlap: a CRM solution manages demand for the product by generating sales; SRMs manage the supply of the product by securing vendors.

Why Do Companies Implement CRMs vs SRMs?

A company might choose to implement a CRM if sales are flagging and it hopes to turn more prospects into customers. CRMs are able to help businesses with ten customers or a million.

As companies and products flood certain industries, consumers increasingly see customer experience as a key differentiator. A CRM helps businesses stay relevant by reducing response times and personalizing interactions, hopefully resulting in exemplary customer service and increased sales.

A business might choose to implement an SRM if they’re looking to improve product quality or cut costs. Depending on the industry, a business might be inundated with supplier options. An SRM aims to cut through the noise and hone in on the suppliers that provide the most value.


CRMs and SRMs focus on different ends of the production and sales process, yet both aim to improve relationships and drive business growth. Whether you decide to buy a CRM or SRM tools depends on your needs, but CRM is more popular for good reason: without customers, a company dies. 

The wise approach may be to first turn to CRM to ensure a steady supply of loyal customers, and then leverage SRM to streamline your supply chain and maximize your margins. But it’s a good idea to do your research, weigh your options and make the best decision for you and your business. 


Wait! I thought SRM stood for…

Stakeholder relationship management? It’s true that this is another definition of SRM, focusing on listening to what stakeholders say about your business. But that’s pretty much a subset of PR. While PR is important, we take SRM to mean supplier relationship management so we can focus on the supply chain and the business’s bottom line.

If you’re here thinking SRM stands for standard reference material and CRM stands for certified reference material, you’re in the wrong corner of the internet: those definitions come from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, which sells information and chemical compounds for research development – definitely not business solutions.

Do I need to buy a CRM or SRM?

Depending on your business, you might not need either. If you only have a few customers, a million-lead CRM would be a waste of money. Similarly, if you already have an exclusive contract with a trusted supplier, an SRM is probably not a worthwhile investment.

But as your business grows and your product lines and customers increase, CRMs and SRMs can help wrangle the influx of new vendor and customer information, letting you focus on bigger issues. Even if you primarily sell services, an SRM could help supply procurement to make sure your team is equipped with the best tools for the job.

What if I can’t choose between CRM and SRM?

If you can’t choose between CRM and SRM, you could go with ERP instead! An enterprise resource planning (ERP) tool integrates data from all business functions into one platform – including the supply chain and sales. Though an ERP might be more expensive, it ensures you won’t have separate CRM and SRM systems that are unable to integrate. ERPs that cover CRM and SRM functions include Microsoft Dynamics and SAP ERP.