So You Want My Job: Salesforce Consultant

So You Want My Job- Salesforce ConsultantThis new series, titled, So You Want My Job will provide a day in the life overview of a particular Salesforce job, written by a professional who holds that job title. Hopefully, these posts will provide insights and answer some of your questions.

Today, we’ll get a glimpse into the role of a Salesforce Consultant.

The Job

My name is Brent Downey, and I live in Denver, Colorado. I’ve been in the Salesforce ecosystem since 2010 when I got my start as a Salesforce Administrator.

I was exposed to the world of consulting when I was hired by a large organization to help manage the rollout of Salesforce to the global sales team. We hired a Salesforce consulting partner, and I got to work with the consultants very closely. I was intrigued ever since.

Consultants come in a few different flavors. There are those that strictly help implement Salesforce into new orgs (this is my primary role). Others assist organizations with enhancements to their orgs (new objects, record types or Apex development), and others provide a combination of those services.

Regardless of the type of projects that a Salesforce Consultant works on, it’s our job to be an expert and provide an exceptional level of customer service. My job is to make organizations successful and show a return on their investment (ROI) – both in Salesforce and in the purchase of my services.

I’m a billable resource which means that all project related work is charged back to the customer at an hourly rate. However, I’m a salaried employee with a regular paycheck and have the option for bonuses based on my billable hours.

A Typical Day

Here is what a typical day looks like for me as a Salesforce Consultant.

6:00 am – Wake Up

I wake up at six in the morning and get ready for the day. I’ll brew coffee, eat breakfast and watch the news; all the normal stuff one does in the morning.

7:00 am – Prepare for the Day

Since I work from home, I’ll head to my home office around this time to get a start on the day. From 7 am – 8 am, I’ll review the day’s scheduled meetings, review the open items I have for the various projects I’m working, and attempt to make a todo list so that my time is organized and I know what needs to be accomplished today.

8:00 am – Get Started

Based on the todo list I put together for the day, I’ll start working. Since I only have an hour before my first client meeting, I’ll do a quick status update on the project, make sure my project plan is up to date and review any open items I need to discuss during the call.

9:00 am to 11:30pm – Client Meetings

On this particular day, I have a two-hour client discovery session, followed by a 30-minute client status meeting.

During the discovery call, I’m investigating the clients business processes and needs, trying to understand how to best configure Salesforce to meet those needs. I’ll take notes on the related business requirements which I’ll use to configure their Salesforce org.

In my 30-minute client meeting, I’m discussing the next steps of a project with the client, discussing utilization (the number of hours used compared to the number of hours budgeted) and answering any questions they may have.

11:30 am to 2:00 pm – Configuration and Lunch

With no meetings scheduled until later in the afternoon, I’ll spend the next few hours on post-meeting action items, the configuration of client Salesforce orgs, and lunch.

It’s important that the time I’m not in front of clients is utilized well. Any work that is on my todo list is fair game and is tackled with a gusto.

2:00 pm to 3:30 pm – Client Meeting

At 2 pm, I’ll start another discovery session with a customer. In this particular meeting, we’re getting into the details of an integration we’re going to build for them. I’m taking copious notes because I’ll turn this into a requirements document which will be provided to the developer and I want to make sure I get every detail correct.

3:30 pm to 5:00 pm – Configuration and Wrap Up

The remainder of the afternoon is spent doing additional client work; pushing projects forward. I’ll also take time during the last part of the day to review what I completed, and prep my todo list for tomorrow so I can be as productive as possible.

Before I call it quits for the day, I’ll log my time against all of the projects I worked so we can bill the clients.

Education

Being a Salesforce Consultant doesn’t require any particular degree. Having an understanding of how businesses work, and an extensive knowledge of Salesforce is a must. Remember, clients purchase my time because I’m an expert. That doesn’t mean that I know everything about Salesforce, but I do need to know the basics of the platform, best practices, and potential pitfalls.

Regardless of your formal education, Salesforce Certification is huge. Consultancies charge a high hourly rate, but the only way they can do this is if they offer exceptional services by educated individuals. Certifications make this possible.

Real-world experience is also welcomed. As a consultant, I’m usually asked, “What do other companies like ours do in this situation?” Without any hands-on, real-world experience under my belt, it’s difficult to provide a client viable options and best practices.

Responsibilities

Responsibilities will vary depending on the consulting firm you work for. In general, some common elements fall into the lap of a Salesforce Consultant.

Manage the Client Relationship – my clients rely on me as their primary point of contact. Any questions, issues or general comments come to me first. It’s my duty to get to know the clients, their business and foster a relationship. A customer will only renew their business with my firm if I am attentive to their need, meet or exceed their expectations on a project, and provide a good ROI in their investment of my services.

Create and Manage Project Plans – depending on the size of the project, a project plan is required. The project plan includes details on project scope, current utilization of hours, a timeline, and a way to document any hurdles or key points that need to be addressed.

A project plan can be very complex (specifically for larger projects) where a Gantt chart could be created, and every step and element of the project is captured.

