6 Tips for Choosing the Right Salesforce Consulting Partner

May 29, 2019 Halie Vining

Two business men sitting on a couch and smiling looking at a laptop screen

No matter where you’re at in your journey with Salesforce -- expanding to Heroku, building out legacy integrations, or starting brand-new with cloud-based CRM -- one thing’s for sure, choosing the right partners could make or break your success. With hundreds of Salesforce consulting firms, it can be difficult to discern the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Finding the right partner will help you build the Salesforce solutions you need to drive your business forward. These six tips for assessing your business and potential partners will help make the strengths and weaknesses clearer, so you find the right partner!

1. Look beyond cost to assess value

While cost is always a concern when considering a new partner, it shouldn’t be your primary focus. The price tag for a Salesforce implementation can vary greatly based on your business needs, the proposed scope, and a partner’s expertise level. Some Salesforce partners work from a set of templates that help keep costs down but might not truly meet your business needs, while others quote completely custom, bottom-up projects. 

Cost is a huge factor that impacts the overall ROI of your implementation. But rather than comparing on cost alone, compare the cost to the value proposed. Ask questions about business analysis and change enablement. 

  • Does the partner with the bigger price tag provide support beyond implementation to help increase adoption and ROI? 
  • Does the lower cost partner save you money in the short-term but not offer the full support you need for a successful implementation? 
  • If a lower price tag comes with less customization and support, is your team equipped to pick up the slack?

Ultimately, your business is going to use Salesforce long beyond an initial implementation project, so while upfront cost is a factor, it’s only a component of your long-term ROI and success. 

2. Define what success looks like for your business 

Assessing what success looks like for your business is essential to choosing the right partner. Plus, knowing what you want to achieve helps you better weigh value and budget when you’re assessing partners. If a business isn’t aligned on goals and desired outcomes before choosing an IT partner, how can that partner design a solution that meets the organization’s needs? Set your team and your partner up for success:

  1. Define goals and metrics for project success
  2. Identify which teams and business processes will be impacted
  3. Identify and engage stakeholders for each team/business process
  4. Start to define your long-term vision for Salesforce

You don’t have to have all these points completely set in stone before engaging potential partners. In fact, an experienced partner should be able to help narrow goals and identify requirements. If you haven’t defined your requirements or need help defining them, be open-minded when engaging partners, consider a small initial discovery project to come up with a strategic roadmap or look beyond traditional RFPs to get a more consultative sales process.

3. Check out Salesforce Partnership levels to assess expertise

Partnership level isn’t everything, but it’s a big indicator of a company’s expertise. While it’s easy to dismiss partnership as something that’s more value to the partner company than your company, that’s not truly the case. 60 percent of the partnership level is based on technical certifications and customer success rates. The higher the sponsorship, the more certifications, and higher CSAT scores.

While referral calls can help you get a feel for 1-2 experiences with a partner, take a broader look at their number of certifications and customer success ratings to gain a deeper understanding of a prospective partner’s knowledge. 

4. Look for project and industry experience 

One of the biggest arguments of working with a consulting partner is their Salesforce experience. You want to ask questions about the types of projects implemented: number of licenses, clouds used, types of certifications, etc. But remember, a big component of success is defining the requirements and vision. 

In fact, Harvard Business Review (HBR) states that one of the most pervasive issues in consulting is when an engagement is too focused on implementation -- and not on strategy. HBR goes on to stress that consultants bring broader business knowledge and problem-solving expertise. To extract the full value from a consulting partner, the client must enable them to go beyond implementation to experiment and drive innovation. 

A partner who knows your industry and business model well can provide invaluable insights on how to structure processes or role out changes -- and they may even have implementation accelerators to get you live faster. Technology expertise is undoubtedly essential in a partner, but digging deeper into a partner’s business experience can help you secure a strategic business partner and not just a systems integrator. 

5. Check out AppExchange for in-depth reviews

The Salesforce community is notorious for being a bit exclusive. While they’re eager to share knowledge, they generally keep their engagement to Salesforce-owned properties like Trailhead rather than broader IT forums and review sites. And consulting partner reviews are no different! If you want the best reviews on partners, check out AppExchange rather than a general comparison site.

6. And finally, engage early

You might have noticed from this article that there’s not a quick checklist for selecting the right partner. While Salesforce is SaaS-based, a Salesforce implementation is still a business system implementation. That means along with implementation comes project planning, solution design, change management, and so much more. Implementing a business system isn’t a quick process -- even with a solid agile process! And selecting a partner isn’t going to be quick either.

Make sure you give your business the time you need to evaluate a few partners. Get to know their processes and people. As you define project needs, learn if their approach aligns to yours. Assess their full set of services to determine if they’d be a good long-term fit. Because ultimately, choosing the right partner isn’t about an estimate or RFP response. It’s about finding a team that can be an extension of your business.

Ready to explore if Appirio's expertise meets your needs? Get in touch with us today.

About the Author

Halie Vining

Halie leads the Go-to-Market strategy for Salesforce Services at Appirio. She began her career in Consulting, focusing first on enterprise-level SEO and content strategy and later on UX and product management. She's worked with brands like Rackspace, HP, Intel, and Airstream to use UX strategy to drive marketing and sales success. When she's not geeking out on digital strategy, you'll find her cozied up with a book, a beer, and her two labradors, Watson and Wyeth.

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