Salesforce consulting partners are companies that integrate, optimize, manage, develop, or customize the Salesforce platform for their clients who have purchased Salesforce. Consultancies range in size from small, three-person shops to significant divisions of the largest consulting firms in the world, such as Accenture, Deloitte, and Cognizant.
Working at a Salesforce partner can inject rocket fuel into your technical abilities, improve your business knowledge, and grow your income. For many, it’s a life of fulfillment. For others, just a handful of years at a consulting partner can prepare a Salesforce pro for even greater accomplishment working at a Salesforce end user (for a customer, in-house).
The quality of your experience working at one or more Salesforce partners will vary greatly, and it will largely depend on your ability to predict your experience working there. This list is your key to choosing which companies are best suited to you and your career goals. It is specific to the partner and not intended to provide all of the questions to ask or research to perform when joining a new company.
Choose the Right Kind of Salesforce Partner
There are three types of Salesforce Partners:
1. SIs or System Integrators are consulting partners that configure, implement, optimize, or maintain Salesforce software for its customers. Usually, when someone refers to a Salesforce consulting partner, they mean an SI.
SIs are ideal for people who like to build and deliver Salesforce cloud products. In general, the customization and implementation of these products, depending on client size, will be more extensive and significant. Projects will be longer, and usage capabilities much more varied than, say, a single ISV product.
There is more demand for employees of consulting partners and generally less risk. With over 4000 AppExchange products available, it’s unlikely all ISVs will succeed.
2. ISVs or Independent Software Vendors develop applications that integrate directly with, and are built on, Salesforce. They are generally available on the AppExchange and have passed security reviews. Products can be a simple plug-in, such as a dial pad or an integration of ZoomInfo or Docusign. They may also be robust, pre-customized instances such as an Applicant Tracking System for staffing firms.
ISVs are ideal for Salesforce professionals who are very domain-focused and generally “fall in love” with a type of product they want to improve, support, or implement. For instance, someone passionate about document management could be great for Conga or Docusign. Someone with a passion for project management may seek employment at Asana, while another with a penchant for VOIP systems might look at RingCentral.
3. PDOs or Product Development Outsourcers are the smallest group of partners. PDOs are software development shops that build many of the applications on the AppExchange. ISVs often outsource the coding and development of applications to PDOs so they can focus on sales, marketing, and integrations.
PDOs are ideal for those who have product ownership or application development in their blood. Top candidates generally have a strong knowledge of and background in the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle).
Research the Company
This is where all Salesforce Partners, ISVs, and PDOs are listed. If it’s a Salesforce partner, they’re on the AppExchange! Here you can keyword search or drill down using filters. Selecting a company will tell you:
- Headquarters and other office locations.
- The number of certified consultants within their company.
- Year founded, projects completed, and expertise level for specific projects.
- A summary of their business, and sometimes even videos, white papers, and customer case studies.
- Reviews and a star rating based on their reviews.
Pro Tip: A company with 60 consultants and only seven completed projects signifies that Salesforce is likely not their primary business. There’s nothing wrong with finding employment at firms where Salesforce consulting is only a tiny part of their business. However, it can pose problems when executives (who lack knowledge of Salesforce) apply what works for another arm of the company only to fail on the Salesforce side.
This goes for any job, whether a Salesforce Partner or not. Read the “about” sections, learn about their leadership, review the careers page, and note how many vacant positions there are. Do they list case studies? Share their methodology? Just like an English essay, it’s your job to demonstrate what you’ve learned about them.
Pro Tip: A terrible website does not necessarily mean a terrible company, but I would approach these partners cautiously. If a company doesn’t have the time or money to create an attractive, usable website, it may be a sign of disorganization.
Search for the company on Google and identify their social media pages for review. Also, click “News” – you may uncover that the company was recently purchased, received significant funding, or spoke at Dreamforce about a considerable success, etc.
Pro Tip: For the extra cautious, run a Google search (“Company name” lawsuit). Companies get sued all the time, but if it’s a small or midsized firm and the lawsuits are current or extensive, you’ll want to ask about the potential impact before signing an offer letter.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional social network with more than 800 million people in the community. I’ve been on it since it was around one million people, and it is my go-to for connecting with professionals within the ecosystem. Start with the company listing. You should see how many followers they have, plus the number of employees, and recognize which of your connections currently work there. It will help you identify the business leaders you may ultimately work for or, as a minimum, want to follow or connect.
Pro Tip: Some LinkedIn members are “subscribers” and can see who has visited our profiles. Make sure your profile is complete and compelling before exploring too deeply. Also, don’t be shy about requesting to connect.
Glassdoor is the largest “company employment review” site, meaning current and former employees have anonymously rated and reviewed their level of satisfaction working for a specific company. They also compile salary data and offer job postings. The employee reviews are compiled the same way as an Amazon product review or Yelp restaurant review. You’ll require a login and will either need to pay or leave reviews yourself to access certain sets of data. Glassdoor is a credible source of information, so long as you follow these tips.
- Larger company reviews are based on location. Amazon, for instance, has a 3.8 (out of five) star rating in Seattle, USA but only a 3.1 rating in Swansea, UK.
- It’s almost impossible for large companies to get past four stars.
- Many companies share the same name so check the logo to be sure it’s the one you are looking for.
- If there are bad reviews, see if they all happened during one summer four years ago, or if they have been recent or persistent. It is ok to address this in the later stages of interviewing. Find out what happened and de-risk your career!
- Companies create internal campaigns to elevate their Glassdoor score. If there are clumps of positive reviews all from “currently works here” employees, chances are they are trying to improve a naturally lower score.