Discovery Sessions and Status Meetings – scheduling client calls is a major part of what I do. These meetings can be used as a discovery session where we discuss a specific business process to gather requirements that I’ll use to configure your Salesforce environment.

During these calls, I’m always taking notes and tracking action items, so nothing falls through the cracks.

Design, Build, Train & Deploy – the majority of my job lies in this bucket (and it’s the part I like the most). After the requirements are documented and agreed upon, it’s time to use my Salesforce magic and build the system out. As the project nears the end, I’ll create training material and prepare to deploy Salesforce to the new users. In some cases, I’ll even provide the training.

The Best Part

I love the variety of projects and customer types. I could be working on multiple projects with a similar SOW, but in the end, delivery two totally different Salesforce environments. It’s fascinating. I get to tackle multiple business problems as well which gets my creative juices flowing on a regular basis.

Projects have a defined scope and an end date. It’s nice to kick off a project knowing that when the system is delivered and everyone is satisfied, I’ll get to do it over again with an all new set of requirements.

The Worst Part

Occasionally projects can turn monotonous. Even with an SOW, they can drag on. Sometimes I may be assigned a project that doesn’t excite me much, but I’m still responsible for delivering exceptional results to the client.

Work-Life Integration

Consultants are known for spending many hours on the road. Larger consulting firms require their consultants to travel anywhere from 20-70%. For those who like to travel, this may be a non-issue. For me, it was important that I traveled 20% or less. Along with a high travel percentage, most firms require consultants to log 40 billable hours per week or more.

The main reason that it took me so long to get into consulting was because of the work-life integration. The requirements on my time were too high to justify the change in job. I like spending nights and weekends with my family. The work-life integration offered by most consulting firms didn’t meet my needs.

My current company is an exception to that rule. Not only do I work from a home office, but my billable hours goal is reasonable and travel time doesn’t exceed 20%. I also have tremendous flexibility in my work schedule, assuming I’m meeting my billable hours, projects are on schedule and clients are happy.

Some Advice

If you’re thinking about becoming a Salesforce Consultant, first stop and think about the type of work-life integration you want. This becomes the benchmark you use when searching for a consulting job. Don’t let yourself cross a boundary with work-life integration just for the sake of getting a job. You’ll burn out quickly.

If you haven’t been billable in a previous role, make sure that you negotiate a ramp-up period with a new employer. The concept of my time as a commodity took some getting used to. It also impacted the way that I manage my time. I spend far less time on non-work related items then I have in other jobs.

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27 Comments


  1. Shawn Geraghty

    January 11, 2016 at 9:06 am

    I look forward to this series. Very interesting information that I hope will answer some of the questions I have.

    Reply

  2. Navdeep GUPTA

    January 11, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Hi Brent,

    Looking forward for your upcoming posts. I am looking for a profile in IT sales and Marketing but struggling to achieve it from last 14 months. Finally I started taking coaching of Salesforce 201 and planing to do 401, SF Cloud and Services track too. What do you suggest ? Is it a good to go start ? Any advise from your side ? Back in India I was serving for Accenture for their Duke Energy client on mainframe systems. Actually I don’t speak french and my decision to come abroad went wrong just because of the language barrier. I believe that right after this track I should able to see something to get on track.

    Regards,
    Navdeep GUPTA
    erndgupta@gmail.com
    +33-768470060

    Reply

    • Brent Downey

      January 12, 2016 at 11:54 am

      I would focus on 201 first. I personally think that it provides the most robust set of knowledge validation compared to any of the other certification exams and everyone, including developers, should be well versed in the content covered in the 201 class and exam. Good luck!

      Reply

  3. Jean Exil

    January 11, 2016 at 9:34 am

    Very powerful, uplifted and encouraging.

    Reply

  4. Sudipta Deb

    January 11, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Hi Brent –

    Thanks for starting the series. Your daily routine is very encouraging and let’s see whether I can make myself organised like you. I am really inspired now after reading this article. Specially the morning session – preparing the todo list and the ending session review the items for the day is the key to me to make the day organised. I also belive in spending quite a good time with my family every day. A day without family is wastage to me.

    Anyway thanks again for sharing the post and looking forward to this series.

    Regards,
    Sudipta Deb

    Reply

    • Brent Downey

      January 12, 2016 at 11:51 am

      That’s great Sudipta! I’m still trying to figure out exactly how to do this as a Salesforce Consultant, but it’s a practice that will become more familiar to me over time. Being a billable resource makes you think about your time from a different perspective. Organization and planning are key to spending my time wisely.

      Reply

  5. Swa

    January 11, 2016 at 10:01 am

    The post was indeed very informative , gave a very clear picture of how a consultant works and how his schedule will be . Looking forward on these series. Thank you

    Reply

  6. Margo

    January 11, 2016 at 11:58 am

    Thank you so much! This series will be very helpful to me as I attempt to venture out into Salesforce-employment land. Might you consider featuring not just the various positions but these positions in different industries and nonprofit fields? Many thanks for this new series. I look forward to the next installment!

