Career / Consultants

7 Essential Skills to Boost Your Salesforce Consultant Career

By Pallavi Agarwal

As a CEO & Founder, designer at heart, and consultant with 18 years of experience, I love sharing the skills I have learned to help inspire the next generation of Salesforce Consultants.

In this resource, I will share my own experiences in building for client success by understanding the ‘why’, as well as what leadership skills are needed to advance your consultant career in the Salesforce ecosystem. So, let’s get started!

1. Critical Thinking to Understand the ‘Why’

There are certain parts of being a consultant that can be taught. While I have always been able to mentor junior consultants in skills from data management to business analysis, critical thinking is one area that I do not believe can be taught. Critical thinking is being able to have a 10,000-foot view of the business, while truly understanding the organization.

Yes, everyone gathering requirements and giving recommendations can be a consultant – but understanding the ‘why’ through critical thinking is the difference between good and great consultants.

If you want to advance your career in consulting, you have to move beyond being a task manager and start getting more context from your clients. Ask yourself: “Do I truly understand their business?” Many consultants that I have worked with have a strong technical aptitude, but that will only get you so far.

2. Adaptive Communication is Essential

From collaborating with engineering teams to presenting to global teams – your ability to quickly adapt your communication style is essential. And again, understanding plays a key role in your success in clearly communicating the vision for what projects you are executing.

If I am talking to technical leaders, I may need to communicate in a way that they understand through a shared common language. And on an individual level, you need to understand your default communication style and how your communication is received by others. We need to always remember that it’s important to adapt our communication style to individuals and large groups.

3. Know Your Audience

From presenting to the C-Suite at Fortune 500 companies to status syncs with individual contributors – knowing your audience has been one of the most essential skills that I coach when onboarding new consultants.

When involved in a number of projects and presenting to different audiences, it’s easy to want to copy and paste the same information. However, this approach will derail your delivery timeline. Know what the value adds are for each stakeholder, what context is important, and how to tailor your presentations to ensure alignment.

I have hired many consultants that were incredible task managers, but you must have an executive presence too. Remember, if you don’t know the ‘why’ for the business at the 10,000 ft level, you will not be able to know and communicate well to your audience.

4. Problem-Solving While Seeking Assistance

When hiring new consultants, one of the key leadership traits that I interview are examples of successful past demonstrated and self-directed initiatives. I am a firm believer in asking for help when needed. However, what due diligence and problem-solving did you perform before you came to the project delivery lead for help? If you want to continue to advance your career as a consultant, self-dependency is a strong leadership skill to cultivate and grow.

5. A Learner’s Mindset and Self-Dependency

When I was early in my career and interviewing at Accenture, I had no background in IT. I got hired because of my demonstrated ability to drive interdependency, collaboration with teams, and keeping a learner’s mindset.

As a junior consultant, you can learn about products, processes, and methodologies, but oftentimes you will get no instruction or direction. It’s on you to self-direct your curriculum while working to understand your reason for learning. With a learner’s mindset, I always said yes first and then figured out how to get there – because I was always keen on taking on new challenges and learning to grow.

6. Decide Your Area of Expertise (Or Don’t)

Whether it’s leveraging your Marketing Cloud certification for your first client project or having spent a few years successfully architecting DevOps solutions for clients, it’s important to establish your area of expertise to build client trust and credibility. This will help to guide you in building your senior technical consultant practice. If you prefer to be a generalist and not a senior technical consultant – that’s okay too, but start making a plan now.

7. Know When to Say No (And Offer Other Recommendations)

Have you ever been on a project and the leading consultant said yes to a client request that you knew was not in the long-term best interest of the business? While it is essential to deliver quality customer service, you also need to be clear about what is in the best interest of the client and project. You are an expert in your field, which is why the client hired you in the first place. And while it is tempting to people please, saying no will ultimately become one of your most essential skills.

Be ready to lean into your past experiences, offer alternative recommendations, and help the client see the 10,000 ft business view the way that you do. Our job as consultants is to be a thought partner with our clients, and sometimes this means knowing when to say no.

Final Thoughts

For me, understanding my client’s businesses, maintaining a 10,000 ft view approach to project delivery, and adapting my interpersonal skills for diverse stakeholders have all been essential skills for advancing my career as a CEO & Founder.

I hope that this resource was helpful for you – regardless of whether you are a junior consultant or an experienced individual contributor considering becoming a Salesforce Consultant.

The Author

Pallavi Agarwal

Pallavi is the founder of Kander, a Salesforce consulting firm in Washington DC. She has over 18 years of management consulting experience.

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