An essential aspect of implementing your new Salesforce CRM is working with a Salesforce partner to guide your nonprofit or association through the setup and development process. A consultant can also offer long-term support to help your organization craft a new strategy around Salesforce and connect with more donors or members.
In this guide, we’ll first explain what a Salesforce partner is, then dive into six best practices for finding the right partner.
What is a Salesforce partner?
A Salesforce partner is a highly-qualified technology consultant who specializes in Salesforce. These partners are certified by Salesforce, guaranteeing they are experts capable of assisting others with the platform.
Salesforce is comprehensive and flexible, so different consultants focus on different services related to the platform. There are three main types of partners to keep in mind:
- Consulting and integration partners help organizations implement their Salesforce CRM and any additional applications purchased. These consultants can provide insight into leveraging your Salesforce platform, what add-ons to invest in, and how to customize your solution to meet your long-term needs.
- Independent software vendors (ISV) build applications for the Salesforce platforms. These partners have ready-to-download apps and offer custom development services. For example, associations using Salesforce might buy an ISV’s membership app, then partner with the ISV to build out unique membership communication tools that encourage members to connect.
- Cloud resellers have licenses to sell Salesforce but are uninvolved in the actual implementation process. Cloud resellers are primarily helpful for organizations that operate in areas without a strong Salesforce community.
You will likely need a consulting and integration partner for nonprofits and associations looking to migrate systems and implement their Salesforce CRM. Let’s explore how to assess and form long-lasting partnerships with these types of Salesforce consultants.
1. Research qualified Salesforce partners
Salesforce partners vary by the industry they serve, the features they’re most familiar with, and other services, such as technical support and custom development. When researching Salesforce partners, start by evaluating their qualifications and prior experience. You can learn more about a partner’s specialty by researching their:
- Client portfolio. Most Salesforce partners will have a portfolio of past clients on their website. Look through these clients to see the partner’s previous projects and determine if they work with organizations in fields similar to yours.
- Certifications. Ask consultants about their staff’s background and credentials, including their seniority and current certifications. Many organizations will include details about how long they have been a Salesforce partner on their website and any notable awards.
- AppExchange ratings. The Salesforce AppExchange provides a list of verified Salesforce partners. For each partner, check out their overall rating and reviews from past clients. These can provide insight into general client satisfaction and the types of projects they usually complete. For example, Fíonta has a 4.9 out of 5-star average from organizations in the nonprofit sector.
Use this information to begin assembling a list of potential Salesforce partners. Rank them based on their experience and relevance to your organization’s project. You can learn more about your top candidates from there by getting recommendations and checking references.
2. Get recommendations and check references
You can learn about potential Salesforce partners through many sources. Nonprofits and associations interested in partnering with a Salesforce consultant should try the following methods:
- Browse the Salesforce AppExchange. As mentioned, the Salesforce AppExchange is a valuable platform for finding verified partners. For each partner, you can get a general sense of customer satisfaction from their aggregate customer satisfaction rating (CSAT) for projects completed over the past 18 months. Salesforce conducts CSAT surveys directly with customers, ensuring the ratings are legitimate.
- Explore reputable online sources. Outside of the AppExchange, you can browse other trustworthy websites that provide recommendations for various Salesforce partners. Referral lists that discuss each partner’s process in depth and actively compare different consultants’ approaches can help narrow down your potential consultants.
- Ask your network for recommendations. After compiling a list of partners, reach out to organizations in your network who have conducted projects similar to yours. They’ll be able to provide insight into the specific Salesforce consultant they partnered with, and general advice about what to be aware of when working with a consultant to complete your project.
Once you narrow the choice to a couple of partners, ask for client references. Before reaching out to these references, prepare questions about how the project went, the partner’s communication style and responsiveness, their ability to stick to the timeline and budget, and whether if the client would work with them again.
3. Discover reliable Salesforce partners
Salesforce has a wide range of partners and consultants who have been in the Salesforce ecosystem for a considerable time and are likely to be more reliable. These partners have completed various projects for various clients, ensuring they can bring additional expertise to your organization’s project.
In the Business section of the AppExchange, you can view how many projects each consultant has completed and how many certified staff they have. While this section may not reflect every project completed, it can provide insight into the number and range of projects the partner has worked on.
Additionally, research if a partner has previously received any accolades from Salesforce. While the program is now retired, consultants who were previously recognized as Salesforce.org Premium Partners are considered highly qualified and will be able to bring their years of knowledge to your project.
