Erika Childers 19 min

Salesforce’s Cloud GTM Strategy and Why Now Is the Time to Align with AWS Marketplace


Tune in as Tackle CEO John Jahnke chats with Nick Johnston, SVP, Strategic Partnerships & Business Development at Salesforce, about Salesforce’s journey to list and launch their entire product portfolio on AWS Marketplace and how the organization plans to leverage the AWS partnership in its go-to-market system.



0:00

All righty.

0:08

We will kick things off.

0:09

So Nick, welcome.

0:10

John, thank you for having me.

0:12

Yeah, appreciate you making some time.

0:15

I know people are excited to hear the Salesforce story.

0:17

I thought we would start.

0:19

Everybody knows me since I kicked off the event, but just to say hi, I had a

0:22

wardrobe

0:22

changed to a hoodie.

0:23

I'm John of CO, a tackle.

0:26

Great to see you all again.

0:28

Nick, take a second, introduce yourself.

0:30

Yeah, thanks, John.

0:31

So hey, everyone.

0:32

Nick Johnston's SVP of Strategic Partnerships at Salesforce.

0:35

I've been at Salesforce just about 11 years now.

0:38

So it's been a great journey, part of our Strategic Partnerships team here for

0:41

the last

0:41

six or so.

0:43

It's been a great opportunity working with the tackle team for the last nine

0:48

months,

0:49

and really excited to share some of the learnings and hopefully get some great

0:52

questions

0:52

throughout the session.

0:54

Awesome.

0:55

So maybe, let's start with, you guys launched at Reinvent last year, but we

1:00

both know the

1:01

journey started long before that.

1:04

I think a lot of ISCs don't fully appreciate when you take a strategic approach

1:09

, what it

1:10

takes.

1:11

I'd love for you just to maybe take a step back and walk through some of that

1:14

story.

1:14

Yeah, so I like to think about this story in chapters, because as you stated,

1:19

it's been

1:19

a journey.

1:21

And chapter one for us was our own decision to start moving infrastructure that

1:25

has historically

1:26

been running on the Salesforce hosted infrastructure and start running it in

1:32

the public cloud.

1:33

And we have a program at Salesforce called Hyperforce, which is the cloud

1:37

native version

1:38

of our products that around five or six years ago, we decided needed to run on

1:42

hyperscaler

1:43

infrastructure as opposed to us managing our own.

1:47

And that move set the foundation for having the right solutions that we could

1:51

actually

1:51

take to market in the cloud marketplace because we had the ability to run on

1:56

the cloud.

1:57

From there, we started getting feedback from customers, especially large AWS

2:00

customers,

2:01

which was the first footprint for us with Hyperforce, where customers who also

2:06

had their

2:06

own AWS environments started looking to us and asking, what are the things that

2:10

I could

2:11

be doing as a shared customer of Salesforce now running in your Hyperforce

2:14

environment

2:15

and also an AWS customer, help me unlock integrations between the Salesforce

2:21

platform now running

2:22

on AWS and my AWS environment.

2:24

So we spend a lot of time with AWS thinking about the right product interoper

2:28

ability, better

2:29

platform openness, platform features.

2:32

And that was chapter two, more of the product innovation, making our two

2:36

platforms run better

2:37

together, given where we were running.

2:40

And then naturally, the third chapter came up where customers started wanting

2:43

more flexibility,

2:44

functionality, and as the AWS marketplace was taking off and getting a lot more

2:48

mind share,

2:50

customers coming to us asking to see us show up more tightly with the AWS

2:54

account teams

2:55

as one team and working with them, but also having the option of the

2:59

flexibility of using

3:01

their AWS agreement to purchase Salesforce products, as well as the ability to

3:05

go direct.

3:06

So those three chapters took us about six years, and we just launched the third

3:11

chapter, if

3:12

you will, as you said, at re-invent, and we're often running, selling via AWS

3:16

marketplace

3:16

now.

3:17

Awesome.

3:18

Amazing.

3:19

Did the acquisitions, like how did they fit into the story?

3:22

Because I think, you know, obviously Tableau and MuleSoft and Slacks probably a

3:27

different

3:28

chapter, but how did they come into the story along the way?

