Image by Lyle Wilkinson
  • Gary Lam

How Can Salesforce Partners Use a Vertical to Stand Out From the Competition?

Updated: Aug 20



No matter the industry you operate in or the customer tier you’re targeting, differentiating yourself from the competition is a must. It’s not only about getting your voice heard in a crowded place, it is also about showcasing your expertise and your added value to your clients and focusing on specific verticals where you can gain significant strategic advantage. Salesforce partners are no exception. In this article, we’re going to discuss:

  • Identifying your area of expertise

  • Implementing a business vertical approach

  • Targeting sub-verticals

  • Building a plan of action

Identifying Your Area of Expertise

The biggest challenge in the market right now is the abundance of Salesforce partners that have extensive product expertise, but no industry differentiation. From a client’s standpoint, the partner they chose to work with should not only be knowledgeable about their product, but they also need a 360 approach that only industry experts can provide. If you fall under that category of Salesforce partners, the key to differentiating yourself is to choose a vertical.


It’s not as complex as it sounds. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel and you don’t have to acquire a new set of skills. Think of your previous experiences in the workforce. Which industry did you work in the longest? What subject matter do you consider yourself an expert in? And what areas do you have a history implementing solutions in?


A simple brainstorming session will allow you to pinpoint the one industry that you know the ins and outs of and can implement solutions in successfully.


Implementing a Business Vertical Approach

There is a reason why business verticals are important components of a company's product development. They allow you to focus on a specific audience for maximum effectiveness, offer a specialized service, and reduce competition which translates into faster sales. Salesforce partners can tremendously benefit from implementing a business vertical approach.


Once you identify your area of expertise, the first step of implementing a business vertical approach is to conduct some research on the industry you want to operate in. Remember, you are to become an expert in the field, so make sure you familiarize yourself with everything that pertains to it.


In addition to focusing on your business vertical, I would suggest you reach even deeper in your approach and identify sub-industry verticals.


Targeting Sub-Verticals

Targeting sub-industry verticals will extend your reach and give you the credibility you need to develop trusting relationships with your audience.


Let’s say for instance that you operate within the financial services vertical. The different parties involved in this case are wealth & asset management advisors, banking institutions, insurance companies, capital markets, etc. These are your sub-industry verticals. Pick two of them, the ones you are confident you can successfully deliver solutions to, and focus on them.


The ultimate benefit of targeting sub-verticals is that you will become your Salesforce’s sales team go-to person. They will call you whenever they’re conducting business with that sub-vertical and need that type of expertise. You will not only be known for your thought leadership but most importantly for your ability to add value to the sales cycle - if not shortening it.


Your partnership with Salesforce account representatives will take a whole new meaning. They will depend on you to contribute to their sales processes. Once you develop a certain level of trust with them, they will spread the word with their coworkers and continue to bring you into sales deals. This will lead to deal velocity as more people in a sales team trust in your expertise.

Building a Plan of Action

Now that you’ve identified your field of expertise, implemented a vertical business approach, and targeted sub-industry verticals, how do you build a plan of action that services your business goals?


Your plan of action should include a combination of these attributes:

  • Why customers buy from you

  • Industry expertise developed by past and current clients

  • Salesforce certifications achieved

  • Solution accelerators

  • Services revenue and margin

  • Number of co-sell deals sourced deals with Salesforce

  • Number of trusted relationships with Salesforce account reps

  • Customer stories/testimonials

  • Salesforce strategic direction

  • Salesforce partner sales team industry alignment

Step 1: Social Proof

Collect reviews and testimonials from your customers in that sub-vertical in that sub-vertical. The idea is to show-case social proof of your expertise and the value you created. These customer stories will give you credibility in that sub-vertical you’re targeting.


Step 2: Finding an Ambassador

Once you get a track record of working with a Salesforce account representative, that person will be your advocate. As long as they are satisfied with the ability to successfully "co-sell", they will refer you to other account representatives.


Step 3: Building Your Portfolio

Working with Salesforce account representatives and bringing repeatable industry solutions to their customized solutions to their challenges will bring you recognition within the field. The more clients you work with, the more opportunities you will get to fine-tune your approach.


Document your progress and build a portfolio that prospects can refer to in order to familiarize themselves with your work.


Step 4: Designing Your Irresistible Offer

It all comes down to the offering, doesn't it? For your prospects to assess whether or not you are the right fit for them, they need some sort of incentive. Not only a package, an irresistible offer. How do you achieve that? Build an industry Jumpstart aka an implementation offer.


Use your industry expertise to package a quick implementation that addresses typical industry business problems. The idea is to show a quick ROI for the solution you offer. If your client has any remaining doubts or hesitations about your added value, this irresistible offer will be the validation they need.


So How Does a Vertical Differentiate You From the Competition?

Through your support and expertise, you will help Salesforce representatives close deals within those sub-industry verticals you targeted. That alone will make you the go-to problem solver for that specific vertical.


In addition to that, having any type of accelerators or industry solutions that you've built and implemented from previous projects, will cut down on your timing. You will be able to go through the onboarding process and start marketing in record time.


A more predictable implementation reduces cost, and lower implementation cost gives you a competitive advantage. That right there is the ultimate differentiating factor.


Conclusion

Following these steps will provide you with the foundation you need to market with Salesforce. You will be able to evangelize your value proposition, your point of view, and thought leadership to the sales representatives.