BEEN TO SAN FRANCISCO LATELY? First visit in a while? Here are a few fast facts about that big new skyscraper you probably noticed: It’s 1,070 feet tall, cost $1.1 billion to construct, and houses the new global headquarters of software-as-a-service giant Salesforce.
Pretty much everything about Salesforce is big these days, in fact, from its 150,000-plus customers to the 26 percent year-over-year revenue growth projected for its 2019 fiscal year to the more than 6 million times customers have downloaded one of the over 5,000 third-party solutions in its AppExchange marketplace.
And then there’s the company’s 100,000-person partner community, which is big and getting bigger all the time. “It’s rapidly growing across every type of partner,” says J.C. Collins (pictured), senior vice president and COO of industries and partners at Salesforce. Yet despite that fact, he continues, Salesforce’s greatest channel-related challenge isn’t keeping partners busy. It’s finding enough partners to satisfy skyrocketing demand for services and support.
That’s no surprise, really. Salesforce is the biggest name in CRM, which is in turn one of the biggest software markets in the industry. “There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity to grow your business,” Collins notes. Indeed, by 2022, members of the Salesforce partner ecosystem will make $5.18 for every dollar in licensing revenue collected by Salesforce itself, according to IDC.
Unlike most of the vendors channel pros currently do business with, that ecosystem doesn’t include traditional VARs, as Salesforce doesn’t compensate partners simply for signing up customers. Companies with the know-how to deploy and integrate Salesforce environments, however, can profit handsomely. According to Forrester channel researcher Jay McBain, in fact, partners of born-in-the-cloud vendors like Salesforce typically make up to 75 percent margins on implementation projects, versus an average of 17 percent on managed services.
“The economics work well for a partner when they’re focused on delivering that value to our joint customers,” Collins notes.
Helping Partners Ramp-up
The trick for anyone new to Salesforce, however, is acquiring the skills required to capitalize on those economics. “If you’re a pure reseller and you’re looking to enter into more of the hands-on services and system integration type of work, there’s obviously a ramp-up,” Collins observes. “Taking away any sort of friction in that training is something that we’re very focused on, and have been for the last several years.”
Salesforce pursues that goal in multiple ways, starting with Trailhead, its online education platform. “[It] allows anyone with a computer or mobile device to get familiar with Salesforce and to start learning about our technology,” Collins says. The Trailmixes service Salesforce added to Trailhead in 2017 expedites that process by allowing partners to assemble customized “learning paths” toward the specific capabilities they wish to acquire.
Coming soon as well, Collins adds, is a version of Salesforce’s Accelerate program specifically for would-be system integrators. Introduced last year, Accelerate provides deep-dive, fast-track virtual instruction on launching a Salesforce practice. In addition to Salesforce products, the new edition will provide guidance on constructing and scaling an integration-based business model.
Services aren’t the only way to cash in on Salesforce’s hot streak, however. Selling applications through the AppExchange is another. Customers want—and are willing to pay for—Salesforce-based software tailored to their unique requirements. Satisfying that demand is a “write once, sell many” venture for channel pros with intellectual property to share.
“When you think about the number of specific applications required by different industry-specific types of businesses, it’s sort of an endless type of market that you could go into,” Collins says. The only limits to that market, he suggests, are the verticals Salesforce itself has made strategic priorities, which include financial services, retail, and healthcare. “We’ve been very clear in terms of where Salesforce is going,” Collins says. “We have seven stated primary industries that we focus on.”
For partners, that leaves a wealth of other industries to pursue.