Updated on February 26, 2021
The Salesforce consulting partners network is growing over years and ranges from individual consultants to global consulting agencies — offering customers vast expertise across Salesforce products, clouds, industries, and system integration capabilities. But, how can you find a consultant that fits your project and allows you to avoid mistakes and regrets afterwards? Read the top 9 mistakes shortlist when choosing a Salesforce consulting partner.
Regardless of whether you are already running a Salesforce solution and would like to upgrade or re-implement it or just want to set up a product from a scratch, you may require external assistance from a Salesforce consulting partner. Well, let’s clarify first. What are Salesforce consultants and consulting partners?
A Salesforce Consultant and a Salesforce Consulting Partner: Same or Different?
At first glance, these terms imply the same: providing consulting services to Salesforce platform users or prospects. And it’s partially true, however, not all Salesforce consultants are Salesforce consulting partners. Here is why.
These specialists help clients with creating a Salesforce implementation strategy and roadmap, software migration, configuration, customization, systems integration, or custom app development and prove this expertise by their Salesforce certifications like:
- Sales Cloud Consultant
- Service Cloud Consultant
- Marketing Cloud Consultant
- Einstein Analytics and Discovery Consultant
- CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) Specialist
- Field Service Lightning Consultant
- Community Cloud Consultant
- Nonprofit Cloud Consultant
- Education Cloud Consultant
- Pardot Consultant
Salesforce Consulting Partners
These are companies authorized by Salesforce to provide project implementations and system integrations as well as to develop and deliver custom solutions. To become and remain a partner, companies need to have a minimum of 1 company employee holding 2 or more certifications or a minimum of 2 company employees holding at least 1 certification each and to enroll into Salesforce Consulting Partner Program.
New partners may be given time to achieve their minimum of two certifications, so there may be some partners in a provisional status. The list of certifications that can be counted to qualify for a Registered (the basic one) partnership tier is the following:
Salesforce Consultant Certifications:
- Salesforce Certified Education Cloud Consultant
- Salesforce Certified Marketing Cloud Consultant
- Salesforce Certified Nonprofit Cloud Consultant
- Salesforce Certified Community Cloud Consultant
- Salesforce Certified CPQ Specialist
- Salesforce Certified Einstein Analytics and Discovery Consultant
- Salesforce Certified Sales Cloud Consultant
- Salesforce Certified Pardot Consultant
- Salesforce Certified Service Cloud Consultant
- Salesforce Certified Field Service Lightning Consultant
Salesforce Architect Certifications:
- Salesforce Certified Technical Architect
- Salesforce Certified B2C Commerce Architect
- Salesforce Certified Application Architect
- Salesforce Certified System Architect
- Salesforce Certified Heroku Architecture Designer
Salesforce Developer Certifications:
- Salesforce Certified Platform Developer I
- Salesforce Certified Platform Developer II
- Salesforce Certified Marketing Cloud Developer
- Salesforce Certified B2C Commerce Developer
All Salesforce consulting partners are tiered at Registered, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Global Strategic levels based on a Consulting Partner Trailblazer Score (formerly known as Partner Value Score or PVS) from 0 to 1,000 points. These points are assigned based on three primary categories:
Co-Sell ACV (Annual Contract Value) or “Engagement” — a number of new business opportunities provided by Salesforce partner or meaningful selling engagements with Salesforce Account Executive (AE),
Expertise or “Innovations” — a sum of earned credentials (Salesforce certifications in a certain domain):
- Expert Credentials (Expert -level certifications) like Certified Technical Architect.
- Professional Credentials (Professional-level certifications for Salesforce implementation experts with a customer-facing role) like Salesforce Certified Community Cloud Consultant or Salesforce Certified CPQ Specialist.
- Associate Credentials are related certifications like Salesforce Certified Administrator or Salesforce Certified B2C Commerce Developer.
- Emerging Product Credential Multiplier (Certifications in emerging product areas where Salesforce needs additional partner capacity to meet customer needs) like Field Service Lightning Consultant Certification or Salesforce Certified B2C Commerce Architect.
- Credentialed Individual Practice Growth (Number of company employees holding active professional-level certificates on the last day of the previous fiscal year compared against the number of company employees having active professional-level certifications at the end of this fiscal year).
Customer Success — the third segment of the Trailblazer score is measured by:
- Salesforce Navigator points that are based on customer-validated industry expertise, Salesforce product knowledge and certifications, and customer success score.
- AppExchange Solutions points that are given for any Apps, Bolts, Flows, or Components that were released or updated in the current or previous fiscal year.
- CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score) points that are assigned according to customer satisfaction surveys.
As you can judge by this short overview, a certified Salesforce consultant can be a part of a bigger ecosystem called Salesforce Consulting Partnership Community, but consulting partnership is not always only about consultancy.
And even though Salesforce has been transforming the Consulting Partnership Programs towards more clarity around the different program tiers and more ways for partners to distinguish their unique capabilities in the marketplace, all these classifications can remain quite vague for customers looking for the right Salesforce partner.
