Spend Management Vendor Management

10 essential steps to the perfect Salesforce.com negotiation

By Tom Nelson on January, 12 2022

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Tom Nelson

Tom is a Sr. Director of Revenue Operations at ShipBob

Vendor spend is a big chunk of your business expenses. Make sure you're always getting the best deal.



When you’re in business, there are some expenses that are unavoidable. A good CRM is one of them, and if you want to work with the best, that probably means Salesforce. The problem is, with Salesforce license costs and Salesforce implementation costs, you could be looking at a very big ticket item.

The good news is that you can negotiate those costs down significantly.

My name is Tom Nelson, I am a Sr. Director of Revenue Operations at ShipBob, and a big part of my job is regulating revenue tech spend. I’m going to share my top tips to negotiate with Salesforce, so you can cut Salesforce costs, and increase your features, just like we did here.

  1. Build a Relationship
    The best way to start any negotiation is by creating a relationship with someone who can help you to achieve your goals. In the case of Salesforce, it means speaking directly to a Salesforce account executive. Don’t simply sign up online. Request a demo and start talking to an actual human being before you make any commitments. Once you are a customer keep a working relationship with your AE.

  2. Know Your Needs

    Salesforce is a seat based system, and there is a Salesforce license cost for 

    every person you add to your company. If you know you are going to need more than a handful of user accounts, you can use this information to negotiate a volume based discount. So, make sure you know how many users you will have before you start the process. If you plan to grow your user count over time, be sure to mention that too. 

  3. Consider a Multi-Year Deal

    Another factor that might allow you to lower your Salesforce license cost is if you choose a multi-year contract. This might lower the initial cost, but if you can lock in a great rate for several years, you will also be insulated from price increases during that time. 

  4. Study the Pricing Structure

    Salesforce’s pricing structure is not what you would call simple. There are so many variations and tiers, volume discounts, optional extras and more. The first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with those rates, so you can compare them to what you are offered, but also make it clear to your account executive that you will need a clear, concise offer to present to the decision makers in your company. 

    Make sure that you compare rates and offerings across different types of licenses to get what is best for your organization. 

  5. Use Benchmarking Tools

    There’s a good chance, when you try to complete step four, that you will get stuck. It can be very difficult to navigate the intricacies of Salesforce pricing. This is where a tool like Glean can help. I use benchmarking tools to view data on what other companies are paying. Not only does this help me to decide if we’re getting a good deal or not, but it provides an extra layer of negotiating power, internally and externally.

    When you are able to quote the rates that your competitors and peers are paying, it becomes a lot harder for your Salesforce account executive to try to sell you a pricier deal. 

  6. Focus On Other Costs

    If your Salesforce account executive can’t do too much with Salesforce license costs for you (and they might not be able to take too much off) be sure to ask about other costs. 

    Salesforce pricing is not only about the seat cost. You will also have Salesforce implementation costs, support costs, sandbox costs, support and storage costs. There are always opportunities to negotiate savings in that area too, and every dollar you can shave off will have an impact on your overall vendor spend with Salesforce. 

  7. Don’t Forget to Time It Right!
    In any sales role, there are quarterly and annual sales targets. The closer you get to the deadline to meet those targets, the hungrier the sales executive becomes. That’s true in every industry and with every product, and Salesforce is no different. Try to time your negotiations so that they are close to the end of the quarter or year, so that the person you are negotiating with is more motivated to offer you a deal to get the sale. Even if you can’t nail down a deal during that quarter, they will be focused on building their pipeline for the next quarter, so you might still be able to get a much better deal.

  8. Research the Competition

    Salesforce is the big name in CRM services, but they are not the only one. They’re also very aware that there are competitors of all kinds and sizes looking to take some of their market share. 

    Make sure that you research who those competitors are, and approach your negotiations with information about their products, services, and pricing. When you know what your other options are, you have more leverage in any negotiation. 

  9. Be Prepared to Meet In the Middle
    Finally, remember that negotiations are not supposed to have one winner and one loser. They’re supposed to be beneficial to everyone, and the best way to make sure everyone wins is to be prepared to meet in the middle. If you negotiate your deal with Salesforce correctly, you could save as much as 30% a year, without cutting their margins to the bone. So be open to options, and ready to compromise.

  10. Always Look for Savings

    When you’re running any business, vendor spend is a big chunk of your expenses. Which means it’s very important to make sure you’re always getting the best deal.

    You can use many of the tips I’ve shared here to negotiate with vendors other than Salesforce. Every vendor, whether they are a one man operation or a multinational corporation, will be willing to discuss the deal you are getting, if you take the time to ask them.

    Set regular reminders to review all of your contracts and vendor discounts, and where you find that you could be saving money, contact them and set up a meeting to discuss it. Even moderate savings on vendor spend on a per vendor basis can add up quickly, so it’s always worth the time and effort.



With Glean, you get line-item level insights to make better spend management decisions.