Yesterday, you were on top of the world. You presented your product to your very first enterprise customer, and they ate it up. Since then, you’ve done nothing but daydream about their CEO signing the contract.
Today, you receive an email from the customer saying that they’ve decided to move in another direction.
Time out. What just happened?
I’ve worked in the Salesforce ecosystem for two and a half years, and have been lucky enough to work with successful partners, and seen how they avoid a loss like this. At the same time, I’ve seen these losses happen to even the most successful partners. By developing a channel partnership, you can create meaningful relationships with partners in your ecosystem, which will help you bring in great deals, and avoid losing them at closing time.
Here’s a look at the cause and effect, and what you can do to avoid losing that sale with channel partnerships in place.
Determine the underlying cause. We’ve found that most losses stem from the motivator behind the sale, any misconceptions around technology functionality, and a lack of training.
“For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.” – Margaret Heffernan
Oftentimes sales reps are incentivized by compensation. More often than not, revenue from a partner’s application is a drop in their quota bucket; this means you will need to promote an alternative motivator. Lucky for you, sales reps are also innately competitive people, and the smart ones look for winning teams to align themselves within the field.
Focus on the four business drivers below to make channel partnerships become your workhorse.
Strengthen Your Go-To-Market Plan
Our most successful partners have a partner manager dedicated to their partner relationships, such as a person dedicated to Salesforce. Having someone on your team who understands the ecosystem is invaluable. They should be focused on actively engaging with field sales teams, aligning on product roadmaps to ensure that you stay ahead of the game, and fostering product champions within your partners’ leadership teams.
Cater Your Messaging to Your Ecosystem
Learn the language of Salesforce and talk about how their value proposition extends the Salesforce value proposition. Perk the ears of Salesforce AEs by focusing on what’s in it for them. For example, can you drive additional core licenses, will your application help them close deals faster, or can you provide industry expertise? Work to uncover their pain points, and strive to be an undeniable value add. Once you have their attention, cut through the feature and function fog with an easy-to-use value proposition.
Find Your Customer Niche
If you continue to experience conflict, look for a customer segment where partnerships are welcome, and focus on that. For example, some partners have benefited by focusing on micro-verticals where they can act as the industry expert, and others have transitioned to a new customer segment where there’s less overlap with competing product functionality. Either way, having a clearly defined target market helps everyone understand how you fit into the ecosystem.
Don’t tiptoe around the mud, go through it! It’s unrealistic to think that you can avoid conflict altogether. Addressing an objection head on allows for a teaching moment that will likely prevent lost revenue in the future. For example, customer stories that focus on winning with sales teams are a great place to start.
Though unexpected conflict is irksome at times, it can be tamed through clear, targeted communication and complementary goals. Understanding what drives Salesforce AEs will greatly increase the likelihood that your next prospective customer will sign on the dotted line.
Channel Partnerships: How These Smart Investments Will Help You Avoid Losing That Next Deal was originally published in Inside the Salesforce Ecosystem on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.