Know Your Business

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain how your product fits into the Salesforce ecosystem.
  • Describe how to pitch your product and its benefits to Salesforce field sales teams.
  • List important considerations for understanding your competitive landscape.

A Killer App

You’re excited. Your development team just put the finishing touches on your company’s app, and it looks great. After several rounds of user testing, you’ve got a gem of a product that fills a growing need. And the user experience feels like a dream.

But no matter how fantastic it is, your app isn’t going to sell itself. Sure, it’s easy to wow your prospects when you’re showing them how it works in person. But you can’t skip past the part where you convince them to stick with it.

The Attention Economy

With the world as connected as it is, there have never been more opportunities to pick up customers. But with ever more products hitting the market and the ongoing deluge of information, competition for eyeballs is fierce. How can you make your product stand out from the crowd?

Your customers and Salesforce field sales teams expect you to know your business inside and out—the whole business, not just your product. Who are the customers you’re targeting? Who are your major competitors? Why should anyone care about your product? How does it fit into the Salesforce ecosystem?

Get comfortable with these questions. They help you navigate your competitive landscape and sell to the right customers. In this module, we help you find answers to all of them. Let’s answer the first one: Who are your customers?

Define Your Demographic

Salesforce has more than 150,000 customers. Nobody can go after every one of them. You can suggest only so many to your Salesforce sales teams. Be picky and target those who promise the most gain in the least amount of time.

Select the most promising customers and match them to the Salesforce sales teams who best align with them. Here are some customer traits that Salesforce uses to segment its sales teams:

Customer Trait What to Find Out How This Fits into Salesforce
Industry focus In what industries do your customers operate? Salesforce has teams that specialize in industries such as Retail and Consumer Packaged Goods, Healthcare Life Sciences, and Financial Services.
Employee count How many employees do your customers have? Salesforce has sales team segments for each company size:
  • Small to medium business (SMB; 100–200 employees)
  • Commercial
  • Enterprise
Location Where are your customers located? Salesforce has hubs worldwide:
  • North America (New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto)
  • Global (London, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Paris)

Discuss these criteria with the Salesforce AEs; that makes it easier for them to identify a portion of their customer base who can benefit from your solution. If you narrow the field enough, they can keep their eyes peeled and engage your sales team when they uncover potential opportunities.

When you’ve matched a customer with a Salesforce sales team, help the team go after this customer in the team’s own territory. Do this by connecting your app with the customer’s needs:

  • Platform—Does your product support multiple Salesforce Clouds?
  • Third-party products—Does your product integrate with third-party applications? Does it replace legacy on-premises solutions?
  • Customer pain points—Does your customer have easily identifiable issues in common that costs lots of time and energy?
  • Front or back office—Salesforce has a lot of business with client-facing customers. If your product serves a need in the back office, you can help Salesforce reps expand into this space, where they have fewer customers.

We go into more detail on how Salesforce segments its business in the next unit.

Don’t Overlook New Opportunities

Most AppExchange partners target existing Salesforce customers. That is easier than winning new accounts, but if you go this route, you’re competing with thousands of other AppExchange partners.

New accounts, called “white space customers,” are solid gold to Salesforce and its sales reps. We appreciate all of our customers, but who doesn’t want a bigger audience? Getting out there and landing a new logo sets you apart from the pack.

A goldfish jumping out of a bowl of fish into an empty one

Go your own way! (Image courtesy of Kay Kim, Copyright 2009 Creative Commons 2.0)

If you close a deal with a new customer, your account executive (AE) may ask you to share your glorious tale with a larger AE team. This gets you great exposure—and it helps you cement your reputation as a closer.

Use the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code

There are a lot of companies these days. If you’re in the United States, the government helps you navigate them. The US government provides a system for classifying companies by their sector. The Office of Management and Budget assigns a four-digit number—a SIC code—to each and every company doing business in the US, which identifies the company’s primary business.

