Here at bloomly, we spend a lot of time thinking about the Salesforce ecosystem. It’s amazingly complex and fascinating and there’s always something new to learn, but it’s also a tough place to survive, let alone thrive.
When most of our clients first come to us, “fascinating” isn’t the “f” word they have in mind. “Frustrating” (and sometimes something much stronger) is often more in line with their experience — which is why we decided to build an entire agency dedicated to navigating the ecosystem and helping partners like you figure out how to grow and thrive.
In this post, we’ll share what we’ve learned about the most common challenges partners like you face when trying to establish and expand your Salesforce ecosystem footprint. We won’t be able to solve all your problems in one article, but we will briefly talk about some of the strategies we use to help our clients overcome their challenges and carve out a successful niche in the ecosystem.
Straight from the source — The five toughest challenges facing partners in today’s Salesforce ecosystem
We start every client engagement with a discovery call to talk through pain points, discuss core strengths, and identify the most pressing problems and promising opportunities facing the partner firms we work with. We encourage participants not to hold anything back, and by the end of each session, we have a sea of colorful virtual post-it notes describing the biggest concerns and toughest challenges facing their organizations.
Every partner is unique and does things in their own way, but we started to notice that all the firms we talked to described very similar problems. In fact, the hundreds of post-it notes we’ve seen can all be condensed to a list of five major issues. So here it is — straight from the mouths of partners just like you — the five toughest challenges in today’s Salesforce ecosystem. Take a look and see if you can relate.
Defining niche & focus areas
You must have a niche to succeed in the ecosystem — especially in the beginning when you’re trying to stand out from the crowd and establish a footprint. Everyone knows this, but everyone still struggles to do it.
Many of the partners we work with can’t clearly articulate their core strengths, ideal clients, or unique value propositions. They know they should focus on an industry, vertical, or cloud, but aren’t sure where to start or how to find a niche they can win.
Some partners tell us they’ve found success in an initial narrow niche, but can’t figure out which growth areas or verticals and sub verticals they should pursue next.
Effective marketing efforts
If you want your marketing efforts to drive results and lead to growth, you must first develop an effective strategy and then execute it well. Most of the partners we talk to struggle with both tasks.
The first challenge is developing a strategy and the marketing collateral to support it. We hear all the time from partner firms who want to move upmarket or win business in a new vertical, but don’t know how to develop a strategy to make it happen. They don’t know what their message should be, how to make sure it’s clear and consistent across all channels, or how to tailor their marketing efforts to appeal to both clients and Salesforce AEs.
The second major issue is finding time to execute whatever strategy is in place. Many of the partners we talk to don’t have a marketing resource who can carry out the plan. If they do have a Go to Market leader, he or she is stretched too thin to be effective. There’s just not enough time to figure out how to reach clients and Salesforce AEs and create all the necessary content, and the result tends to be a marketing campaigns that are haphazard, reactive, and ineffective instead of consistent, proactive, and successful.
Consistent quality sales
In light of the first two challenges we’ve discussed, it’s not surprising that so many Salesforce partners we talk to struggle to keep their pipeline full of high-quality leads and close enough sales to grow their business.
Partners in our discovery workshops speak candidly about their pipeline being in a “scary place” and having too many small projects and low-quality leads that clog the pipeline and don’t result in good ROI. They also mention wanting to break out of the feast-or-famine cycle, better manage and track leads in the pipeline, and avoid mad end-of-quarter sales pushes from Salesforce AEs.
Here’s the thing — as a Salesforce consultant you have two major target audiences. One is your ideal clients and the other is the Salesforce AEs you want to partner with — and they care about different things.
One of the biggest frustrations partners have expressed in our workshops is seeing less-qualified consultants get tons of leads from Salesforce not because they do good work but because they know how to “speak Salesforce.” The partners we talk to know there’s a particular message or style of communication that gets an AEs’ attention, but they don’t know how to crack the code and communicate with Salesforce in a way that brings results.
Building strong Salesforce relationships
Most of the partners in our workshops tell us they know how to keep clients happy, but can’t seem to build strong relationships with Salesforce AEs. As you know, it’s impossible to thrive in the Salesforce ecosystem without establishing trust and rapport with Salesforce sales teams. Good relationships result in consistent leads and establish you as a partner of choice — which is why this challenge is such a big deal.
One of the main problems is reliable communication. It can be hard to get in touch with someone from Salesforce — and to get a response once you do manage to make contact. Partners say getting access to Slack channels is difficult, and it’s common to hear from AEs once and then never again.
Others describe “relationship paralysis” and talk about the difficulty of building trust with newer AEs who haven’t yet developed deep industry knowledge or Salesforce technical expertise. All the partners we’ve spoken with say they need help building and nurturing relationships with AEs in their niche.
How bloomly helps partners overcome challenges and thrive in the Salesforce ecosystem
Our discovery workshops aren’t just a venting session where partners can let off steam — they’re the first step in starting to overcome the challenges and take root and grow in the ecosystem. Because that’s the good news — all of these problems are solvable.
Here at bloomly, we’ve made it our business to help partners like you identify your niche, develop and execute effective business development strategies, fill your pipeline with quality leads, speak to Salesforce sales teams in a language they understand, and build the strong relationships you need to thrive.
So what’s the secret to ecosystem success? As we mentioned earlier, we can’t fit everything in one post. Don’t worry — we’ll be writing more. Until then, we’ll leave you with the number one recommendation we give to all our clients: Get your positioning right.
Positioning is more than just a buzzword — it’s absolutely critical for ecosystem success. As a matter of fact, we conduct positioning workshops with all our clients.
Because growth starts with positioning. It’s the key to defining your niche, developing a targeted strategy, refining the message you’ll present to clients and Salesforce, and establishing yourself as a partner of choice in your niche — with the healthy pipeline to prove it.
If you get your positioning right, all the challenges we’ve discussed in this article either disappear or become much more manageable. For more details, check out our in-depth article on how positioning helps you grow strong roots in the Salesforce ecosystem.
We’ll leave you with one more piece of good news — you don’t have to figure out how to overcome these challenges on your own. If you’re like the partners we work with, you’re really good at what you do. You have deep Salesforce expertise and you know you offer services companies desperately need.
You also know growth and success are possible, but you’re a little lost and need some help to make it happen. And that’s where we come in. That’s exactly what we do. You know Salesforce, and we know what it takes to stand out from the crowd and take root and thrive in the ecosystem. Get in touch to learn more about how we can work together to get your business where you want to be.