an abstract blog design for a post on salesforce system integrators and implementation partners

Salesforce System Integrators: Benefits and challenges of SIs

Salesforce System Integrators (SIs), or Salesforce Implementation Partners, are an integral part of the Salesforce ecosystem. Historically, Salesforce did not offer their own professional services, except for the top 10 or so enterprise customers. This meant that for all implementation services, both Salesforce and the ISV community relied on System Integrators or in-house experts for implementation of the core Salesforce products. 

SIs also have played a critical role in suggesting add-on applications to the Salesforce products found on the  AppExchange to help solve for critical business processes not covered by Salesforce out-of-the-box. In the past few years, Salesforce has invested more in their own professional services operation, but SIs still play a vital role, driving scale and growth for independent software vendors (ISVs) and Salesforce customers alike. 

There are 2500+ registered SIs globally on the AppExchange, from 1-person shops up to the Global System Integrators (GSIs) like Accenture and Deloitte. Each Systems Integrator focuses on or has teams that focus on specific clouds, use cases and/or industries. The types of solutions that they implement will also depend on regional or market segments as well.

Benefits of working with Salesforce System Integrators

  • Standing relationships – Salesforce SIs and implementation partners have standing relationships with current customers and prospects of yours. Most companies have long standing relationships with their SIs and will use them for years to implement, update and deploy new solutions. Their relationships may be deeper with a prospect or customer than yours.
  • Trusted advisor status –  Salesforce implementation partners gain trusted advisor status with their customers, which means a suggested app will move through review and diligence that must faster coming from a trusted source. 
  • Recurring revenue through repeat business – When your sales team sells a deal, they spend months gaining trust and selling into a single customer. When you sell an SI on the value of your solution, you win a champion that can bring you into countless deals. 
  • Faster sales cycles – Because your prospect trusts their Salesforce SI, if they suggest an app, the process to review, approve and test is faster with less roadblocks. 
  • New audiences & insights – Salesforce System Integrators have a roster of customers that you may not have looked at before. Part of a Salesforce System Integrator’s job and value is suggesting solutions that fill a need for a customer. If you have taken the time to enable and educate a partner on your solution and the use cases you fit into, they can come to you with possible deals vs. you sourcing on your own. 


Challenges of working with Salesforce SIs

  • More cooks in the kitchen – It can seem like bringing in a partner adds complexity to a deal. Working with an SI in the Salesforce ecosystem does mean more check-in calls and collaboration. But once you have a relationship established with an Salesforce System Integrator,  someone can sell on your behalf before you’re ever involved in the deal. 
  • Loss of full deal insight – Because your SI is working behind the scenes, it can seem like you give up some of the deal control. You might feel in the dark on next steps or current conversations. The key is to establish a solid rapport with your SI, so you both work in lockstep on each stage. Keep each other up to date and accountable throughout the process. 
  • Poor implementations – When you give up control on implementing your solution and hand it over to an SI, there is always risk. Ensure if someone else is going to implement your solution that you’ve provided all of the documentation and training needed to ensure a positive outcome. 

The benefits of working with a Salesforce system integrator far outweigh the challenges. Like any good relationship, the one between an ISV and their partners takes time and trust. As an ISV, you should be willing to come to the table with a plan and a WIIFT (What’s in it for them) story for each SI you engage. 

Not sure where to get started with your SI plan? Check out our blog post – Your 2024 partner go-to-market guide – System Integrator cliffs notes edition

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FAQ guide to Salesforce System Integrators

  • What is a Salesforce System Integrator?

    A Systems Integrator is an individual or business that helps companies through digital initiatives by implementing, building or combining hardware, software and more in the Salesforce ecosystem.

  • Why does the Salesforce ecosystem rely so heavily on SIs?

    Before the last few years, Salesforce relied solely on SIs to implement their cloud solutions. There was very limited in-house help for Salesforce customers starting out. Implementing Salesforce is highly technical and not all customers have the resources in their own team or the time to implement such a complex solution with so many customizable options. SIs help build the right Salesforce customizations for the customers exact business needs. This includes finding apps from the AppExchange to fill whitespace and helping to align their existing tech stack solution with their Salesforce solution. 

    Learn more about CRM marketplaces here.

  • Why should I care about SIs as an ISV?

    Because SIs are deeply engaged with Salesforce customers, they are constantly working with those customers to improve and update their tech investment with new applications. More than 90% of Salesforce customers have purchased at least one app from the AppExchange, meaning SIs are trusted advisors as Salesforce customers grow and scale their Salesforce investment.

  • Where can I find Salesforce Partners?

    There are two main ways I suggest any ISV start when they look for an SI to partner with. 

    1- Go where your customers are. Ask your customers what SIs they use and look for patterns. 

    2 - Search the AppExchange. You can search consultants on the AppExchange by region, cloud focus and more.

  • Which SI is right for me?

    Building and growing an SI relationship takes time and energy. Ideally you should pick a small handful to focus on your first year (1-5). Pick a System Integrator that is willing to engage, aligns with your use case and works with your target ICP.

  • Do I have to work with an SI to work with Salesforce?

    You do not have to partner with an SI to partner with Salesforce. SIs will, however, help you identify new audiences and introduce you to prospects looking to solve a problem you have.

  • Tracking SI Referrals in Salesforce

    The SI (System Integrator) network Salesforce has created is vast and powerful. As of June 2020, there are 1,575 registered consultants listed on the AppExchange who have been validated by Salesforce. They give you the option of building your software business without professional services at all, or at least a fraction what would be necessary otherwise. SIs are also a significant source of revenue if you are intentional about how you engage with them. Think about it. They are working directly with Salesforce customers to build solutions on the platform. The customer comes to them with business problems they want solved, and your solution will likely be the answer in certain scenarios.

    SI Landscape:

    • GSIs (Global Systems Intergrators)

    • Platinum

    • Gold

    • Silver

    • Registered

    • PDOs

    SIs tend to have specialization in size of client, geographical region, industry, and Salesforce products. They tend to market those specialties publicly on their website, but with more than 1500 partners to choose from, how does an ISV know where to put an investment in cultivating relationships, awareness, and technical acumen of your product?

    The answer is, it depends. For example, GSIs are highly unlikely to care unless the implementation of your product is $x00,000+. When you are vetting SIs, it is important they understand your application and you plan to help them implement your customers. At the end of the day, they are your customers and will blame the app even if it was just poor implementation vs. the actual product.

    Referral Program:

    It is common in the ISV world to offer a referral fee to SI partners who source net new opportunities to your company. Whether or not you decide to incentivize partners with a percentage of the first year ARR (you can give them the option to keep it as a commission or pass it along to their end customer as a discount), which will require a referral agreement to be created and executed with each partner, there are a number of things you need to put in place to ensure success:

    • A Customer Success & Onboarding strategy to help the SI deliver the right experience for your mutual customer

    • An intro deck targeted at SIs you are recruiting which focuses on the WIIFM for them

    • A deal registration process which allows them to claim a deal. This is especially important if you do offer a referral fee as it can get uncomfortable if the SI feels they brought you a deal, but you see a direct inbound lead from them. This can be as simple as an email to an with some pre-defined fields or as complex as a partner community powered by Salesforce

    • Ability to track SIs as Accounts in Salesforce with key fields which tell you about their market and allow you to tag them as the referral partner on relevant Opportunities.

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