3:31

Did they influence or change the strategy at any point?

3:34

Yeah, the acquisitions were huge, actually.

3:36

I'm glad you went there, John, because both MuleSoft, so one of the strategic

3:42

academic

3:42

acquisitions we've done, as well as Tableau, were AWS native products.

3:47

And they had been exploring their own path in deploying via AWS marketplace,

3:52

and customers

3:53

had even more specific requests that were using those technologies that pushed

3:58

us that

3:59

direction.

4:00

And so they just added additional fuel to the fire of demand, and we'll talk

4:06

about this

4:07

a little bit, too.

4:08

Historically, we've been a direct business.

4:12

It's a huge part of our internal strategy, intentional strategy.

4:15

But having both MuleSoft and Tableau become part of the overall portfolio, and

4:19

frankly,

4:20

Slack as well.

4:21

Slacks and AWS native product.

4:24

Our customers started creating that additional groundswell on top of that hyper

4:28

force infrastructure

4:29

that I referenced before, where it just really made a lot of sense for us to

4:32

think more intentionally

4:34

about the channel here, and what the AWS marketplace and other cloud market

4:38

places could potentially

4:39

do for us.

4:40

Great.

4:41

Awesome.

4:42

So obviously Salesforce is a big place.

4:46

Big company, lots of products, lots of people, visionaries and SaaS, pioneers

4:52

of SaaS.

4:53

This was a strategic decision.

4:56

Take us through who all is involved.

4:58

And as a strategic partnership leader, what did that getting stakeholder

5:04

alignment journey

5:05

look like?

5:06

Yeah.

5:07

Frankly, I think we had to sell it internally.

5:10

There's the strategy and the approach.

5:11

We had to sell internally harder than we did anything else, frankly, and even

5:15

working with

5:16

our partners on the strategy.

5:19

And that's frankly going back to what I referenced, our history of being a

5:23

direct business and

5:24

really focusing on.

5:26

When we think about sales capacity and where we need to grow, we've always

5:30

historically

5:30

really thought about what that means in terms of hiring and account executives,

5:35

SEs and

5:36

the people dedicated to a specific territory, as opposed to ways that we can

5:41

unlock channel

5:42

motions like marketplaces to create new revenue.

5:46

And so just the way we approached the discussion with our ELT, which was CEO

5:51

and all CEO directs,

5:53

we had to make sure there was a really good understanding of what the

5:57

opportunity was,

5:58

why the time is right now and reinforcing customer demand.

6:02

And I'll tell you our leadership team, CEO and CEO directs also started having

6:07

conversations

6:08

with customers just to test it a little bit because obviously the partnerships

6:11

team is

6:12

going to sell this as a good big idea as a way to drive new value and our

6:15

customers are

6:16

asking for it.

6:17

But I think our ELT was even more surprised.

6:21

I should say it's excited.

6:22

And they started talking to customers and realizing some of the buying motions

6:25

and the patterns

6:26

that had maybe evolved in recent years that really reaffirmed for them that the

6:30

time was

6:31

right to make the decision.

6:33

So frankly, this was a super cross-functional CEO on down level discussion,

6:38

including our

6:39

head of finance, our head of IT, our head of technology, head of product, head

6:43

of distribution.

6:44

So all the teams had to really understand what we were signing up for before we

6:47

went on.

6:48

And ever since then, we've been able to go.

6:50

I would say you can test me on this job, but we've gone pretty fast.

6:53

So once we got that top down alignment, we started running.

6:56

Yeah, you guys have been rolling fast.

7:00

We had debates about, hey, how fast do you want to go?

7:04

Is going all in the right strategy?

7:06

Do you go slow and grow?

7:09

And you're like, no, we're going fast.

7:10

And you guys definitely have done that.

7:11

So exciting to see.

7:14

And curious, were there any big resistance points on that journey?

7:18

I think that learning point, someone asked this question earlier about how you

7:22

get those

7:22

people involved, I think educating them to be able to test is a really smart

7:27

strategy.

7:28

But were there any resistance points that you didn't expect as you were

7:31

fielding that

7:32

internal alignment?

7:33

I think really the hardest part was looking at our existing sales motion and

7:39

what was

7:40

going to need to be true in the private offer path, which was how we decided to

7:45

start our

7:45

focus.

