After you have decided to deploy Salesforce as the right CRM solution for your organization, the next step is to find the right Salesforce partner or consultant that fits your needs and culture. It might seem like an easy task, but the reality is that choosing the right Salesforce partner to walk this road with you is often problematic.
Salesforce continues to grow as the #1 business platform. The ecosystem around it is made up of many companies employing many consultants. There is a war for talent so make sure you find a partner with a track record of keeping their main team together.
These considerations and many others lead us to believe that choosing a Salesforce partner should go way beyond who is available or who is the cheapest.
It’s a decision you should consider carefully because choosing poorly puts you at a disadvantage against your competition, while choosing wisely might have significant benefits for you and your customers. Here are some critical factors when you are trying to select a Salesforce partner:
- Project Management Methodology
Understanding the project management methodology of the potential partner is a key indicator of likely success with you. Do not hesitate to ask your future consultants about their procedures. There are two types of contracts for work delivery: time and material, or project-based.
With the time and material option, be sure to understand the process transparency, e.g. How do they manage tasks like issue tracking, reporting of spent hours or status calls to show working demos. Project-based work requires a more sophisticated approach to handle a lot of unknowns at the beginning of the project, and a transparent methodology helps reassure they are the right fit for you.
Salesforce is a unique ecosystem and requires a project manager with technological experience of that ecosystem. My advice is to collaborate with a partner where Salesforce knowledge is distributed across all levels. Talk about what happens after you complete your project. If you are implementing a deep and wide implementation, you need to find a partner who has an easy to adopt support management program.
Another critical consideration is the partner’s ability to work with you as a business analyst as well as a technology specialist. Make sure your partner is prepared to challenge what you think you want and offer thoughtful alternatives to make you double-check your logic.
Before engaging in a project, identify and involve people who know the department’s business processes and systems from the beginning of the implementation. Engaging functional managers during all phases of the implementation is also key. Employees must be inspired to engage with Salesforce and understand the “why” behind any implementation of new features. It is also a best practice to appoint a business stakeholder from each involved department to serve on a cross-functional team. For the success of the project, it is essential to understand the current state of affairs (e.g., the data that is required to run the business, the pain points, and the improvements they’d like to see).
- The Size of the Company
Successful projects occur when there is the right mix of skilled personnel available. It will be good for you to know that the partner has a sufficient number and skills within the team to achieve timely delivery.
Do not be talked into paying massive amounts of money for a Salesforce implementation simply because a company has a big brand name. Buyer beware – there are plenty of small to mid-sized Salesforce shops where your project or customer will be their top priority. It is advisable not to discount companies because of their size (big or small) – but don’t select them because of size alone.
- Salesforce Certification and Technical Capabilities
Salesforce has an impressive and useful certification program, which validates if a partner has proven Salesforce knowledge and experience necessary to handle your implementation. It is also a great way to make sure that the individual you are engaged with is up to date on the most recent Salesforce releases.
There are a couple of certifications that prove a partner’s expertise is divided into paths like administrators, developers, app builders, consultants, or specialists. At a minimum, your partner should hold administrator, developer, consultant, or specialist certifications. The rest depends on your specific needs. It would help if you also looked for a partner with employees who hold multiple certifications.
One of my favorite Salesforce features is point-and-click (declarative) development. It gives you the ability to construct complex data models and automate business processes without writing any code. However, there is a limit to what you can do in Salesforce without custom development. If your needs with Salesforce will ultimately grow, you might want to select a partner that has the required depth of technical know-how to keep up with project growth and the increasing complexity of your requirements.
Keep in mind – if you are a large company – that it is preferable that the Salesforce partner you choose has large company experience, the ability to flex up-and-down smoothly and demonstrable project management and governance expertise for big projects.
The following questions will help you to asses a potential vendor (partner):
- Which Salesforce consulting partner-level do they hold (registered, silver, gold, etc.)?
- How many people from the organization are certified? Which certifications do they have?
- Do they cover specialties as well as technical capabilities?
- Does the potential vendor also hold more advanced certifications (e.g., Salesforce Certified Platform Developer II)?
