How to Select a Salesforce Partner

Congratulations, you’ve made the decision to implement Salesforce!

Now comes the fun part: choosing a partner to help you bring your vision of a Salesforce-powered nonprofit or association to life. In many ways, choosing Salesforce was the easy part—now you need to select a partner who will help you realize this vision. Below are six suggestions to keep in mind as you search and vet Salesforce partners.

1. Find a Salesforce partner qualified to deliver your specific solution

Staff qualifications and prior experience are key evaluation criteria. If you have a BMW in need of repair, you’ll want to look for shops that work on a lot of BMWs. Ask about the background and credentials of the staff, including seniority and current certifications.  Find out if the partner specializes in organizations like yours, e.g., a human services nonprofit or a professional association. Lastly, there’s no substitute for experience. You’ll want to be comfortable that they’ve delivered projects similar to yours, and that they’ve successfully migrated from and integrated with systems in use by your organization.

2. Get recommendations and check references

You want to work with a highly rated and referenceable company. The first place to look is the Salesforce AppExchange listing for the partner – you’ll find the aggregate customer satisfaction rating (CSAT) for projects completed over the past 18 months. Salesforce conducts CSAT surveys directly with customers, so you can be assured the ratings are legitimate. The next thing you’ll want to do is ask around; talk to people in your network who’ve been through similar projects and get their recommendations. Finally, once you narrow the choice down to a couple of partners, ask for client references and call them. Be prepared to ask a lot of questions about how the project went, the communication style and responsiveness of the partner, the ability to stick to timeline and budget, and ultimately if they would work with them again.

3. Focus on Salesforce Premium Partners

Salesforce consulting partners are committed to delivering customer success and have access to a robust partner community and myriad resources for support and training. Premium partners (the highest Salesforce.org partner designation) have met the most rigorous standards of Salesforce technical certification and customer satisfaction, and have the most projects under their belts. They also enjoy unparalleled access to the Salesforce.org internal teams whose purpose is to ensure partners have the right information and support they need to deliver highly successful projects for their customers.

4. Think long-term

Whether your initiative lasts a few months or well over a year, you’ll want a partner who will be at your side for the long haul. It’s like choosing a doctor or auto repair shop – you want a trusted advisor who knows and cares about you, so let them know that upfront. Plan to treat them like a true collaborator and share your strategic vision with them so they’ll be able to make smarter choices and advise you on the best approach knowing what you have in mind. Remember that the partner wants to keep you as a long-term client, and they know the only way to achieve that is to deliver lasting value and solutions that are enthusiastically adopted by your staff and constituents. They will also go out of their way to make things right if anything goes wrong.

5. Don’t make cost your only decision criterion

Cost estimates can vary significantly between partners. Don’t let the “number” cloud your judgment about who is the best fit for your organization. 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 simply more expensive. Determine fit first, then factor in cost. Spending a bit more with a partner you believe is a better fit and may have a more comprehensive methodology is preferable to going with a partner who gave you the rock-bottom price but may not possess the qualifications to successfully meet your expectations. 

6. It’s all about people

Without question, this is a people business. You want to feel a connection to the team with the alignment of values and culture. Your first conversation might be with a sales executive or even the company founder and you’ll hear all about their history and vision. In that first conversation, get them talking about your organization, similar customers, and their approach to addressing your business needs. Try to get a sense of the company culture and see how it aligns with your organization. Gauge their willingness to push back – this is important unless all you want them to do is follow orders. Ask to meet the team you’ll be working with. Project resourcing is dynamic, but if you’re serious about moving forward they should be able to introduce you to several key team members including the project manager and lead technical staff. Lastly, find out who the executive sponsor for your account will be – the buck stops with them, and you should expect to meet with them regularly to review progress and discuss any concerns.