7:47

And really understanding where there's a clean happy path, working with you

7:50

guys and working

7:51

with AWS on this is the motion that's really going to work.

7:55

And then here are the types of scenarios where maybe our customers are

7:58

expecting certain

7:59

terms or flexibility that just maybe isn't as easy to navigate when you're

8:04

going through

8:05

marketplaces, that we had to draw more of a clear distinction between this is

8:09

inbound

8:10

and in play, I should say, and this is out of bounds.

8:14

And you can't do these types of deals through the marketplace yet.

8:17

And frankly, the biggest resistance was with sales teams that wanted the

8:22

flexibility to

8:23

be able to do everything.

8:24

And then our operations teams that really needed to be clear, like we're not

8:28

ready to

8:28

do the entire book of business quite yet.

8:30

These are the things we have to hold on.

8:32

And so those were the initial hurdles, but once we started getting the message

8:36

out, we

8:37

had that top down support.

8:38

And frankly, we trained our entire field and we had mandatory training for

8:42

every single

8:43

salesperson across the company, both in our Q4 as well as our Q1 of this year,

8:47

so that

8:48

everyone knew the types of transactions that would work really well versus the

8:52

ones that

8:53

didn't.

8:54

So that was the main area where we had the friction early on was when we'd get

8:58

an account

8:58

team wanting to bring us something that we just couldn't do the way they

9:01

thought they

9:02

could.

9:03

And so it's all part of the education.

9:05

And when you talk about like that training and enabling the sellers and kind of

9:09

the next,

9:10

maybe I'll lead into the next question, because these two might blur together,

9:13

like, how are

9:13

you envisioning AWS Marketplace fitting into your overall go-to-market system?

9:19

Like you said before, you guys are very historically direct company.

9:23

Like, how do you see this fitting in?

9:25

And then how from a seller enableman standpoint, is that embrace working?

9:30

Yeah.

9:31

I mean, first and foremost, macro, our salespeople have to think so much

9:36

broader than just the

9:38

solutions that Salesforce offers now to be relevant in a world where AI, and I

9:43

mean,

9:43

just the last presenter I was listening to talking about generative AI

9:47

technology and

9:47

data sources that are so important for the enterprise.

9:50

We have to be able to look around and have conversations with our buyers about

9:55

where

9:55

else are you investing and where is your cloud infrastructure hosted today?

10:00

How are you thinking about your data strategy?

10:02

Where are your LLM models that you're using to run your business?

10:06

And a lot of those questions are things that are outside the scope of just

10:10

Salesforce products.

10:12

And so a core part of the motion overall is being more thoughtful about the

10:15

other big

10:16

investments that our customers are making, and that's where the natural

10:20

alignment in

10:21

the sales motion becomes, well, talk to your customers about where they're

10:24

running their

10:25

infrastructure, and then talk to them about, do they have a preference of how

10:29

they're consolidating

10:30

their infrastructure spend?

10:32

And frankly, talk to the Chief Procurement Officer, which isn't necessarily a

10:36

persona

10:37

that Salesforce had been super focused on, but these are all things that are

10:42

now core

10:42

to the motion as we're taking this wider aperture of where our customer's

10:46

strategic investments

10:47

are, and then making sure we have the right levers or the right options to be

10:51

able to

10:51

present to customers if they want to work with us direct.

10:54

That's great, but we can show other paths of flexibility if they want to go

10:58

down the marketplace

10:59

path, which is really important for customer choice.

11:03

So I think we're going to continue seeing us focus on using cloud marketplaces

11:08

as a customer

11:08

choice path, especially as we're having these much broader conversations around

11:13

AI and data

11:13

and where Salesforce is solutions like our Einstein co-pilot and our data cloud

11:18

fit in

11:18

that broader strategy.

11:20

And where our customers direct us and the ways they want to buy will be where

11:24

we focus on

11:25

what comes next with a marketplace strategy.

11:28

Cool.

11:29

Yeah.

11:30

You hit on a point around persona, and I hear this question a lot, especially

11:35

for people

11:35

in more business application, vertical solution spaces where they're like, "Hey

11:39

, my target

11:40

ICP, my normal buyer doesn't necessarily understand this."