- Partner’s Vision and Values
Working with a consulting partner is a deeply personal experience. Make sure that your vision and values match those of your partner. How your partner conducts business is just as important as the business itself. A good partner is always there when you need support and can help you when it’s time to expand your services; they can even help you sell more because selling someone on a Salesforce solution should be a team effort that benefits all the parties involved.
There are many examples of values shared by partners. There are three that I specifically believe can help manage great partnerships: transparency, creativity, and teamwork.
It’s important to listen to your intuition about whether you can trust your partner. Collaboration and trust-based relations are the most efficient factors that move the process forward. Having the right partner can make your life much more relaxed and help you close more deals and ultimately build more solid long-term relationships.
- Client Reviews and Testimonials
One of the best ways to predict how your project will turn out is by looking at a partner’s track record. Do not trust statements published by the partner only; request references. A happy customer will always be willing to talk to you.
You are the best expert for your business. What you need is a partner who can translate your business requirements into a working solution. The more experience a Salesforce partner has with diverse clients in different fields, the more expertise they will have in addressing your needs or the needs of your clients. These variations enable the partner to develop the most effective, customized solution.
Don’t be afraid to ask to speak to client references.
- Quality vs. Price
It is crucial to understand what distinguishes a highly qualified partner. The chances of finding a suitable partner without a defined budget are meager. You and your partner should be in the same league. You should not have to choose between quality and price—you deserve both.
Make sure that your potential partner understands what quality means. Ideally, there will be a documented quality-of-work system in place and a dedicated team dealing with QA. Salesforce requires vendors to meet specific requirements when deploying them to the platform. We recommend going beyond these basics and requesting the partner to explain procedures leading to a high quality of delivery.
Ask your potential vendor the following:
- How do they manage delivery in a multivendor environment?
- How do they identify possible deviations from the agreed scope, timeline and budget?
- How do they assess the quality of their delivery?
- Do they have a dedicated QA team?
- Have they implemented a QA methodology?
- Do they use an automated QA approach?
A high-quality partner can add additional value with their wider offerings that can be easily folded in to complement the original project. In the Ness Salesforce Center of Excellence, we found there were many opportunities for us to increase value for the current and prospective clients that use Salesforce solutions as an increasingly integral part of their businesses. By creating more integration points between the digital platforms we build at Ness and the growing list of Salesforce products and solutions, we’re able to extend the functionality and value of these digital platforms. Platform extension services will continue to be a critical part of the Salesforce ecosystem for both large, complex programs, and specific, strategic functionality extensions that help clients maximize their Salesforce solutions.
- Acquire More Knowledge
There are resources available that can make you a better-informed customer. There are thousands of free demo videos on both the Salesforce.com and Salesforce.org websites, as well as forums, blogs, and white papers. Get a sense of what’s possible to inform your buying journey. Some resources I recommend you visit:
Trailhead is a top pick as a free training resource, with over 150 individual modules that cover more than 40 different trails. A trail is a guided tour along a specific path to learn particular functions and features.
The Dreamforce Video Channel on YouTube. Many of the keynotes and breakout sessions from Dreamforce (the annual Salesforce event) are recorded and posted to YouTube after the event. It is a great opportunity to learn from the experts who present at the event.
The Salesforce Success Community is the main Salesforce community site and home to many resources like help and training, answers, collaboration, and feature groups.
A CRM, especially one as extensive as Salesforce, can make or break how your company connects and engages with its customers. Take advantage of the available resources and follow these guideposts on your search for a high-quality Salesforce consulting partner and set yourself up for success with a partner that can operate as an extension of your team, execute on your business goals, and deliver Salesforce success.
We invite you to contact our Salesforce-focused Center of Excellence. With access to Ness’ global network, we’re able to deliver our hyper-customized solutions to clients around the world. We specialize in the architecture, implementation, customization and integration of a broad suite of Salesforce products, and we can leverage our software engineering capabilities to utilize the full Salesforce portfolio in addition to a wide range of proven digital solutions to support our customers business needs. To learn more about the Ness Salesforce Center of Excellence Practice, please visit https://ness.com/salesforce-practice/