Salesforce Consultants implement and optimize Salesforce products in an effective and scalable way that is in line with their clients’ requirements. With a consultant involved, Salesforce becomes like a block of plasticine to an organization, molding to exactly how their business operates.
There’s no doubt that Salesforce Consultants are deserving of their compensation – they carry out a core function that enables organizations to get more out of their Salesforce investment. With this rewarding career on offer, this guide will share our advice on how to become a Salesforce Consultant.
This is the services arm of the Salesforce partner ecosystem. You could say that a consultant’s ‘product’ is their expertise, sold to clients as time and advice. They could work for a Salesforce Consulting Partner (aka. Solution Integrator), an agency, or independently (as a ‘one-(wo)man-band’).
The responsibilities of a Salesforce Consultant can range from configuration tasks, through to work that requires a level of emotional intelligence when gathering requirements or keeping a project on track. With seniority, consultants will become involved across the entire project lifecycle, yet less hands-on with configuration (Jump to: Stages of a Typical Salesforce Project).
What does a Salesforce Consultant do? Let’s start by outlining what we mean by ‘entry-level’, ‘mid-level’, and ‘senior’ consultants:
- Entry-level consultant: 0 – 1 years experience (often described as a ‘build’ consultant). in a supporting role, executing configuration tasks delegated by other team members, based on specific requirements with Salesforce’s most common features (eg. field configuration). Observing and learning.
- Mid-level: 1 – 3 years experience. Lead small projects, design solutions and lead requirements gathering sessions/client workshops.
- Senior consultant: 3+ years experience (often described as a ‘Lead consultant’/’Delivery Director’). The subject matter expert. “Big picture” solution design, possibly with multiple integrated systems. Control the data model, release management. High amount of stakeholder management, acting as the clients’ escalation point.
Note: this guide focuses on Functional Consultants. You may also hear consultants referred to as Technical Consultants, Business Analysts (usually at end-user organizations), Technical Leads, Pre-sales Consultants. You will find these roles at larger consultancies, as part of large project teams. While their role accountabilities differ, there is a great amount of overlap. For the purposes of this guide, we will focus on the most widespread type (Functional Consultants).
What Entry-level Salesforce Consultants do:
As a junior Salesforce Consultant, you’ll implement and continually improve your clients’ Salesforce org, usually guided by experienced Salesforce Consultants and set requirements (your overarching objective is to observe and learn from them). Tasks could include:
- Configuration tasks based on specific requirements with Salesforce’s most common features (eg. field configuration, Flows),
- Building Salesforce reports/custom report types according to requirements,
- Build rapport with the client-side project team,
- Testing configuration with different business scenarios, and/or overseeing UAT (user acceptance testing),
- Simple data migrations,
- Data clean-up,
- Document solutions implemented,
- User training.
To become a Salesforce Consultant, you should:
- Have experience configuring Sales Cloud (this is likely the cloud you will start with, unless you want to become a marketing consultant).
- If you are in another Salesforce role (eg. Salesforce Admin) Seek out opportunities for attending client-facing interactions, such as requirements gathering, project kick-off meetings, and training sessions.
- Add value with your core Salesforce knowledge in conversations whenever you can, to grasp best practices and get comfortable solutionizing.
- Get familiar with the “quick start” packages consultancies sell, as these pull together the most common requirements (you are likely to start working on these).
- Take the Certified Salesforce Administrator and Platform App Builder certifications.
Why is knowledge around best practices important? If you know Salesforce best practice, you will be able to configure Salesforce faster, in a way that will benefit the client in the long run (future-proofing). This involves using the features how Salesforce intended (when they were initially developed) and sticking with declarative configuration as much as possible. In other words, avoid over-customizing/adding huge amounts of code to a Salesforce org unless it’s absolutely necessary. As Salesforce makes updates with every release, they deliver enhancements to their standard features, not to customized parts of an org that have veered away from core functionality. The moral? Always think long-term.
Note: working as a consultant with clients is very different from being an employee of a company. Beyond the technology, expectations could require you to adjust your lifestyle to accommodate fluctuating work demands. This guide collates people’s own experiences (while focused on marketing consultants, the sentiments are shared across the board).
Progress to a Mid-level Salesforce Consultant
With between 1–3 years experience, you will be considered a mid-level Consultant. You will either be running “Quick start” projects independently (that are guarded by a tight scope, and follow a predictable set of tasks), or work on projects that go beyond the “cookie cutter” implementations.
At this stage, you are able to work independently, and are confident in being client-facing (requirements gathering/workshops/demos). Tasks could include:
- Presales involvement where a consultant needs to gather/validate a potential client’s requirements with Salesforce products and simple integrations.
- Be able to gather requirements independently, and carry out Business Analysis to understand the ‘current state’ in depth.
- Familiarity with popular Salesforce integrations, and their effort/risk.
