Salesforce Partners – Rushed off their Feet

Yesterday we attended Salesforce’s European Partner Event, hosted in London. The event is into its third year and over 500 participants registered, making it one of the larger partner events in Europe.

When we spoke to Salesforce 3 years ago, it was just  starting to develop its partner strategy. And that strategy mainly meant the more the merrier. But the company has matured its partner strategy at a very fast pace over the last three years, offering a solid structure for ISVs, consultants and the occasional reseller.

The engagement model is clear, now it’s up to the partners to execute. To stimulate partners to do so, Salesforce has beefed up its European presence and market share. Some European facts:

  • It has 3 datacenters in Europe (UK, Germany and France opening soon).
  • It has significantly grown its client base in the top 500 European companies.
  • Developed over 50 Fullforce solutions (global)
  • Over 2500 apps in the appexchange and over 3 million installs (global)
  • Salesforce (UK) has adopted a vertical strategy over the past 18 months – in response to customer and partner needs
  • In addition, Salesforce Venture has allocated $100 million to invest in European startups to fuel cloud innovation and customer success in the region.

During the event the key message was partner enablement. They want to enable their partners to support their clients in the best possible way. Therefore Salesforce stimulates its partners to engage with them, and to make use of all the available partner resources. Salesforce will focus on creating demand with partner marketing initiatives focused on lead generation and filling the pipeline. They want the partners to focus on the clients and be their trusted advisor.

Similar to the global cloud ambitions, Miguel Milano (European President Salesforce EMEA) wants Salesforce to be the dominant cloud player in EMEA in 2020. It acknowledges that this cannot be achieved  without partners. Salesforce aims to grow with partners in existing accounts and aims for new accounts as well. There will be targeted partner recruitment campaigns, focused on the blank spaces. However, Salesforce main strategy is to grow with their existing partner base.

This opportunity for partners holds its challenges as well. Like most software vendors Salesforce asks its partners to speak the customer language, invest in resources, develop –vertical- solutions and be the trusted advisor.

The challenge for Salesforce partners is mainly to keep up with the vendor, and finding resources may be the most difficult challenge. Some of the partners have resorted to acquiring Salesforce consultancy boutiques, the latest being IBM acquiring Bluewolf.  Others have various recruitment initiatives. Fact is that the talent pool is limited, and everyone is fishing in the same pool. Salesforce is investing in training programs (FastForward Bootcamps, Cloud academy, App Academy, Alliance academy and this year launched its first Salesforce University learning conference). It is asking its partners to invest as well, preferably ahead of the curve. The reality is, however, that most partners wait for the deal to be signed and only then invest in resources. Salesforce of course urges its partners to invest upfront and ensures that deals will continue to come. Investing in resources will remain a catch22 between vendors and partners.

Salesforce tries to circumvent this by polishing its partner marketing message and enabling its partners to get to business. The partner program is in place, education facilities are available,  lead generation is taken care of and partner support is offered through a number of resources. Partners need a vendor that creates demand, in this case for digital transformation. And creating a marketing message is something you can leave to Salesforce. Add to that continued growth, expanding product offerings, commitments to increasing  investments in partner support and Salesforce’s partners will be rushed off their feet.


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About Simone de Bruin