11:45

How did, and you talked about seller enablement as part of that, but is there

11:48

anything else

11:49

if you double clicked into that specific point that you think of that you'd

11:53

share with people

11:54

to say, "Here's how we work through that?"

11:56

Yeah, I think it's, I mean, every company has their own secret sauce on who

12:00

their best

12:01

personas are that they work with more frequently.

12:04

We pride ourselves on having deep customer relationships and having good

12:07

relationships

12:08

with everyone who's got involvement in making buying decisions, but I just

12:11

think generally

12:12

software salespeople are maybe a little more cautious about the chief

12:16

procurement officer

12:18

as a persona.

12:19

Whereas what we try to help our teams understand is you have a gift, you can

12:23

now bring them,

12:24

as Salesforce hadn't prior been available on some of these cloud marketplaces.

12:29

If you want to talk to them about how they can optimize spend and think more

12:32

thoughtfully

12:33

about their renewal processes and bring together some of their strategic

12:37

contracts, now you

12:38

have something that is potentially a lever that's really interesting and a

12:42

value driver

12:43

for how they think about the business and where they're making their

12:47

investments.

12:48

That was the real main piece for us, was just first and foremost, don't be

12:53

afraid to take

12:54

this story to the head of procurement.

12:55

It's a great person to have the conversation with and know that you're bringing

12:59

something

13:00

that could actually be pretty powerful for them and they're going to probably

13:02

want to

13:02

lean in, assuming they have some significant investments in cloud

13:07

infrastructure as well.

13:09

So it was just additional enablement, as you said, but it's just an added

13:13

persona now

13:14

that we're trying to focus on more.

13:17

And I mean, kind of going back to your original started point, I think those

13:20

three chapters

13:21

you talked about hit pretty closely with how we talk to people.

13:25

It's like running on the cloud, how do you make your products better together,

13:30

tell a

13:31

better together story and then bring that to market together.

13:35

And as you think about maybe more broadly, the business application landscape

13:39

or maybe

13:40

even the Salesforce ecosystem, like, and how other Salesforce ecosystem

13:44

partners might

13:45

think about this, what advice would you give to them as they're thinking about,

13:48

when should

13:50

I, how should I approach this?

13:53

I mean, the advice I would give is when I'd say now, immediately, if you're not

13:59

, just

13:59

because of what I was referencing before.

14:01

So much of these decisions that companies are making in terms of their data and

14:06

AI strategy,

14:07

which frankly are board level imperatives at the moment, they're going to

14:11

involve a hyperscaler

14:13

and all the large hyperscalers have this marketplace strategy now, which is

14:16

really becoming core

14:17

to the to the motion.

14:18

So the when is now and the who I think is dependent on what the right path is

14:24

for your business

14:25

application for your strategy.

14:27

But the key and the why, I guess, is customers love it and we've gotten some

14:31

really good

14:32

feedback from our customers so far.

14:35

It thought fit for everyone, but the majority where it is a fit, they've

14:38

already started

14:39

to learn this motion a little bit, which was frankly, the one thing that

14:43

surprised me

14:44

a bit is how many customers had already gotten familiar with this play.

14:49

So that was great.

14:51

And I'd say just some of the things to think about would just be how do you

14:56

build the business

14:57

case to put in front of your executive leadership team to get them excited

15:02

about the opportunity

15:03

and make sure you're reinforcing that this is the how in terms of the way you

15:08

get these

15:09

really large super powerful infrastructure companies who have a great sales

15:13

organization,

15:14

really strong technical resources, that's how you get them to want to lean in

15:17

with you

15:18

is if they understand how there's connect connectivity to the overall benefit

15:22

of running on their

15:23

cloud and you get additional advocates for you in the field, which is really

15:26

hard to

15:27

come by.

15:28

So those are the things that's how we approached it and those are the things I

15:31

would recommend

15:32

anyone who's considering it or on the fence think about in terms of the why,

15:37

the when,

15:38

the how and the who.

15:40

Those are all the right questions to be thinking about and just go fast.

15:44

And curious as you think about like the business goals and maybe even less

15:49

specific about numbers

15:50

and more about like new business versus renewal business and even across your

15:55

whole portfolio

15:57

people are asking like what's available?