Anyway, where to look for Salesforce partners? First, and the most reliable hiring source of any experts like consultants or developers that comes to mind is AppExchange (a marketplace for Salesforce-based apps and Salesforce-related service providers)
And only on AppExchange alone, there are over 1,700 registered consultancies and you can narrow down the choice by Salesforce & industry expertise, country, number of certified experts, and rating within the platform.
List of Salesforce Consultancies on AppExchange
However, you may never know what kind of a Salesforce consulting partner you are considering on AppExchange because there is no such filter. Our tip is to type, for example “Salesforce consulting partners gold” into the Google search bar and you will see the filtered folder with a list of partners of gold and higher tier.
Example of a Salesforce Partner Search on Google
Another valuable platform where you can find a Salesforce consultant is a Trailblazer Community. There you can see any consultants “in action”, look at their answer history, Trailhead score, Salesforce skills and see the company where they work at.
But if the selection process of a Salesforce consultant would be so easy, the article hadn’t been created.
So, what’s the trick? The trick is that the wide selection of highly-skilled specialists on AppExchange and Trailblazer doesn’t guarantee that you will choose the right partner for your project, or that they will create the right roadmap for your implementation or integration.
And that is why you need to learn how to avoid the most common pitfalls in choosing Salesforce consulting partners.
9 Most Common Mistakes on the Way to Choose a Salesforce Consulting Partner
Regardless of whether you are going to hire a Salesforce consultant or a consulting partner, the most typical oversights that lead to the implementation drama are:
Mistake #1: Disregarding Business Pain Points and Goals
If you expect a consultant to show you the right business way, you are on the wrong path.
Prior to deciding on any type of product implementation, you have to understand why you need this solution from a business perspective, what problems should it solve, and what corporate goals should it help to achieve.
Without evaluating all these aspects internally, you may end up wasting money and time on an underused CRM system that you’ll never be able to use at its full potential.
To set the right basis for your Salesforce partnership you need to clearly understand:
Your Business Objectives — Make a list of what you are looking to achieve with the Salesforce platform not only now but in a 2-3 year period.
Your Optimal Project Timeline — Be realistic in setting your expectations for the project execution time because no implementation for mid-size companies can be completed in two weeks.
Your Budget Range — Conduct research and identify the budget range you are going to invest into consulting implementation and administration of your solution.
Your Partnership Model — Decide on implementation scenarios of your project: whether your partner will perform all implementations, you will split roles, or you will do everything under your Salesforce consulting partner’s guidance.
Your Project Stakeholders — Appoint key people from your team who will be involved in the project like Executive Sponsor, Product Owner, etc.
Your Salesforce Partners Roles — Think of the project roles that can be performed by outside experts like Strategic Consultant or a Change Management Consultant.
This is an essential step of drafting your RFP (Request for a proposal) that will significantly simplify discovery sessions with your meant-to-be Salesforce partners.
Mistake #2: Lack of Basic Salesforce Knowledge
Even though it seems to be obvious, this step is often disregarded. To speak the same language with your consulting candidate you have to be familiar with the most common terms and technical capabilities of the platform. Start with watching free product demos, introductory and explanation videos on Salesforce.com and Salesforce Org to know the features that this platform offers to organizations in your business domain.
However, do not go too much into details of products, just focus on the main 4 – 5 discussion points to bring up with the prospects.
Mistake #3: Putting Price Over Quality
It sounds logical when you would like to find the best possible Salesforce consulting partner for your money value. And chances are you come across cost-friendly offerings, so you will be tempted to invest in cheaper partners.
But if your budget is really tight and you would like to save some bucks on hiring a consultant for your project, it may result in even higher running costs than it has been initially planned, longer project completion time, or project failure at all.
Eventually, there are some practices when companies decide to invest only in Salesforce developers. And at the first sight, it may seem wise both from a financial and end result perspective. However, in this case, your project won’t be evaluated holistically and you may get a solution that will be well-developed but never adopted by your end-users.
Salesforce understands the necessity to have expert guidance and even offers a Pro Bono Volunteer Program where you can request the help of Salesforce consulting partners. But the major drawback of this program is that it works only for short-term Nonprofit and Educational projects because you can hire an expert no more than for 20 hours.
Salesforce Pro Bono Program for Nonprofit and Education Clouds
We, at Ascendix, offer flexible cost structures for any organization that allows us to provide high-quality services for an affordable price due to our diverse engagement models.
Mistake #4: Underestimating the Power of Reviews
All companies’ portfolios look fabulous on their websites. However, it’s usually only one side of the coin. More unbiased clients’ opinions may be seen on independent review platforms. For example, customer reviews on AppExchange enable you to measure customer satisfaction rate much better than survey responses published there.
Example of Salesforce Consultant Reviews Based on Survey Responses
The current Salesforce system allows partners to select which projects and references they want to submit before these surveys are sent to their clients. And this approach can’t give you a completely true picture unlike customer reviews on the AppExchange profile that require Salesforce login to be published and can’t be either removed or modified by partners.
