The Struggle for Salesforce Talent: Build or Buy?

By Lisa Burton

There are forces at work making it harder than ever to find and retain great Salesforce talent. However, there are practical and strategic steps that businesses can take.

This article will explore three options: Recruit, Build, and Buy. But which option is best for your organization? Let’s take a look.

Supply and Demand

Salesforce continues to defy the law of large numbers with its growth trajectory. The company continues to grow well over 25% YoY and is on track to hit $26.4 billion this fiscal year. In FY23, Salesforce expects to hit $31.8 billion in revenue.

That’s a lot of software, and software (especially a platform as deep and broad as Salesforce) requires people. People who can design, develop, architect, integrate, implement, test, manage, support, and build to ensure success within a company. This is why the Salesforce partner ecosystem is so big – according to IDC, it’s five times as big as Salesforce itself. There are now 1,800 services partners in the ecosystem, all vying for talent. Which brings me to the next market force at work…

There is a growing imbalance between supply and demand for Salesforce talent. According to the 2021 Salesforce Talent Ecosystem Report from 10K, global talent demand is up by 364%, but supply has only increased by just 23% since last year. It’s still growing, just not fast enough to keep up with demand – especially as other cloud vendors take a page from Salesforce’s own playbook and start building up their own partner ecosystems.

This supply and demand imbalance is colliding with the broader labor challenges of our post-pandemic world. What many people call the ‘Great Resignation’, is actually more like the ‘Great Reshuffle’. Salesforce experts aren’t dropping out of the workforce, they’re just moving to different opportunities. Some are being recruited out to other Salesforce firms, some are taking the opportunity to start their own businesses, and many are moving on to other technologies.

What does all this mean? It means that while finding Salesforce talent was never easy, it is getting much harder. Next question: what to do about it?

Companies can solve their talent shortage in three ways:

  1. Amp up recruiting and retention.
  2. Build the talent base.
  3. Buy talent through M&A (Mergers & Acquisitions) or contracting.

All of these options can work, and in most cases, companies should be at least exploring a combination of all three.

The “Recruit/Retain” Option

To date, this has been the go-to (and dare I say, only) approach for most companies looking to bring on new employees. Companies will hire one or multiple recruiters to find the talent they need, give them a target, and incentivize them on the quality and quantity of roles filled.

Q: Do you need more people? A: Hire more recruiters. I have grossly oversimplified this, but you get the gist!

Many companies stop there, but the best ones focus on retention just as much as they do recruiting – carefully managing attrition and engagement rates to minimize losing the great talent they worked so hard to bring in.

The challenge with this option is that recruiters are incredibly expensive and difficult to find because everyone is dealing with a talent shortage. Plus, retention isn’t as easy as it used to be now that anyone can work from practically anywhere. Smaller employers that used to have a ‘leg up’ due to flexibility and proximity, are now global brands that have deep pockets and big benefits.

The “Build” Option

With the market forces above in play, recruiting will only get you so far. It’s becoming more and more important to build a talent pool – whether that’s working with universities and workforce development programs to create a feeder system, or developing your farm team internally through formal training and development programs. Here are a few examples:

Zennify, a Salesforce and nCino partner specializing in financial services customers, has partnered with the Greater Sacramento Economic Council to hire entry-level roles through its Digital Upskill Program. The partnership has connected them with a diverse group of talent, trained with the skills needed.

Cloud for Good, a Salesforce consultancy focused on the non-profit and education sector, has developed its own in-house program, Talent for Good, focusing on upskilling and talent development. In this program, “apprentices” sign on for a two-year apprenticeship, which starts with an immersive training program, and then get embedded into Cloud for Good projects where they receive additional mentorship.

Building your own talent pool is imperative for any firm that is striving for sustainable growth. However, it’s a long-term investment and it takes time.

But what if you don’t have the appetite or experience for this option, or if you need to build talent in an area or region where you have less familiarity? Consider the following option:

The “Buy” Option

The “buy” option might be a company’s best bet if you need a lot of talent fast, or if you require a specific type of talent that you currently don’t have access to. Perhaps you signed a giant contract, you are starting a new practice, or expanding into a new region, or tackling a new industry.

If this is the case, there are three main ways to acquire talent:

  1. Outsource or subcontract
  2. Build-operate-transfer (BOT)
  3. Acquire

The first option is perhaps the easiest and quickest. You can do this through freelance marketplaces like 10K or Upwork, a PEO firm (professional employer organization), or other complementary employment partners. It’s a great choice if you’re looking to fill in the gaps or need a certain set of capabilities for a designated period of time. But it also means you won’t be building your own internal capabilities.

Alternatively, you might pursue a Build-Operate-Transfer’ (BOT) arrangement, in which a service provider develops and manages a captive service center for you over the course of two or three years, eventually transferring ownership to you. While the costs are higher, the flexibility is optimal and it’s a great option if you’re looking to build an international delivery center.

Finally, there is M&A. This can range from small ‘acqui-hires’, where you’re paying to bring on a specific set of individuals, to larger acquisitions that feel more like bringing two equals together. M&A can be a great way to diversify into other areas, expand internationally and hit economies of scale. But bringing together two people-based organizations with their own cultures, processes, and tools isn’t always easy. 

Final Thoughts

In the end, all options are worth considering, and most companies will (and should) apply a mix of these tactics. Spend time to understand where your talent needs are today, but also how these will likely evolve in the future; while market conditions may shift, the demand for Salesforce talent will only continue to grow.

The Author

Lisa Burton

Lisa Burton, Partner at

Leave a Reply