Primary differences between hiring a Salesforce Partner and hiring an Independent Salesforce Contractor.
How do Salesforce Consuting Partners operate?
Both are hired to bring a level of Salesforce subject matter expertise that your organization doesn’t currently have in-house. The way in which they deliver services and add value to your organization vary, though.
In short, Salesforce Consulting Partners are striving to maximize the ‘utilization rate’ of their Consultants, whereas Independent Consultants are establishing relationships with clients they can work with on an ongoing basis and typically as an extension of your team.
In many instances, Salesforce Account Executives will recommend Salesforce Consulting Partners to their Customers based on experience that Partner has in a specific product area, industry, or market segment.
This can be beneficial and Salesforce knows the Partner ecosystem better than anyone but keep in mind what the Engagement score is based on when going through your resource planning process and ensure you’ve factored that incentive alignment into your decision when receiving recommendations.
If you hire a Salesforce Consulting Partner for a project, they come equipped with a cross-disciplinary Delivery team.
You aren’t simply hiring a solo Developer - instead, they will likely have a team that spans Salesforce Administrators, Developers, Analysts, Architects, and Project Managers. This can be beneficial if you require a large project team; however, if you only need 1-2 resources, it’s less cost effective to engage a Partner in this capacity. (More details in the logistics of an engagement section below.)
Consulting Partners are typically utilized for strategy intensive engagements, whereby the Customer is deferring much of the decision making to the Consulting Partner and the work is done amongst their team and then simply handed off to the Customer.
If you are working with a mid-sized or large Partner that is willing to allocate a solo resource to your account, you will want to ensure that is a commitment the Partner can maintain on an ongoing basis. In some instances, if a Consulting Partner has low utilization (meaning, they have Consultants on payroll with no projects to staff them on), they will bill out individual resources to generate revenue but once a higher revenue, longer term project emerges, that resource is switched out for a new team member.
How do Independent Salesforce Consultants operate?
Independent Salesforce Consultants (i.e. Contractors) operate in a slightly different capacity. While they bring the same expertise as the team from a Consulting Partner, their role is more as a member of your team - they gain intimate knowledge of your organizational processes, business objectives, trade off considerations etc. over a longer period of time and help advise you on all possible options.
They will then work with you to identify the right solution and begin implementing, while also helping to level up the Salesforce knowledge on your current team.
Since they juggle fewer clients than a Partner, they can be more flexible with scheduling - sometimes not billing for a few weeks, other times only helping for 5 hours ad hoc.
Their intention is to maintain a long-term relationship, so that you have an ‘on call’ Subject Matter Expert and can trust you’re getting the same person each time.
Is there a specific project scope in mind or you need staff augmentation support on an ongoing basis?
Perhaps you are a small Salesforce Customer that doesn’t need a full-time Salesforce Developer - instead, you need someone for 5-10 hours/week as needs arise.
Salesforce Professionals must also decide: join a Partner or be a Contractor
In addition to Customers needing to decide the resource strategy right for them, Salesforce Professionals must decide if they want to work at a Consulting Partner, start their own Consulting Partner, or have their business be completely independent and operate as a Salesforce Contractor.
For Salesforce experts deciding which path to choose, the perk of being a Salesforce Contractor is that you have more freedom and independence on the projects you select, since your growth objectives are only to keep yourself busy (rather than chase a high volume of new business to keep your team utilized).
This freedom of choice typically results in higher engagement and satisfaction for an Independent Consultant based on their interest in the project and customer; however, since you don’t have the official Salesforce Consulting Partner status, you will need to identify projects and customers on your own rather than rely on referrals from the Salesforce mothership.
Keep these tradeoffs in mind and it’s all about weighing your personal and professional goals.
Final difference between Salesforce Partner and Contractor: Cost
Another key difference between a Consulting Partner and Independent Contractor will be cost. On average, you can expect Independent Consultants to price themselves at around 60% of the hourly rate you will see from a Consulting Partner.
Consulting Partners will typically offer a ‘blended rate’, which effectively means the average hourly rate across all disciplines they offer.
For example, if a Partner bills a Salesforce Developer at $200/hour and a Salesforce Technical Architect at $300/hour, the blended rate is $250/hour. Blended rates are a fine proposition for Customers if you’re engaging a cross-disciplinary team, since the averages even themselves out.
However, if you’re simply engaging a Salesforce Developer or two at a blended rate of $250/hour then you have just paid a $50/hour premium on top of the fact that a comparable Independent Salesforce Developer will be closer to $140/hour.