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6 Key Lessons I’ve Learned From Partnering With Salesforce For 10 Years To Build Software Applications

By Brandon Metcalf
/   Posted June 10, 2019 at 1:49 PM

At Blueprint, our leadership team has collectively worked with hundreds of Salesforce customers across the world, and has logged tens of thousands of dedicated development hours. But beyond experience and technical expertise, our value lies in the efforts we’ve made to build a strong relationship with the team at Salesforce over the last decade. 

Our prior venture, a staffing and recruiting software company (and Salesforce ISV partner) called Talent Rover, simply wouldn’t have been as successful without our partnership with Salesforce. 

There’s really nothing else like the Salesforce platform and ecosystem. The infrastructure, security and reliability they provide their partners would have cost us a fortune to build on our own. And although the more advanced functions still require engineering chops, Salesforce has done a brilliant job making their products user-friendly.  

On top of it all, Salesforce also has one of the most talented groups of employees in the world. So if you put in the effort to form a genuine partnership with them, you gain a game-changing resource. 

It certainly proved true with Talent Rover. Again and again, we found that the deeper we partnered with Salesforce, the more successful we became.

Here are six key lessons I’ve learned partnering with Salesforce: 

1. If you want to be successful, you have to ingrain yourself in the technical aspects of Salesforce. 

That means figuring out how it works and why it works that way. Before starting a project, make sure you have a deep understanding of each of the different Salesforce products you’re using—how they work together, how they work independently, and how you can leverage that knowledge to create something great. On the other side of the coin, you have to understand a product’s limitations, how far you can extend it, and what it can and can’t do. 

If you do both of these things, you’ll save yourself the trouble of reinventing the wheel and simplify your development. When you have this level of understanding of a Salesforce product’s capabilities, you can maximize them so they can do their job even better.

2. Salesforce certifications matter.

Salesforce has a massive training program that offers both general and complex certifications. Early on at Talent Rover, we didn’t give them much thought, because we were focused on our own product. But we soon learned that these certifications are extremely valuable.

Salesforce certifications, which require annual testing for recertification, are one of the best ways to learn about the products and stay on top of modifications and updates. Without certification, it can be nearly impossible to maintain a deep understanding of the constantly evolving platform. 

Even the certifications that weren’t directly related to Talent Rover’s work made us a better company because they helped us understand how and why Salesforce does what it does.

3. You have to understand how Salesforce sells its products in order to avoid competition and strengthen the partnership. 

We’ve sold with Salesforce on client deals, we’ve sold independently, and we’ve competed with them on deals. As soon as we realized we were in direct competition with Salesforce, we had to ask ourselves how to do what’s right for the customer without jeopardizing the great relationship we had with our partner. 

One of the best ways to achieve both of those goals was to try and turn that competition into a joint opportunity instead. That meant not only optimizing our product to work seamlessly with Salesforce, but also learning how Salesforce sells.

So we took a step back and observed how their sales team operates—which was impressive to watch. Their sales process is phenomenal. Not only did watching them inform our own sales process, but also taught us how best to approach working with them. 

To build that foundation, you have to understand the customer’s needs and the value of what you bring to the table. Then you have to be able to demonstrate that value and illustrate how you and Salesforce can complement each other to create a win/win situation all around.

4. Approach building a relationship with Salesforce as a marathon—not a sprint.

It took a long time for us to gain the trust and respect of Salesforce’s leaders. 

But over time, we developed a track record of mutually beneficial collaboration. And eventually, they knew our executive team on a first-name basis—and trusted we would do right by them when they invested time and resources in us. Ultimately, the partnership helped us scale to the next level, and we jointly worked for clients with revenues in the billions.

When you make your first attempts to build that relationship, keep the long-term in mind. Don’t get hung up on instant revenue and threaten the relationship to pursue a single deal. 

5. You have to “eat your own dog food.”

Buy and use Salesforce products. Don’t try to cheat the system and create workarounds that make them lose revenue.

First, the more Salesforce products you use, the better you’ll understand the platform as a whole. Second, Salesforce will appreciate your business, further strengthening the relationship. 

We valued the relationship so much that if Salesforce came to us with a product they thought we might like, we would often buy it even if we weren’t necessarily in the market for something with that functionality. We knew the software would be great, and it was a worthy investment in the relationship—it showed them that we wanted to help them as much as we wanted them to help us. 

6. Salesforce evolves and grows quickly, so it’s critical to keep the lines of communication open and be clear about expectations. 

When I started working with them, Salesforce’s revenue was around ~$1.5B. In 2018, the company surpassed $10B in revenue—and that meteoric rise shows no signs of stopping. At Talent Rover, we understood scaling quickly—but not on that scale. We grew at 3000%, with revenue in the millions. But billions is an entirely different animal. 

As Salesforce grew to its massive size, communication and collaboration began to take a bit longer. We realized that we had to work harder on the relationship and master the art of reaching out to the right person at the right time. There was always a good reason that things didn’t move as quickly as we might have liked.

When developing a Salesforce product, you can be certain their team is there to help. One of the reasons the company has done so well is that they really want developers to build on their platform and be successful. But you have to approach the partnership the right way. Gaining their trust and confidence is vital to the success of any Salesforce software development company.