4. Find a long-term partner
Whether your initiative lasts a few months or over a year, you’ll want a partner who will be at your side for the long haul. Consultants have different styles and approaches. As such, your organization will need to evaluate each of your candidates to ensure that your partner can get your current project done and be someone you can envision working with long-term.
Plan to treat your Salesforce partner like a true collaborator, and share your strategic vision with them so they can advise you on the best approach knowing what you have in mind. Finding a consultant you can work with long-term has several benefits, such as:
- They are already familiar with your organization. After your implementation, your organization will likely have other Salesforce-related projects. For example, if you’re interested in further customizing your platform or integrating your CRM and your website, your consultant can jump straight into your new project.
- Your organization won’t need to spend time finding a new partner. Researching Salesforce partners can be a time-consuming process. Finding a consultant you can work with long-term will save your organization time and effort researching new consultants whenever you have a new project.
- You can receive ongoing support. If you encounter a problem after your Salesforce implementation, your organization can quickly contact your consultant for help. A consultant that provides consistent, ongoing support can provide technology maintenance, training assistance, and strategic insight.
Remember that the partner wants to keep you as a long-term client, so they’ll want to deliver lasting value and solutions that are enthusiastically adopted by your staff and supporters.
5. Focus on more than just your budget
Cost estimates can vary significantly between partners. If your ideal partner provides an estimate that’s not in line with other proposals, ask them about it. Some partners are more thorough than others in estimating solution scope and complexity. Cost variations may be due to a different interpretation of the business needs and not an indication that they’re more expensive. Determine fit first, then factor in cost.
When setting a budget, consider the return on investment of hiring a consultant. Specifically, a consultant cannot help you successfully complete your implementation project may be low-cost but not worth the investment.
If your organization receives approval from your board or other key stakeholders, emphasize the importance of your investment. Break down your finances to explain how much you have set aside for this project, how much more you may need to hire your consultant of choice, where you will attain the extra funds for that Salesforce partner, and why hiring this specific consultant will make up your return on investment.
Spending a bit more with a partner you believe is a better fit and has a more comprehensive methodology is preferable to hiring a less expensive partner who may not possess the qualifications to meet your expectations successfully.
Additionally, think of your Salesforce partner as a long-term investment. Many consultants offer managed services, which provide ongoing support after your initial platform launch. By working with the same implementation partner for your managed services, your organization can save time researching new consultants and re-familiarizing them with your software.
6. Start reaching out to Salesforce partners
After narrowing your list of potential partners to just a few top consultants, it’s time to begin reaching out to them.
Your first conversation with potential partners might be with an account executive or the CEO. In that first conversation, ask them about your organization’s specific project, similar customers, and their approach to addressing your business needs. This is an opportunity to understand their company culture and approach to consulting projects to ensure it aligns with yours.
To learn more about how each consultant will address your project, consider sending a request for information (RFI). An RFI lays out the parameters of your Salesforce implementation and provides partners a chance to respond with specifics about how they would approach your project.
Give your partners time to respond to your RFI, and encourage them to ask questions if they need more clarifying information. After receiving completed RFIs from top candidates, you can choose which partner to move forward with.
You can get a strong sense of your consultant’s professionalism and methods outside of your RFI by asking to meet the team you’ll be working with. Ideally, each partner should be able to introduce you to several key team members, including the project manager and lead technical staff.
A Salesforce partner can help you implement your new Salesforce products, customize your solution, integrate platforms, and provide insights into your technology strategy. The consultant you partner with can be a reliable, long-term contributor to your nonprofit or association, so dedicate the time you need to research each of your top candidates thoroughly.
To discover more about Salesforce products you may want to implement, explore these resources for associations and nonprofits:
- Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP): A Guide. Salesforce NPSP is a popular Salesforce platform for nonprofits. While Salesforce is shifting focus to Nonprofit Cloud, Salesforce NPSP is still supported and can be worthwhile for nonprofits.
- Manage Your Volunteers With Volunteers for Salesforce. Volunteers for Salesforce is one of the most popular apps for nonprofits. Learn more about this app and how your nonprofit can implement it.
- Salesforce Experience Cloud Explained: A Beginner’s Guide. Salesforce Experience Cloud allows you to build custom online experiences for your supporters. Discover how to leverage this tool to connect with supporters, members, and partners.