There's hope if you feel lost in the rapidly growing Salesforce ecosystem.


September 27, 2018

4 Min Read
Helpful tips
Helpful tips

DREAMFORCE ’18 — As the Salesforce ecosystem grows, so does the need for partnering best practices. Here at the 2018 Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, Salesforce program managers, implementation partners and ISVs took time away from keynotes and tech talks to examine ways to better work together. The advice they shared serves as a primer for those looking to get ahead in any part of the channel, not just the Salesforce ecosystem.

Take the partner meetup session for the Americas hosted by Michael Keimig, vice president of alliances and channels at Salesforce. In a Tuesday session before ISVs, systems integrators (SIs) and other partners, the assembled Salesforce partner leaders took turns answering questions on best practices. Here’s a snapshot of just a few.

Q: It often helps to have Salesforce itself involved in deals. So, what is Salesforce looking for in terms of close, reliable partners?

Several things, Salesforce says. First, it wants to work with partners that have a proven track record with customers. This includes hard metrics such as a net-promoter score or an AppExchange rating. Then there are some softer qualities that Salesforce takes into account. Do you have any referencable customers willing to sing your praises? (That’s very important in the Salesforce ecosystem.)

Salesforce also likes partners that step up. By that, Salesforce wonders whether your company is willing to engage early with the company to go jointly after customers, including ones that might take a long time to close and or might not even understand the technology they are considering. Salesforce likes to work with companies that understand the different parts of a sales cycle – from prospecting for leads to closing a sale – and who can tough it out when things get “messy.” In Salesforce parlance, “messy” is when the customer delays or technology challenges complicate deals.

Another consideration that Salesforce (and others) take into account: Are you the right-size partner for a particular deal? While customers tend to do business with partners of a similar size, there are many exceptions to this in the Salesforce ecosystem. In many instances such as proof-of-concept projects, smaller partners are better suited for very large customers who have grown wary to the pressing demands of global systems integrators and their tendency to try to turn every project into a multimillion-dollar deal.

When large SIs push too hard, a lot of potential business get shoved out of the way, Salesforce says. But smaller, more nimble partners, the company has found, can turn lukewarm prospects into new accounts.

Q: What else does Salesforce advise?

Know thyself. If you want to stand out in the Salesforce ecosystem, stand for something, not everything. Figure out what you do best and tell that story.

“We’re a culture of storytellers. That’s what we are looking for,” said one Salesforce partner leader.

Put another way, Salesforce advises that partners know their capabilities and limits.

“Play to your strengths rather than expand into your weakness,” it advises.

In addition to self-awareness, Salesforce values grit. This includes your ability to tell customers the truth, especially when it’s difficult. There are times when it’s in the customer’s best interest to convince them which path to go on, not just provide what they ask for. If you can deliver technologically what they need and guide them where to go, that’s a good Salesforce partner, the company says.

In another session, “Win-Win-Win-Win: Strong Partnerships Benefit SIs, ISVs, Salesforce & Customers,” two Salesforce partners, one ISV and one SI, shared what they have learned from working together. The two companies were Conversica, a developer of AI-driven, lead-engagement software for marketing and sales organizations, and Coastal Cloud, a Salesforce systems integrator based in Palm Coast, Florida.

Victor Belfor, senior vice president at Conversica, which has a superior rating on the Salesforce AppExchange, provided significant insights to partners. Among his top pieces of advice for working with SIs in the Salesforce ecosystem:

  • Work with ISVs that target the same-size customer as you do.

  • Work with those who specialize on the same tech stack you do.

  • Align with implementation partners that have the same culture as you.

“Be wary anytime anybody says the phrase, ‘The ball is in their court.’ This includes your own employees. When partnering with another company to help a customer, there is no ‘their,’ only ‘we,’” he said.

Jamey Jeff, managing director at Coastal Cloud, another company with a superior rating in the AppExchange, echoed those sentiments. The biggest nightmare for a customer is when all three providers – the platform vendor, app developer and integration company – point at each and say, ‘It’s not only no one’s fault, but everybody’s fault.’”

Coastal Cloud, for one, completely understands that ISVs’ products aren’t perfect. He just wants to be told where the “soft spots” are so they can be worked around.

Summed Belfor, who believes most ISVs will eventually need to find a counterpart in most situations as their own businesses mature, says we are in a time when we are “replacing integration with orchestration. As a result, we need one source of truth.”

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