During the last few weeks, I participated in two panels about partnering with Salesforce (here is the video of one of them, if you have 45 minutes to spare…) I got many follow up questions, so it made sense to turn it into a blog post.
Why partnering with Salesforce?
With almost $7B in annual revenue, Salesforce ecosystem is larger than the total addressable markets (TAM) of many IT markets. Salesforce customers all made a significant commitment to the cloud, and among them, you can find SMBs and large enterprises alike.
Look for the synergy
Not every company should partner with Salesforce. Sometimes you are just better off on your own. For example, while a project management system can integrate with Salesforce, the mutual outcome may not be 5X better than using both products on their own. For Talkdesk, the synergy was very clear. Salesforce is where our customers store every interaction with their customers, so a deep integration into this data and workflows made sense. As a rule of thumb, if you enhance a Salesforce dominated workflow (e.g. rank order leads using AI), you should deeply integrate to Salesforce. It doesn’t mean that your product is not great on its own, or can integrate with other products — you simply meeting your users where they already are.
It is all about the product
If you think of Salesforce as just an integration, you will not get the most out of this relationship. Think of it as new product and define new personas, including the Salesforce admin but also Salesforce AEs and SEs, that will promote your product. For example, we built a 2 minutes installation process for Talkdesk, so SEs from Salesforce can quickly show it to their customers, and Salesforce admins can easily test the product on their sandboxes.
Don’t think MVP — instead, think how deep you can go. The more integration points you build, the more attractive and sticky your product will become. For us, it was creating reports that mashup Talkdesk and Salesforce data, implement SSO and integrate user management.
Lastly, you want to make sure that you keep innovating and reacting to the new capabilities of the Salesforce platform. SEs will always look for partners that can help them demonstrate Salesforce’s latest innovation.
Launching on AppExchange is like publishing a website. It is simply not enough.
Posting your app in the AppExchange is like launching a website. Tons of work ahead of the launch, but nothing happens when it goes live. Why? Since there are 3000 other products there… To build Salesforce related pipeline, you will have to work and work hard.
You will need to show results first
I am sure you expect that Salesforce will immediately go on and promote your product. They will not. 1000s of partners got on their platform and failed, so it is prudent of Salesforce to wait and see who is becoming a star, before investing. You should also remember that a Salesforce AE has dozens of Salesforce products to sell, so they can only pay attention to few partners at a time. This means that you are almost 100% on your own in the first few months after launch. You have to build pipeline on your own, win Salesforce customers on your own and write your case studies. The fastest you grow (i.e. generate revenue for Salesforce), the fastest you will get notice. It is that simple.
It is hustle time!
With the initial traction, you have a story to tell. Congratulations: you now have to work even harder. Your target audience just expanded: rather than speaking to prospects only, you now have to market your success to Salesforce’s SEs, AEs, RVPs, CFLs and anyone else that will listen. The easiest way is to think of circles of influence: the RVP that benefited from your most recent deal will be much more likely to give you access to her team. Leverage this connection to meet an RVP that works in the adjacent territory and build your network this way.
Everyone in your company should be an ambassador
Encourage your AEs to take Salesforce AEs to drinks. Your SEs should geek out with Salesforce SEs and the product managers should share roadmaps. If you are a C-level exec, go make friends with Salesforce executives and find executive sponsors you can connect with and provide “air cover” to your team.
There are many more aspects of a successful Salesforce partnership like revenue share and how to think about it, roadmap, diversification and more. Might be a topic for another blog post….