Navigating the Salesforce Ecosystem: Interview with Danielle Vergara

Kelly Sarabyn

We spoke to Danielle Vergara, a Salesforce ISV GTM Account Manager, and she shares advice on being successful in the Salesforce ecosystem, how to handle a tech partner who has competitive features, and tips on making the most out of being in the AppExchange.

How did you get into partnerships?

I went to school for marketing and advertising, and while I was in college, I worked full time at the Salesforce frontdesk. The Salesforce ecosystem is made up of close to 7,000 partners, and over the course of 4 years, I made a lot of partner relationships.

One of the partners reached out to me after I graduated and hired me as project manager with the intention that I would take over their alliances. I had already created a lot of relationships that were relevant to that position.

After 4 years at NewVoiceMedia and then Vonage, I started to look for a new position and returned to Salesforce to help manage top tier partners, including Vonage. I also manage Adobe Sign and Coveo.

So your focus is on strategic partnerships?

Yes, these are strategic relationships. Summit is Salesforce’s top 1 percent of partners, and most Summit partners have a whole team at Salesforce dedicated to them. Vonage and Adobe Sign are Summit partners, and Coveo just recently hit Summit Status as well.

Each strategic partner has people in marketing, sales, and partnerships dedicated to them. I am one of two point people managing these relationships. 

My specific focus is helping partners to drive pipeline and revenue. When you ask most Salesforce partners what is most important to them in the relationship, it is driving pipeline. Salesforce has heard that, and that is where this kind of role grew from - let’s have a team solely dedicated to driving pipeline for partners.

How do you communicate with your partners?

They call me on my phone and my personal cell phone. Slack is our go-to place to communicate. I have most of my contacts on Slack and for most things, that works better than email.

What is your advice for partners looking to be successful in the Salesforce ecosystem?

I think the foundation of partnerships is building relationships with people. If you want to be successful in the Salesforce ecosystem, I would recommend recruiting people who work in and know the ecosystem. There is a lot of value in existing relationships and understanding the particular language. They are going to be able to do a better job of getting you in front of your target audience.

Many successful new partners are also from the Salesforce ecosystem. Maybe they were in solutions and then built a product to fill a gap they saw, for example.  

When I think of my alliances team on Vonage, it was made up of people with different roles and focuses, including people with experience in sales, technical areas and marketing. You want a well-rounded team working on the relationship.

Related Content: How To Build an Ecosystem First Product Organization

What other advice would you give to partners?

Number one is to understand the language of your audience. Like with Salesforce, we have very specific acronyms. You should know those because it reflects on you deeper than the language itself.

Do you speak the partner’s language? That’s important and establishes credibility. 

I have seen partner enablement where they weren’t using the right terms for healthcare and life sciences, for example. They were not referring to providers as providers. This immediately gives the impression you are not experts in the field and you don’t understand its particular needs. 

Do you share accounts with partners?

My partners have target account lists that they want to get in front of and believe they will add value, and we will take that list of 20 target accounts and try to help. Account executives have targets that they need to hit, and if a partner helps to close something in one of their accounts, it counts for them towards their quota.

Salesforce account executives do a really good job of introducing partners as experts in their space. Salesforce account executives are experts in Salesforce; partners might be communication experts, for example, and AEs will present them that way.

How do you navigate a situation where your product has competitive features with partners? 

Salesforce has many features that might compete with partner products. In those cases, you should understand where their solution ends and where yours begins. Communicate you know they are going to lead with their product, but when the customer needs X, Y, Z specifically, then that’s where you are going to add value. Pitch it as Plan B. 

Related Content: A Discussion on How to Increase Partner Engagement

What tech tools do you use in your job?

We live in Salesforce. Aside from that, at Vonage, when I was trying to market to all AEs, we used a tool called Chronologic. It will put calendar invites on your audiences’ calendar and includes a message highlighting what we will discuss on the call. Sometimes people are annoyed, but lots of the time they take the call.

Every partner can log in to the Salesforce partner portal. This page is an information trove. Although it’s not really a collaboration tool, we are pushing Slack for all things collaboration.

Most partners have a listing on the AppExchange, there’s also a ton of information available to partner regarding how the audience is engaging with the listing. 

Do you have advice for making the most out of being in the AppExchange?

There are definitely tricks and tips. At Vonage, we had really great reviews, over 700 5 star reviews. We launched customer campaigns to ensure reviews were left, and having that many really helps with visibility and credibility. 

Another tip is to ensure that the listing is up to date and all the links are valid. When NewVoiceMedia transitioned to becoming Vonage, for example, a lot of the links were not valid anymore. Make sure you are checking that your listing or content isn’t stale.

Use the analytics to see what type of content people are consuming most. If it is a video, then maybe you can add more videos. And you want to make sure there is a CTA in the video that prompts them to take action.   

Any other advice for partnership managers?

If your focus is one partner, it is very much just making sure you are staying on top of that relationship. I have seen partners who have a strategic partnership but they do not put in the work on their end to make the relationship work. You should always make sure your relationships are not one sided if you want to see results for yourself.  

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