- Solution design in terms of automations, custom objects, data relationships in Salesforce.
- Configuration tasks for more uncommon Salesforce features (eg. Revenue Schedules), are higher risk (eg. complex Salesforce Flows), and require Salesforce best practice knowledge to complete them (ie. they may not have been detailed for you on your behalf). You may find your role involves detailing specific requirements for an entry-level build consultant.
- Utilise Salesforce’s declarative functionality as far as possible (and briefing Salesforce Developers when requirements go beyond),
- The driving force behind analytics – defining which reports should be created for clients to measure their success, and which reporting tool to use.
- Stakeholder management for client relationships/projects they are responsible for.
- Form (or assist with*) the project plan. Work towards the project to be delivered on time, and on budget.
- Complex data migrations.
- Overseeing deployments.
To progress from a junior Consultant to a mid-level role, you should do the following:
- Understand which questions to ask to a client to understand their ‘current state’ in depth. With practice, you will be able to pick up small hints that the client shares that will lead to additional questions (and know the right questions to ask in order to tease out the information, if not!)
- With solution design knowing which option to choose in which scenario, in terms of automations, custom objects, and data relationships. For example, for this client’s requirements, should I create a custom object? Should this process be build in Flow or Process Builder?
- Observe more experienced consultants – how they organize their workload, the risks they anticipate, and how they communicate with clients while handling difficult situations. See what works for you.
- Find a mentor internally, usually a consultant that you are supporting day-to-day. Question everything!
- Understand the mechanics of a Salesforce project – which parts come first, what’s expected of the client, predicted timelines.
- Gain a solid understanding of the Project Manager’s role (or the concepts of Project Management).
- Conduct project debriefs at the end of every client project to reflect on what went well, or how things went wrong.
What Senior Salesforce Consultants Do
As a Senior Salesforce Consultant, you’ll take ownership of all stages of a project. While you won’t be as hands-on with configuration, you will have a ‘helicopter’ view of the project, being ultimately responsible for the project to be delivered on time, and on budget. As the subject matter expert, in most organizations, you will have the opportunity to manage a team of Consultants (or build one).
The senior Salesforce Consultant role (often described as a ‘Lead consultant’/’Delivery Director’), begins to edge into Salesforce Architect territory – in fact, this is where the Consultant and Architect roles overlap.
“Big picture” solution design means stepping back from the small details and looking at a client’s Salesforce platform, as a whole (possibly with multiple integrated systems). Because of this, senior consultants control the data model, and release management.
You’ll be expected to work with the client-side stakeholders from a variety of business functions, acting as the clients’ escalation point. Responsibilities and tasks could include:
- Presales involvement where a consultant needs to gather/validate a potential client’s requirements with multiple Salesforce products and complex integrations.
- Gather requirements for cross-organizational transformation, with changes impacting multiple teams.
- Carry out Business Analysis to understand the ‘current state’ in depth.
- “Big picture” solution design, with multiple integrated systems. Understand the considerations involved with solution design (and therefore, concepts in the Salesforce architect domain).
- Control the system architecture* and data model.Solution design
- High amount of stakeholder management, acting as the clients’ escalation point.
- Overseeing large deployments.
- Controlling release management.
- Detail a roadmap for future enhancements.
*in project teams where there is no Salesforce Architect involved.
To become a Senior Salesforce Consultant, you should:
- Become a subject matter expert (in Salesforce generally, or in a specific part of the Salesforce platform).
- Understand and have experience with Salesforce integrations and their implications.
- As you eventually will be expected to lead complex projects with integrations, participate in these kinds of projects when there’s an opportunity.
- Delegate well, have the qualities of a leader.
Salesforce Consultant Career Path
Let’s see what practical steps you can take to climb the ladder, let’s finish up with what a typical Salesforce Consultant career path looks like:
What about Salesforce Freelance Consultants?
Salesforce Freelancers, also known as “independent consultants”, are self-employed (not employees of a Salesforce consultancy) and work for a Salesforce customer organization on a project basis/specified length of time.
While the pay may be higher, the life of a freelance consultant may not be for you. These guides will help you find out if it’s a good fit for you:
Appendix: Stages of a Typical Salesforce Project
Get to know the prospective client’s business by asking questions about how they operate, and what challenges they face. This is “presales”, before the client signs on the dotted line.
Having gathered requirements, consultants put together a scope of work detailing the effort required, factoring in any foreseeable risks. For more complex projects, this would also involve mapping out processes, and integrations, in order to understand how they will interact with one another.
The building commences, where configuration tasks are completed to an agreed timeline.
Processes are tested from a users’ perspective, applying different scenarios to ensure that the requirements are met and no bugs are encountered. Project stakeholders (or designated users) test the processes too, to confirm they meet expectations.
Deployment & Training
The changes are moved into the client’s production environment, including any data migrations. End-users are trained on how to use their new Salesforce org.