CodeScience CEO Brian Walsh led a straight talk roundtable of executives from three successful Platinum ISV partners at Dreamforce '16, including:
- Sean Hogan, Director of Strategic Alliances, Nintex (Drawloop)
- Avanish Sahai, SVP Channel and Alliances, InsideSales.com
- Chitrang Shah, VP of Products, Lattice Engines
The conversation focused on what it takes to get to scale on the AppExchange, complete with insights and best practices that accelerated sales in the last year. Attendees learned specific lessons gained by leveraging product management, sales, and marketing - the secret sauce to SaaS success.
Were you in the audience for this enlightening session? If not, we've got you covered with the session video plus a summary of some of the major takeaways. Enjoy!
Here are a few key insights:
Think of your Salesforce product as a separate business unit with investments for sales, service, and R&D. Launching your app on the AppExchange is not an "if you build it, they will come" endeavor. AppExchange marketing has to be an integral part of the overall marketing mix, not an afterthought.
Invest in sales and customer success to capture opportunity. Wins beget more wins. Leverage customer success stories to stand out from the 3,000+ apps on the AppExchange. From Avanish Sahai of InsideSales.com: "A lesson I took away from Salesforce is the notion of focusing on customer success. It's not just a tagline, and that is something that the world of cloud and SaaS has really changed how you have to engage with your customer. Focusing on customer success from day 1, whether it's how the product gets installed, what's it experienced on the AppExchange, how do they really deploy it, how do they adopt it, etc. That is a fundamental change to the tech industry, and not everybody gets that."
Initial growth will be slow but can accelerate rapidly as you gain reputation with the Salesforce ISV team. You need a sales and marketing team that understands how to connect while bringing value like potential opportunities vs just asking for things. From Chitrang Shah of Lattice Engines: "We take very much an on-the-ground approach. Every time we close a customer, a sales rep in Salesforce gets paid. We use that mechanism very aggressively to make connections with those sales reps. We close a deal in Boston, we announce it on their chatter program, the sales rep gets notified, and then our sales team reaches out to that sales rep and then we make a connection. At that point they're more than willing to listen to you. No amount of cool stories, at least where we stand, is reaching those reps. But when they get paid, they will hear you. Then they see this potential of Lattice. We brought business to them, and they can identify more opportunities in their patch where they can accelerate the adoption of Salesforce... If I look at the investment on dollars overall, that strategy has paid off far more than anything else we have done so far with Salesforce."
Develop to where Salesforce is going. From Sean Hogan of Nintex (Drawloop): "Once Salesforce gets a new piece of technology out that's compelling, you need to be ready to be in front of that. If you're not, you can get left behind very, very quickly by this competitive environment. Things like Lightning will take time for publishers to be able to really hit it out of the park, but then you need to plan R&D-wise to be in front of that."
If your app is not designed right, sales can accelerate service costs. The faster you grow, the faster you lose money! From Sean: "If you've done it poorly, you start to get services bleed. You start selling, which is great. Then you get the app out and if it's not properly architected for it to scale, you'll start to see SI service costs get out of control and unpredictable."
Building on Salesforce is different from Java, .Net, and other web development. From Avanish: "Work with a third-party. Leverage their expertise. Get them to help you get off the ground. Then once that happens you can decide as a entrepreneur, or as a established company, whether you want to bring that in-house or whether you continue working with a third-party...It really helped to build confidence that you're going to get out of the gate. In three months, four months, you're going to get an app that actually is going to work and is going to follow the guidelines, follow all the constraints that exist in the platform that are really different from other cloud environments. I think that's one of the best ways to close that skill gap."
Good UX design is critical. From Chitrang: "My biggest learning is the sheer power of adoption that can accelerate your product, and look at it in a 24 month span. When I joined Lattice we were very much about data science, producing the best predictions out there. Until we started building apps, Salesforce and in other platforms where we drive the entire workflow end to end for both marketers and sales together, is when we started seeing predictions becoming streamlined. The biggest lesson for me is that, yes, there is a data science piece of it that you have to crack, and you have to democratize it. There is a lot of effort that goes in it. But we were completely blindsided on how much importance, and the product investment we needed, in streamlining the workflow. That's been the biggest learning. If I were to build any data product or any predictive product, if you just focus only on building good predictions it won't go much farther. That's my biggest learning so far."