15:59

What is that?

16:00

What everything sales for ourselves available?

16:02

Could you maybe talk through some of your goals and how you think about new

16:05

versus renewal

16:06

versus across the portfolio?

16:07

Totally, totally.

16:08

So macro, like the three levers in terms of the way even we position it

16:12

internally looks

16:13

really similar to some of the frameworks that I've seen others presenting today

16:17

, which is

16:18

can we create additional growth through this path?

16:21

Can we close deals faster, reduce our cycle times and can we prevent attrition

16:26

in instances

16:27

where companies may be tightening their budgets and need to consolidate.

16:32

So those are like the three macro levers that we're looking at right now on

16:35

every transaction

16:36

we're doing in marketplace and trying to assign a value for us so that macro we

16:40

're looking

16:40

at it not just as business we already would have had but more on those three

16:45

levers.

16:46

And then with just the breadth of our product portfolio we're blessed in the

16:50

sense that we

16:51

have a pretty wide range of different products and so not every customer is

16:54

going to be using

16:56

all of our clouds but we have a pretty significant install base of the customer

17:00

using at least

17:01

one.

17:02

And so we're seeing it much more as a renewal/add-on path as opposed to net new

17:08

customers but

17:09

we think it opens up really interesting ways to get customers thinking about

17:13

maybe experimentation

17:15

or trying a complimentary cloud product that they hadn't quite yet whether it's

17:20

Slack and

17:20

our portfolio or thinking about running Tableau cloud alongside of sales cloud

17:25

or maybe they

17:25

didn't quite have the investment before but they're able to draft off their

17:29

broader infrastructure

17:30

budgets to go take a run at that.

17:32

And so I think the add-on business, renewal business, expansion business is

17:37

really core

17:38

for us and we'd love to have some net new logos come from this but so far it's

17:43

much

17:43

more about add-on and expanding the breadth of renewals.

17:51

Sweet.

17:52

So let's see trying to look through it.

17:55

We had a whole list of, I mean curious on the channel stuff like that's been a

18:00

hot topic

18:01

today and tomorrow and again you guys are a direct company.

18:03

How do you see channel fitting in?

18:05

How do you see it fitting in?

18:07

I do and I think the channel is going to continue to be more and more important

18:10

for

18:10

us at Salesforce.

18:12

We have a pretty broad and super experienced group of partners both our system

18:17

implementers,

18:19

globalized size, our ISVs, our strategic partners and I think we're trying to

18:23

figure

18:24

out the best ways to keep them excited and partnering with us but then also

18:29

really getting

18:30

more leverage in the field from their sales organizations as well and so the

18:34

channel is

18:34

the right way to make that happen and I think what we'd be really interested in

18:38

going into

18:39

like phase two of this marketplace journey will be around how do we think about

18:43

multi-party

18:44

offers with our SIs, with companies that are building on Salesforce as the

18:50

platform that

18:51

they're developing their apps on.

18:52

So how might we go to market not just with our apps but also with ISV apps

18:57

together and

18:58

an SI involved as well to really help a customer even think more completely

19:02

about what they're

19:03

signing up for and not only the Salesforce apps but the ecosystem apps that are

19:07

going

19:08

to be part of their implementation.

19:09

So we think that's a super interesting path that we were looking forward to

19:13

working John

19:13

with you guys on helping us unlock.

19:17

I think right now we've been trying to figure out just the Salesforce specific

19:19

motion on

19:20

marketplaces but that'll be our next move.

19:23

Awesome.

19:24

We've got 20 seconds.

19:26

Any closing comments?

19:27

No, I'll just say thank you and thank you to the team.

19:30

We couldn't have gone as fast as we had in the number of countries and the

19:33

number of

19:33

products we've now launched in the last six months.

19:36

Anybody on this webinar that would love to talk more, I'd be glad to make

19:41

myself available

19:41

and share some thoughts and perspectives I love meeting with other channel

19:44

leaders and

19:45

partnerships leaders so please don't hesitate to reach out.

19:48

Awesome.

19:49

Thanks Nick.

19:50

Thanks everyone.

19:51

Alright, cheers.

19:52

See ya.

19:53

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