Picking a Salesforce.com Partner–Right Sizing

What makes a good CRM implementation partner?  At the end of the day (or at the end of the project) what really matters?  What determines success or “just ok?”  These are the top 10 factors in picking the right partner.

  1. Price: This is on the list not because it is the most important, but because it is always a factor in some way, shape or form.  Don’t ignore it, because it is always about the money.  Either we’re worth it, we add value, or we cost you in time, energy and money.
  2. Size: do you want to be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond?  Big partners have a lot to offer–they have more people who can specialize in various areas.  They often have the greater attention in the marketplace.  But being a small account for a big firm can also mean your business gets the new consultants vs. the seasoned pros.  They offer depth, but you often have to ask for it.  And that’s ok if you are ok with it.  But if you are a big fish with a smaller partner, you garner their attention and often their key personnel.  Right Sizing and understanding how you may need to advocate for your business is critical.
  3. People: don’t be dazzled by the courtship.  Look closely at the team you will be assigned, and make sure that team has members that understand your business, your pain and your needs.  In the end, a CRM business partner should be an extension of your business, and that means having a deep understanding of your needs.
  4. Place: while not as important as it used to be, where your partner is located is still a consideration.  We can do a significant amount of work via the Internet, but if you are the touchy feel-y type, or just feel face-to-face is critical to your success, don’t be talked into remote support.  On the other hand, if the other criteria look promising, having an up front understanding that you want 2-3 face to face meetings/year is a reasonable request, and you will find out right away if it’s a deal breaker.
  5. Business Understanding: A good partner can listen, understand, build out and ease your pain.  A great partner can do all that and have the foresight to anticipate your needs.  Some of that is domain expertise, some is industry expertise, and some of it is gut instinct.  Never underestimate the value of a partner who not only understands your business, but also can generalize from similar industries or applications to enhance your business.
  6. Application expertise: You wouldn’t hire an auto repair person set up your Internet router, but you might hire a Mercedes mechanic to work on your Audi.  A good partner will have expertise you need, but what is most important is a partner who has the ability to see beyond the “hood” of the application to the broader functionality of the application.  In many organizations, an application architect is the person who make sure the technician is doing the right work in the right way.
  7. Culture: The WHO of the companies you do business with is a critical component to success.  And part of WHO is couched in the culture of the partner.  Are you a company that is full of young, upbeat, snowboarding, radicals?  You may not want a partner whose values are around hierarchy and roles.  Are you a corporate giant?  You might want a little bit radical, but more middle of the road partner.  It all depends on what you are looking for.  Long hair may just mean your partner’s too busy to get a haircut, and conversely, a shaved head might mean your partner’s too busy to get a haircut;-)
  8. Process: You may love the people in a company, but if they don’t have a repeatable project process, you may get different results for every project.  A solid partner process means no matter who you get assigned to your project, the steps and experiences will be the same.  This is key for on-going relationships.
  9. Experience: We have a bias about experience.  There’s nothing like experiencing great success and great failure to make a person stronger, smarter, more resilient.  and if they are any of those, they aren’t the right people for you.  There’s something great about experience–we can share it, we can learn from it, we can teach from it, and we can be better from it–both good and bad.  It adds a dimension to a team that comes from life alone.
  10. Shared Values: A partner is a long term commitment.  Make sure your values are aligned so that you can spend your time making things better, faster, smarter; not second guessing whether an invoice is right, or all the tasks are completed.  That’s important, too, but there’s more to be made from adding value, and reducing costs.

And that’s our top 10 list.  These are in no particular order, but it would be interesting to hear from you on what YOU think the priorities are.



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