Ensure They Will Support Your Certification Journey
SI partners love certifications because they help qualify them for bigger and better customer leads from Salesforce as part of their partner-level formula. Some partners not only pay for your certifications, but will give you monthly bonuses based on the quantity and type of certifications you possess. In addition to paying for certifications, they may have internal study groups and access to partner-specific training.
Questions to ask:
- How do you support your employees’ certification journey?
- Do you offer access to internal or external training and support groups?
Ensure the Project Load Suits Your Interest and Experience
There’s a big difference between working on a single million dollar project for a billion dollar company on-site for nine months, versus balancing five projects remotely, which each take two months for smaller clients. Your ability to manage multiple projects i.e. organizational skills, knowledge, and willingness to interact with a variety of different people for shorter durations of time, will have an impact on your success.
Questions to ask:
- How many projects will I typically work on simultaneously?
- What is the typical duration and budget of the average project?
- How many team members are typically involved in a project?
- Will you have a BA and a PM and a Technical Architect, or will you need to project manage and even architect your projects?
Understand Their Expectations of Billable Hours
Billable hours are the hours billed explicitly to the clients and logged by the employees, much like how an attorney tracks their clients’ hours. Partners have different billable hour expectations from one another. For some, they may be as high as 40 hours or as low as zero. These hours do not always include internal meetings, personal research, certification study time, or even the time spent logging the hours into their system.
Billable hours mostly apply to SI partners, but they really can apply to all types of partners. It depends on the company business model and whether you’re on a managed services team or implementation team versus product development for either an ISV or PDO. Note, too, that many ISVs and PDOs are also SIs.
Often, an employee’s average hours make up all or some of their monthly, quarterly, or annual bonuses. The more you work, the higher the bonus. That said, billing 40 hours per week will likely equate to at least 50+ hour work weeks. While hard work generally pays off, if the company loses a significant client and you are “benched” (no longer billable to a client for a period of time), all your hard work and extra hours could amount to no bonus at all because the company couldn’t keep you busy enough. We often see this with more minor, upcoming firms, but it can happen to established firms as well.
Questions to ask:
- What is the weekly or monthly billable hour expectation?
- You shared earlier that there were bonuses. Are these tied to billable hours, company profits, or simply manager discretion?
Ensure You’re Interested in Their Niche
Aligning your college or work experience with the appropriate niche can help make you the obvious choice for the job. You can easily find this out by reviewing the company website and the AppExchange. You can sort through partners based on the specific Clouds that interest you the most.
For example, a consultant who spent five years in Wealth Management makes for a more obvious fit working with FSC (Financial Services Cloud), whereas a former healthcare worker will better understand Hipaa and EMR systems. Targeting HealthCloud providers will ease the transition and help the employee hit the ground running.
Questions to ask:
- I noticed you listed HealthCloud on your site. What percentage of business is currently HLS related?
- What are your plans, if any, for additional product specialization?
Understand Their Usage of Offshore Resources
Many partners take advantage of low-cost, offshore development. While this can make their pricing more attractive for clients, it can (but not always) stretch out your work hours significantly. Matching times to communicate with offshore teams frequently requires flexibility from both countries. If you’re inflexible in the hours you can work, this may shorten your shortlist significantly.
Questions to ask:
- Do you engage offshore employees?
- What does that look like when trying to sync up meetings?
- I’m in the (X)ST time zone. How many days a week/month should I expect early morning or evening meetings?
Understand Their Onboarding Process
I’ve heard horror stories of people joining Salesforce partners and not meeting their manager for up to six weeks after starting. They’re practically parachuted into an environment and expected to figure it out independently. It isn’t easy to grow your career without the advocacy of your immediate hiring manager. Be sure you meet with them and understand their expectations and management style before saying yes to a compelling offer.
Questions to ask:
- What is the onboarding process for new employees?
- Are there milestones?
- Do they have a mentorship program?
- Are there quarterly or annual reviews?
- Will I report directly to you?
- What’s the best way for employees to communicate with you?
- Are there regular standing meetings or reviews?
Understand Who Owns the Company
Public companies often offer stock, relative stability, and proven processes. Private-equity-funded firms are generally in growth mode, frequently attempting to position the company for sale. Growth can be good and offer a fast track towards career growth. It can also edge you out upon purchase depending on your role and the desires of the new ownership. Single-owner companies can succeed or fail at the hands of a single decision-maker. However, you’re more likely to have a voice at the table, and eventual shares are still possible.
Research the company before interviewing so you don’t embarrass yourself with silly questions, like “Are you a public company?”, which is easy to uncover. Reserve these questions for the firms with very little information on the internet. Understand, too, that the country of ownership may play a significant role in the company’s culture.
Questions to ask:
- Who are the owners of the company?
- How long have they owned it?
- What are the plans for future acquisitions or selling the company?
Ensure There Is a Path Toward Career Growth
Commitment toward certifications isn’t the only path to follow when seeking career growth. Landing in an environment that allows you to take on ever-increasing responsibility ensures longevity at the employer and your continued interest. When interviewing, it’s essential to outline your ultimate career growth goals. However, the focus should be on how you can support them in the position on offer. Too often, I come across eager young candidates who underestimate the time necessary to develop their skills. Some of these same candidates end up scaring their potential employer by undermining their desire for the position at hand. After all, “We’re hiring for this role, not the job they want next year.” It’s a balancing act and best broached in the later stages of an interview process.
Questions to ask:
- For the people who have been here the longest, what is it about the company that makes them so committed?
- When people decide to leave the company, what would you say is the most common reason?
- I’m excited about the opportunity to work for you. Ultimately, my goal is to grow into a (insert job title) over the years. Have others successfully achieved that here?
There is always a risk when switching companies. Proper practice learning about a company through research and interviews can de-risk your career transitions and establish you as a dependable, loyal, and successful employee with a very bright future.
You can find new roles from around the world via the Salesforce Ben Job Board.