top of page
Image by Lyle Wilkinson
  • Writer's pictureGary Lam

Salesforce ISV Partner Series: 3 Tips on Creating a Repeatable Sales Model in a Targeted Vertical

Previously on this ISV blog series, Norma Watenpaugh and I have discussed the importance of creating a partner program, and how to ensure your company’s culture is indeed partner-friendly. If you clicked on this article, it means that you are ready to elevate your sales model and target a specific business vertical.

In this article, you will learn how business verticals can differentiate you from the competition and position you as an expert in your field. We will cover:

  • Why you should consider a business vertical

  • What it has to do with your sales model

  • The mistake most partners make

  • 3 steps to defining your sales model

Why consider a business vertical?

We can all agree that standing out from the competition is every business’s goal, right? Well, Salesforce partners are no exception. The number of service providers, system integrators, and Salesforce experts available out there is huge. When the time comes for your prospect to choose who they want to work with, why would they pick you over anybody else?

The answer is business verticals. I’ve covered the topic of using verticals to stand out from the competition extensively in this article. However, to put everything into perspective for you it is all about identifying your area of expertise and serving customers in need of that particular knowledge and set of skills. Once you get familiar with their pain points and challenges you can customize your services to cater to them. Again, you can refer back to this article to learn more about implementing business verticals.

What does this have to do with your Sales model?

The short answer to that question is: a lot. This has everything to do with your sales model. Your business activities are nothing but a series of systems. Sales, fulfillment, maintenance, accounting, and so on. When a Salesforce partner is starting out, you are responsible for the execution of every one of those systems. The idea behind adopting a repeatable mode is to work smarter, not harder.

This is something I myself had to learn the hard way. A few years back I joined an investment club where I was asked to work on a stock analysis report. Fortunately, there was a prescribed process for creating these types of reports, or else I would have had to spend even more time figuring it out before I could even start. It still took me 3 hours to work on, I even started dreading the next assignment. Surprisingly enough, the second assignment took me only one hour, the third and fourth only 20 min.

What was the difference?

Well, the assignment on its own did not change. Working on it multiple times allowed me to create my own roadmap or steps to follow and be more efficient. That is what happens to your sales when you build a repeatable model, you are no longer stuck in the weeds of things, you simply follow a roadmap you’ve created and have more time focusing on the sales that are coming your way.

The mistake most partners make

I’ve been in the industry for 2 decades now and the mistake I’ve seen entrepreneurs make over and over again is that they take a peanut butter approach to their sales. They spread their efforts over every conceivable use case, opportunity, and market, hoping something will stick. They fear that if they don’t chase everything, they might miss out on a big opportunity.

What is wrong with this approach you ask? Well, this is not the most optimal way to build your pipeline. Particularly at the front end of your evolution. At this stage, every customer you meet will want something just a little bit different, and you will have to say yes to that because you’re already committed. So you will find yourself pulled in every direction, and lose focus on just what you are selling and to whom.

Not that a pivot isn’t occasionally called for, but you have to first find your sweet spot and stick to it.

How to leverage business verticals

Partners wanting to serve everyone and do everything is a bit of a common philosophy among the people I’ve met. Their answer to every question about their services is “We do everything”. Quite literally.

A Salesforce Alliance manager I know once told me that during a sales team meeting he had with a Salesforce partner, that was the only answer he got. He asked the salesforce partner about their unique value proposition, and what industry vertical they specialize in, still, their answer was they did everything. Care to take a guess on what happened next? No, they didn’t get traction with that Salesforce Sales team. This was a missed opportunity and the Sales team didn’t think they were going to be a good fit for them.

That is where business verticals come into play. When you focus on one industry and one type of client you will have a defined unique sales proposition and will already be familiar with your prospects’ pain points and challenges.

ISV Partners that have a horizontal solution will still need to provide a customer value story for a vertical and even down to the sub-vertical. Don’t assume that a single value proposition is effective for an entire industry. The ability to build credibility within a sub-vertical will show business decision-makers that you understand their challenges and speak their language.

How to define your sales model

So how do you build a successful sales model?

There are a few steps you can follow today to create the most optimum sales model that serves your business goals.

Step 1: Get your team involved

Start with your team. Ask them the following questions:

  • What is your value story?

  • Who is your ideal customer profile and persona?

  • What are the pain points for each key persona?

  • How do you align your value proposition with the pain points?

Partners will expect that you have the sales model figured out. They are not going to fill this gap for you. More importantly, they want to be assured that there are customers who want what you are selling. The ultimate proof point of that is sales.

Step 2: Be clear on your messaging

The best way to build a strong pipeline and attract your ideal partners is to keep your focus on your messaging. Partners want clarity on who the ideal customer is for your offer, and what problem you solve.

With clarity on who the customer is, you can automate your sales process; which makes it repeatable. This is the pathway to scaling your business. You will know where to prospect. What position do decision-makers hold in the companies you’re targeting, what qualifying questions will vet out the best potential leads, and who influences buyer decisions. Often the key influencers will be your best potential partners.

Step 3: Target clients in specific verticals

Anyone who knows me knows that this is the number one advice I give to Salesforce partners. Targeting customers in specific vertical industries is the key to your success. This approach works for two reasons:

1. Focus

Customers are looking for solutions that solve a problem they have. They expect and are more receptive to ISVs and partners who know their business and know the industry landscape they live in and understand their challenges. It helps you hone in and focus your sales positioning and messaging into very precise language that will enable you to sell and close more efficiently. Don’t expect customers to make the connection between general benefits and specific outcomes to the business.

2. Thought leadership

If you are a Salesforce ISV, vertical solution sales are Salesforce’s preferred motion to market. As a Salesforce partner, you will have much more success in engaging with the Salesforce sales team, if you can show demonstrated success in a targeted vertical niche. You will be able to attract partners who are also operating in that targeted vertical then, big surprise, once you begin cross-pollinating referral opportunities, those customers are likely to have very similar needs. So you keep focus and momentum going.

Remember that the partners you are recruiting have lots of opportunities to partner with other vendors. Having a compelling story and sales model will get their attention.

Adopting these 3 steps will enable you to build a repeatable sales model based on a strong suit of success stories.

Final thoughts...

If there is any takeaway from this article this is what I want you to remember: when you’re selling to everyone then you’re selling to no one.

Although I would love to take credit for that quote, I actually heard it during a conference call with one of my Salesforce partners. On that call, there was a new VP of Sales that was in attendance. The Salesforce practice lead said that the value proposition was “we do everything”. That’s when the VP of sales replied with this insightful quote.

This is your sign to look closer into your sales model and its repeatability potential. Still, struggling with defining your messaging or identifying your target audience? Let’s chat!

Check out more of Norma’s writings here.


bottom of page