Example of Reviews on AppExchange
Another great source of feedback are IT services review platforms like Clutch.co or G2.com. There you can see what clients’ liked and disliked the most on all the stages of interaction with the consultancy.
Example of a Company Profile on Clutch.co
Mistake #5: Making a Hasty Choice
Salesforce investment is a serious decision, much like a marriage. Remember the old adage “Marry in haste, repent at leisure”? It can be applied to the selection of a Salesforce partner too. Take your time to make an informed decision.
Ask your business network for references, browse Salesforce platforms like AppExchange and Trailblazer Community to have a bigger pool of consulting agencies choices or websites like Upwork or PeoplePerHour if you look for freelance consultants, study carefully Salesforce consulting partners’ portfolios and clients’ case studies for the similar completed projects, discuss everything with prospecting partners, compare all the pros and cons and only after that select a consultant for your project.
Mistake #6: Overlooking Marketing Background of a Salesforce Consulting Partner
Salesforce is first and foremost a digital marketing company that helps people manage customer relationships and enables marketers to report on campaigns, track leads to revenue, and measure ROI.
But, in fact, not all Salesforce consultants have practical digital marketing experience while it’s not mandatory. However, in order to maximize benefits from your CRM investments, you should find one that does.
After all, you not only need assistance with solution implementation, deployment, or customization but also with how these things align with your marketing goals.
Our team has extensive expertise in developing and successful marketing of 17 software products, the most prominent of which are AscendixRE (commercial real estate CRM on top of Salesforce) and Ascendix Search (an advanced Salesforce search and filtration tool).
Ascendix Search on AppExchange
We support thousands of users every day on AppExchange and this experience allows us to provide exclusive AppExchange app development and Salesforce consulting services with a marketing aspect in mind.
Mistake #7: Hiring a Salesforce Consultant that Has no Relevant Experience
AppExchange platform search vividly demonstrates that there is no lack of technically skilled experts with deep knowledge of Salesforce. But are technical skills and certifications the only things that can make your project rock?
No doubts, relevant technical knowledge is vital for successful solution implementation and you should always pay attention to the proper certification of your partner but industry expertise is no less important.
Let’s imagine, your firm belongs to a specific business domain like Commercial Real Estate or Investment Sales and Salesforce can’t offer you out-of-the-box solutions. It means you should look for experts that can customize or build a CRM system exactly for your unique business needs.
And here the role of industry expertise comes into play. Lack of relevant industry experience may lead to missing important industry-related details and, as a result, can reflect on final software adoption by your team and ROI.
Besides industry expertise, you should look for consultancies that have enough resources to work with companies of your size and have used similar business and project management models to yours.
And remember that “more” and “bigger” not always mean “better”. Bigger consultancies tend to overlook necessities of smaller projects in narrower niches focusing more on enterprise-level clients in more popular business verticals. So a gazillion of certificated doesn’t guarantee that you will be properly taken care of and such consulting partners will dig deep enough to understand your market intricacies.
Your due diligence in checking your future partner technical and marketing background will be paid off in a long run, so it’s really worth to take more tome for a thorough research.
Mistake #8: Choosing a Yes-Man Instead of an Expert
The reason why you need to hire a consulting partner for your project is because his competence exceeds what you already have available in your company. So, probably, the last thing you want is a partner that appears to be a “yes-man” or an ordinary order-taker who readily agrees with your every suggestion and every proposed action.
What you most likely look for is a real expert that will examine and question your business to its core, and won’t be afraid to take the lead and suggest taking the harder route if it’s needed.
Due to a fair share of completed projects, experienced Salesforce consultants will help to avoid mistakes they’ve learned the hard way and suggest the best course of actions but not always what you may consider “right”.
Mistake #9: Looking for Short-Term Partnership
Among the most profound misconceptions is that your partnership with Salesforce consultants should finish with a CRM deployment.
On the contrary, your project will enter a new post-implementation phase where you will need expert support on a new level: to ensure user adoption of the solution, guarantee that your platform is configured and updated correctly after each Salesforce release (Winter, Spring, Summer), to troubleshoot all the system-related issues, etc.
Moreover, your organization is only going to grow over years so should do your CRM tool.
When new enhancements or customizations are needed, it’s much more efficient and comfortable to deal with tried and tested Salesforce partners who know your project from the start.
Smart business today is about creating meaningful long-term relationships that will complement its core services with innovations, rather than waver between choices.
We, at Ascendix, provide expert guidance and support for our clients on all implementation phases with the help of our Salesforce support and Concierge Services. Our team values your time and offers help with mundane tasks like CRM data entry and data load, schedule assistance, various configurations, and report generation.
Investing in Salesforce is a huge step – one that should be done with proper planning to leverage all benefits from proper implementation and long-time usage.
And Salesforce partnership is a two-way road where your partner-consultant deserves to be recognized as a trusted advisor for you, with shared goals and responsibilities. Only then, the Salesforce consultant is in the right situation to bring long-term value.