10 Things I Learned While Creating SI-Focused Partner Programs for Salesforce ISV Partners

My first role in the Salesforce ecosystem was running alliances for a rapidly growing ISV partner with no established partner program. I was tasked not only with learning the ins and outs of the Salesforce ecosystem, but also with building a successful partner program within it. I had zero contacts, zero Salesforce experience, and only the ISV’s reputation to lean on. It was a mammoth job.

Within two weeks I presented a full product demo (they had two products on the AppExchange) to my CEO, Director of Sales, and Director of Marketing. Within three weeks I gave the same demo to 50+ team members including the founder/CEO to our top Salesforce Implementation Partner.

A common phrase used by my colleagues to describe the first few weeks with this particular ISV was “drinking from a fire hose”. Assured it would soon pass, I took it all in and it was great fun. I felt I was truly building something extraordinary.

Within one year, I built a robust partner program, working closely with Implementation Partners and Salesforce in AMER, EMEA, UK/I, and APAC. I continuously hit between 100% – 237% of targets month-over-moth, generated over $2 million in partner-sourced pipeline, and closed over $1 million in partner-sourced deals for a $6 million ARR company.

Since that first partner program creation, I’ve helped a number of other ISVs with their alliances initiatives. Here are a few things I’ve learned:

1. ISVs, SIs, and Salesforce comprise a holy trinity, and it’s not the one you learned about in Sunday School. It’s a symbiotic relationship that only functions well when all entities’ needs are fulfilled. The best partnerships are tri-directional.

2. As a partner leader, you don’t just represent the company you’re working or contracting for. You’re representing every partner you add to your network- SIs and Salesforce contacts alike. Good relationships will follow you throughout your career. People partner with people, not companies.

3. Don’t tell partners how to partner with you. Ask them how you should partner with them. Follow their lead and your relationships will be unique and tailored to their organisation.

4. Be responsive. Make getting in touch easy and painless.

5. Don’t get caught in the Zoom loop. Go out for drinks. Take partners up on their offers to visit their offices or meet for lunch. Send personalised messages. When you think of partners as work friends, the day-to-day is more engaging and everyone benefits.

6. Advocate for your partners internally. Defend them if things get complicated. If you’re the camp counselor, your partners are your campers. It’s your job to shepherd them, guide them, and represent them.

7. Tailor sales and product training to their organisation. One size does not fit all. Recognise that you are at the mercy of your SI partners, not the other way around. Remain humble.

8. Most SI partners don’t want to resell your product. While it sounds great to enable countless foot-soldiers to resell your product, realise early that unless your product allows SI partners to sell more Cloud Services, they’re unlikely to want to spend the time to resell. Conversely, if partners want to resell, make the enablement process easy and as time conservative as possible. SI time is billable, and they’d rather spend those precious hours helping their customers- not learning your product. Invest in your partners and they’ll invest in you.

9. Initiate joint marketing initiatives that highlight the SI partner’s unique relationship with your product. While you’ll no doubt have lots of SI partners, each brings something special to the table, and you want to be sure and call those attributes out often. Did you win a customer together because along with your product, the SI provided custom configuration on top of your solution to provide a cool tailored experience? Shout it out! Get the customer involved. Share it on social!

10. Lastly, alliances can be exhausting. Ever go to dinner with a friend and have a great time, but leave feeling a bit drained? Imagine doing that 6-8 times during your work day. In order to provide the best experience possible for your partner contacts, you’ll need to be “on” at all times. Don’t forget to take time out for yourself. Book in lunch or an afternoon walk on your calendar. Put 10-15 min gaps between your meetings. Put your oxygen mask on before assisting others.

Interested in building your own partner program or learning more about the alliances realm? Schedule time with me here: Rebekah’s Calendar

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s