Salesforce tweaks channel programs in tiering, training, specializations

Salesforce looks to improve its support of partners, as it looks to grow its consultant base tenfold over the next several years to meet projected demand.

Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, Salesforce’s Senior Vice President, Partner Programs & Marketing

Salesforce has unveiled several changes to its Salesforce Consulting Partner Program. The objective is both to improve the efficiency of existing partners, to attract new ones, and to get existing partners to commit to hiring and training up more Salesforce consultants.

The company cited IDC data indicating Salesforce partners today report an average year-over-year revenue growth of 48 per cent and that, by 2020, for every $1 of Salesforce revenue, partners will generate $4.14 of revenue. This dovetails with the company’s own internal estimates, and leads them to conclude they will need to attract nearly 10 times as many consultants as they have now. That includes additional consultants at existing partners, and some of the changes are designed to stimulate that.

“Keith Block [Salesforce’s Vice Chairman, President and COO] says partners and going to market by industry will be the secret of our success in the next five years and we will double down on them,” said Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, Salesforce’s Senior Vice President, Partner Programs & Marketing.

The new changes are designed to stimulate that goal, although Taychakhoonavudh acknowledged that they are not earth shaking.

“We don’t make radical changes in direction,” she said. “We are at the beginning of our fiscal and program year and have worked to look at our priorities — where dollars and people are going this year in direct and making sure there is an aligned focus with channel. A lot of this is building on things we measure and we are putting fuel on the fire to make it easier for partners to get there.”

One of the changes is an increased emphasis on cross-cloud delivery capability in partner tiering.

“We had been doing it a little before, but now have increased it,” Taychakhoonavudh said. Tiering now places much more emphasis on cross-cloud capability into natural adjacencies.

“We recently brought in a lot of ExactTarget partners who do marketing clouds,” she noted. “The most adjacent of our clouds to marketing clouds is service clouds. So we want these partners to learn Service Cloud and how to integrate the two. As an incentive, we are tweaking the way we calculate the partnership score to let you advance a little faster.”

Taychakhoonavudh indicated that this change isn’t just being decreed from on high, but responds to an influx in partner demand.

“Our partners have been coming to us and saying that their customers are making more holistic asks than before,” she said. “We want to put the incentives in place so partners learn more products and solutions across multiple products.”

A second change is making an increased emphasis on expanding the Salesforce expert consultant ecosystem, including incenting partners for hiring more Salesforce consultants and for training them up with additional levels of certifications. Partners who train up their consultants with multiple certifications will achieve higher levels of tiering.

“There isn’t a hard formula for doing this, but we are but adding a lot of weighting, and discounts with Salesforce University are deeper,” Taychakhoonavudh said. “Typically, it is $4500 for five days of technical training, but through these incents is can be as little as $900 or even free. We have completely changed our cost model here, which has been rethought from the ground up.”

The third major change is greatly increasing the emphasis of product and industry focus based on implementation experience. These include financial services, telecommunications and media, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and public sector.

“We added specializations last year, but we were just trying them out and we didn’t weight them very heavily,” Taychakhoonavudh said. The onus was on partners to self-declare, and provide appropriate evidence. Now we are ready to put a bigger emphasis on it. It becomes ever more important as Salesforce acquires more companies. We are putting together programs and bringing them to partners as quickly as we can, to make it easier for them to align their specializations.

“These are the major changes for the foreseeable future,” she stated. In subsequent months, we will hone in on specific areas, including some things around Lightning, but these are the major things.”