Jacob Rouser
Jul 9, 2020

The launch of our Chief Product Officer’s Guide to Winning as a Salesforce Partner coincides with a global pandemic. It may seem like a strange time to be sharing how to build a business, given nobody knows what the near future holds. Yet the research that led to this guide has exposed an interesting fact: Sound advice for going to market in good times is also sound advice for going to market in bad. 

Core to that advice? Get your go-to-market plan in order — and if Salesforce is part of that plan, evaluate if you have set yourself up for success. 

Get your copy of the guide!

What is the Great Separation?

Brian Walsh, CodeScience CEO, introduces in the guide’s foreword the idea of the Great Separation. The Great Separation is grounded in the idea that companies who are solving essential issues and have go-to-market plans rooted in real customer needs will become category leaders while others are finding contracts canceled and the future uncertain. Those companies who are now choosing to lean in and invest in solving their customers’ issues will gain a decade of competitive advantage over their competition. Furthermore, as evidenced by companies like nCino and DocuSign, those that leverage Salesforce for both distribution and technology achieve greater success, faster. Companies who fail to invest in solving the essential issues may truly never catch up.

In our guide, we tell the stories of 4 AppExchange partners — FinancialForce, Optimizely, Propel, and Nintex —  that are experiencing growth and success, at least partly because they’re built on Salesforce.

It takes product leaders with an uncommon vision to see why. For most, the Salesforce ecosystem appears just like any other marketplace. But to our featured four, and to the hundreds of other Salesforce partners who have cracked the code, Salesforce has enabled them to:

  • Cut development costs

  • Reduce risk

  • Get to market faster

  • Build credibility

  • Sell into the enterprise

The last section of our guide focuses on what you need to get started, and for some partners evaluating their opportunity, this will be as far as they go. However, we find the best partners are already evaluating their go-to-market strategy, and as noted in our guide, developing their strategy to position their product to Salesforce effectively.

Becoming a Strategic Lever to Salesforce

A core reason partners build on Salesforce is to accelerate their time to market.


And building on Salesforce helps partners achieve this every day. Nearly a third of our respondents in our State of AppExchange Partners report noted time to market as their number one reason for joining the ecosystem. Second to that — by a margin of two percent — is access to the install base. 

With nearly 200,000 customers around the globe, Salesforce presents the unique opportunity for partners to reach target customers who would have been unavailable otherwise. As Byron Jones, Senior Director of Product Management at Optimizely, notes in the guide, “Some customers were telling us, ‘Oh, we wouldn’t even talk to you if you didn’t have this kind of a connection [with Salesforce], because we want to consolidated vendors.’”

Having a product on the Salesforce AppExchange presents an even more unique opportunity — for the right partners, Salesforce AEs will actively position your product to help them close deals. But not every partner is granted a seat at the table. It takes a dedicated strategy, with the right Salesforce knowhow to cut through the noise and be seen as a strategic lever for Salesforce to close deals rather than a roadblock. 

Every Partner Must Continually Evaluate Their Salesforce Strategy

No matter where you are on your Salesforce journey, if you’re not actively and regularly evaluating your positioning to Salesforce, you’re missing out. The best and brightest ISVs know the alliances you build within Salesforce and the partner community make the difference between explosive growth and middling success. 

In our Acting Like a Top 25 Salesforce ISV Webinar, Steve Jacobson, Founder and CEO of Appinium, explains, “In starting out, you must figure out where you’re going to attack, how you’re going to do it, what segment or vertical you go after...and how your product can fit in Salesforce’s broader strategy.”

Much to their detriment, some ISVs never discover that nuance — figuring out where you fit in Salesforce’s broader strategy. We’ve talked at length in the past about the importance of negative space and your Salesforce opportunity — Salesforce can’t fill every niche perfectly, and they know that. This is where the value of the partner ecosystem comes into play. If your product supplements Salesforce functionality and does it 10x better, they’ll bring you to the table. If you sell to non-Salesforce customers, AEs will actively work with you to create co-selling opportunities. 

Understanding the role your product plays in the ecosystem and being able to clearly and succinctly state what it does and why it is valuable will immediately set you apart from your competition. 

Getting Started is Easier (and Harder) Than You May Think

The Good News: There’s tremendous opportunity to make inroads in every category.

At the time of writing this, Salesforce has just released the Work.com product suite. Brian Walsh and Sean Hogan, CodeScience CRO, joined forces to explain how any ISV can create and own their negative space in Work.com. The learnings they share are not just limited to Work.com.

At its core, effectively positioning your product with Salesforce is just like positioning your product to the broader market. Identify the gaps that your product solves, align those gaps to key customer personas, and then expand alongside Salesforce.

The Challenge: You must speak Salesforce.

Even partners who have been part of the ecosystem for years often cannot speak the same language as Salesforce. Understanding which segment your product maps to, defining your buyers in the same way AEs do, creating materials that align to the message Salesforce presents are all areas an ISV must have internalized when they connect to Salesforce. 

Salesforce doesn’t hide this information either — here, we’ve gathered a handful of the resources available, and this is just scratching the surface. However, you must have a dedicated resource there to synthesize this information and stay connected once you develop a relationship with Salesforce.

Do You See Walls or Windows?

This is the question Molly Walsh, Director of Marketing at CodeScience, challenges readers with once they open our guide. For some, the AppExchange appears to be an inordinate investment and the time needed to succeed seems unknowable. We hope to challenge that notion — and showcase how partners — no matter their size or industry — can find their success on the AppExchange.

Download your free copy of our guide here.


If you’re considering your opportunity on the AppExchange or know you could be doing more and aren’t sure of where to start, get in touch. We’ve worked with over 10% of the AppExchange and know what it takes to help partners thrive.

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