HEAD IN THE CLOUDS: Salesforce’s Consultants on AppExchange and What Cloud Vendors Really Want

This week, I take a closer look at Salesforce’s new “Consultants on AppExchange” and the deeper insights customers can now gain when trying to find the right consultant and I also shed light on some of the major ‘simply undeniable’ things that cloud vendors want from their customers.

Salesforce AppExchange Changes – Helping Customers Find the Right Consultant?

Salesforce unveiled Consultants on AppExchange last week which includes a Consultant Finder and an Expertise tab.  Essentially, this is a new feature available to Salesforce customers who are searching for consultants and partners to implement their Salesforce solutions.  Woodson Martin, General Manager of Salesforce AppExchange, recently said:

“This allows customers to gain much greater insight into the capabilities and expertise of the consultants who can help them on their digital transformation journeys.”

Customers can now search through the Consultant Finder by industry specialization, location and company size.  There are even filters for a deeper search into consultant ratings and language preferences.  Through the Expertise tab, customers can assess expertise at an individual consultant level and by product expertise.  Salesforce customers can gain a perspective on the number of certifications an individual has as well as the number of projects they have completed.

This is certainly a positive change as it provides customers that are searching for consultants a useful set of data and insights to begin an evaluation in a productive and optimized manner.   It also makes the consultants and partners that are part of the AppExchange, have to further step up their game and pull back the curtain on capabilities in order to compete for this valuable and sought-after business. If their competition is pulling back the curtain and making these details available, then they have to as well.

What would a potential customer be left to think if a consultant wasn’t as forthright with their qualifications?  It will also force participating consultants and partners to ensure they are creating a pool of highly qualified, certified consultants.  Through these new features, consultants and partners will also be able to gain a better understanding and insight into what matters to customers looking to bring on a consultant and a go-forward partner.

Even with the insights and data available through Consultants on AppExchange, I would highly recommend maintaining more robust vetting activities to ensure you are ultimately ending up with the right consultant and partner, no matter how large your business or particular project may be.  It will be important to ensure, before any choice is made, that you interview key individuals that will be providing services. It is critical that you dig into experience and qualifications as well as personalities (will they work well with your team?).

It would also be wise to ask to evaluate the collective team that would be involved in the day-to-day, as well as their experience working together on particular projects and initiatives.  Lastly, it will be important, before you make a selection and bring pen to paper on the associated master services agreement and SOW, that you obtain the proper level of transparency (i.e., complete staff loading charts) and commercial commitments (discounted rates, rate protections, budget and schedule assurances, etc.) from your chosen consultant and partner.

What Cloud Vendors Want from Their Customers

Not all cloud vendors are created equally or even alike, but when it comes to the topic of what they want from their customer base, there are shared goals and objectives that are simply undeniable.  Beyond the obvious and probably overused “land and expand” objective, whereby they get in the door with a core product and then spend the a majority of their time trying to upsell the customer, here are a few things (by no means all inclusive) that all cloud vendors want from their customers:

ACV (Annual Contract Value) Growth

  • This is an indicator of strength, both internally and to the market, as well as a clear indicator of being able to effectively execute to the overarching objective of expanding customers’ portfolios of products over the course of the relationship and since inception. Most cloud vendors report the number of net-new deals as well as the number of current customers that have an ACV of greater than $1M.

Actual Use

  • It is one thing to get a customer to “sign up” and contractually add a product to an Order Form as part of an initiative (often driven by an expected business outcome or objective), but it is another to get a customer to actual adopt and utilize the product as envisioned. Actual use will lead to “stickiness”, and the more sticky the cloud vendor becomes, the more likely renewal becomes an expected and ongoing formality.

When it comes to cloud platform use (like Azure, Google Cloud Platform, or AWS), utilization is an even bigger deal given the associated “fly-wheel” effect that comes with it.  Once you start the meter and it starts to run, it is most likely not going to stop (let’s be honest…it is not going to stop unless there are far bigger business issues going on), and it is only going to run faster over time.  The more it runs, the more fees you owe your cloud vendor and they know that.

Executive Level Attention

  • More and more cloud vendors are starting to shift their focus to line-of-business executives and even the CEO when positioning the need for their products and solutions as part of the enterprise’s digital transformation. They obviously still maintain and pursue executive-level IT relationships, but they know that the individuals that are setting the course and direction for these digital transformations (the line of business executives and CEO) are the individuals that they need to get in front of.  These individuals also often own the budget.

They need to sell them on the vision and how a partnership with their firm and use of their cloud products will enable the outcomes and transformation they are looking for.   A perfect example of a cloud vendor doing everything they can to get this type of attention is ServiceNow.  The rebranding efforts and brand campaign, including TV commercials and signage around major cities, is aimed at raising visibility with C-suite executives in order to help get them in the room.

Knowing what matters most to your current cloud vendors and those you will add in the future, will help you assess what leverage you have when it comes time to negotiate your initial deal and/or your upcoming renewal.  Of course, knowing is only half the battle.  How you use the information is ultimately going to determine how successful you are in your negotiation. 

Comment below, follow me Adam Mansfield on Twitter @Adam_M­ansfield_, find my other UpperEdge blogs and follow UpperEdge on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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