Each digit of the SIC code contains information about the industry of a company. The code defines 11 divisions within the business world, such as

  • Agriculture
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Services

The four digits of the code identify 10,000 different industries.

If your CRM customer data includes SIC codes, you can easily run a report to find out which sectors you’re already in. Your app may be trending in several areas already! The SIC code helps you understand where you’ve got traction, and it offers you hints on where to find new customers.

Perfect Your Pitch

When you’ve identified your sales team, it’s time to create your pitch. Can you explain in 30 seconds why the world needs your app? How about 3 seconds? You’re fighting for attention, so you need to hone your message.

A man giving a pitch to people seated at a table

First, capture the Salesforce sales team’s attention with a bold value proposition. This is the 3-second version of your pitch. You have a new product. Your value proposition answers the question “So what?”

After that, be prepared to answer these common Salesforce sales team questions, and to look comfortable doing it:

  • What three things define and differentiate your solution?
  • How does your product fit into the Salesforce ecosystem? Is it a stand-alone solution, or does it extend one of Salesforce’s core products?
  • Who are your direct and indirect competitors?
  • What other products does yours work with?

Your pitch is part of a larger strategy that you use to take your product to market. The answers to these questions determine your approach. Your pitch demonstrates that you have something to sell, and that you know how to sell it.

Understand Your Competitive Landscape

You just presented your pitch to a Salesforce customer, and you nailed it. You’re sure you’ve got a buyer. Your prospect was visibly excited and spent half the time telling you why your app is a perfect fit.

A while later, you still haven’t heard from the customer, so you look into what happened. You find out that the customer’s Salesforce AE steered this customer in another direction. What happened?

Join Forces with Like Minds

Like any large human endeavor, the Salesforce partner ecosystem is complicated. It has a lot of moving parts. As moving parts, we all have our own motivations. And sometimes you cross paths with another part in a way that doesn’t work out for you.

Some Salesforce AEs focus on strategies that sell more Salesforce core licenses. And why not? The products are familiar, and the deals have a direct and straightforward impact on the AEs’ quotas. More strategic AEs understand that AppExchange partner solutions can help them build profitable relationships with customers that lead to much better business in the long term.

Ask yourself: How do you convince the license-focused AEs to be more strategic? It’s not easy, but it’s well worth your time.

Strengthen Your Go-to-Market Plan

Managing relationships is a full-time job, so treat it like one! Our most successful partners have a partner manager on their staff—someone whose job is dedicated to maintaining the partner’s strategic relationships inside and outside Salesforce. A partner manager who understands the Salesforce ecosystem is well worth the investment, because this person is always thinking ahead and exploring possibilities.

Tailor Your Messaging

Learn the language of Salesforce. Convey your value proposition in terms of the platform. Would your product help sell additional core licenses? Would your app help Salesforce AEs close deals faster? Can you provide industry expertise to the Salesforce AE? Focus on what the field sales team gets out of the deal, and watch each rep’s ears perk up.

Find Your Niche

If you feel crowded out or unwelcome in a particular customer segment, look for one that needs more partnerships. Some partners focus on microverticals, where they can be the industry expert. Others move to segments where there’s less overlap in functionality between competing products. Target a well-defined, uncrowded market. That helps everyone understand how you fit into the ecosystem.

Be Transparent

Two women shaking hands

Conflict is uncomfortable, even in business. Things get murky when people have conflicting interests. Don’t avoid the mud—trudge straight through it! Communicate clearly and be honest with yourself and your customers. You can’t avoid conflict altogether. Address objections from your collaborators and complaints from your customers head on, before they damage your credibility. Above all, focus on trust. That strategy has worked very well for Salesforce and all of its partners.

Show That You’re a Great Partner

We’ve covered a lot of ground here, but the takeaway is this: Know your stuff, figure out whom at Salesforce you want to work with, and demonstrate why they want to work with you. Everything else is in the details.

What do you need to talk to a Salesforce sales team? And where do you find one? In the next unit we tackle these questions.


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