    Reply

    • Brent Downey

      January 12, 2016 at 11:49 am

      Hey, Margo! Thanks for the comment. We’ll see how the series grows. I want to cover the main career paths at minimum then we’ll go from there. To be honest, I believe the positions will be very similar across industries, but the tasks may vary slightly. There may not be enough there to make an industry-specific post interesting enough. I say this having worked in Financial Services, Manufacturing and Technology as a Salesforce Administrator. Very, very similar.

      Reply

  7. Kristi Guzman

    January 11, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Great to hear more about your new role, quite true that each Consulting role varies and it’s great advice to find what’s out there and make sure it works for your life. I personally did not thrive in a billable role, it was tough for me to assign/plan chunks of time to projects instead of just a “get it done” mentality.

    Reply

  8. Evan

    January 11, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Cool series, Brent. I think it would be interesting to include a few pictures in this series to help paint a picture. For example, maybe pictures of ones work environment, desk, screenshots, etc.

    Reply

    • Brent Downey

      January 11, 2016 at 2:36 pm

      That’s a great idea Evan!

      Reply

      • Samir Sayyad

        January 12, 2016 at 2:32 am

        Hi Brent,

        Do you have any job requirement in Salesforce Admin?

        I have 3 years of experience in Salesforce support. So now I want to work as Admin and grow like you.

        Thanks

        Reply

      • Ammara

        January 31, 2016 at 10:10 am

        Nooo!!! Don’t do that Brent! What next? What you wear, what car you drive; can I come to your house for advice??? Hunh!

        You are already doing a great ‘service’ by opening-up so much by helping, advising, guiding people – free of cost. Even your website does not have ads. Maybe it’s your personal choice but the way Brian Fey has commented on your job role that you are doing a PMs role and not a Consultants, I personally feel you should abstain from posting pics of your desk etc. whatever Evan is asking. Infact, you may want to moderate posts before they go live. This is only my opinion and forgive me if it offends you.

        I have a feeling you are a down-to-earth and a humble man with true intent of genuinely helping others, but after reading Brian’s comments, I felt a little bit demeaned (not that PM is not a great title which I am after – but changing my mind now after coming across SalesForce related blog of yours).

        This post of him and your elegant and subtle response actually refreshed in me a nasty memory of one of the interviews where I was termed as a Client Service or Helpdesk role, when infact I was doing a Project Manager role. I personally felt degraded. Because in my company, the CSM is a far less competent and disinterested person (almost non-existent) with mundane and annoying duties. And the least approachable. I never was that. Hence I was offended. That’s it. I used to cover for CSM only during their absences.

        Note: My intent is not to hurt anyone, apologies in advance if it was critical.

        Reply

  9. Mike Pagani

    January 12, 2016 at 7:29 am

    Very valuable insights. Thanks for sharing with us. Look forward to more.

    Reply

  10. Brian Fey

    January 12, 2016 at 10:33 am

    Brent, based on the workday that you described in your post — I’m thinking that a more apt job title would be “Salesforce Project Manager”.

    Your working relationship is completely centered around THE PROJECT — whether it be an implementation, a re-implementation, adding new functionality. There’s a start date, an end date. There is a comprehensive Statement of Work that defines every aspect of what you’ll be doing — and you’re responsible for keeping it on track (i.e. on-time & on-budget).

    Yep, you’re a Project Manager.

    To the extent you’re actually delivering other billable services (i.e. other than Managing the Project) — like developing fields, profiles, page layouts, buttons, workflow — or producing training materials, or delivering training — you’re a DEV and/or Training resource on the project.

    It seems to me, that if there has been any Salesforce Consulting going on — it was delivered by the person who wrote the SOW and got it approved.

    These are the people I’d call “Salesforce Consultants” — and their work day is very different from the one you work.

    NOTE: I know you want to call them Business Development, or Sales people — but they’re the ones actually engaged with the client on something other than a purely tactical (i.e. project) level. They’re the ones helping clients make the right business decision.

    Much of their time is not billable (because there’s no project yet) — but they usually get a % of the total project revenue — and depending on the Partner/Consultant — they may remain involved in the project through to its completion (you probably report to this person).

    Project Managers are not Consultants and vice versa.

    Reply

    • Brent Downey

      January 12, 2016 at 11:46 am

      That is a fair comment, Brian. In a larger consulting practice, that is probably how they structure their employee titles. I’m working in a small shop (7 full-time people), so my role is quite mixed. The initial consulting does take place in the sales calls which help to set the SOW, but our SOWs aren’t necessarily a solution that I then implement. It’s a guideline, and it’s then up to me to discuss how best implement Salesforce based on the sales notes, SOW and discovery session.

      Either way, the range of job titles and roles and responsibilities differs in this particular role across organizations. Salesforce Consultant is what’s published on my business cards, so I’ll roll with it!

      Reply

  11. Nina

    January 28, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Hi Brent,
    Would you speak about where to go for Certification, how long and how much it costs?

    Reply

    • Brent Downey

      January 30, 2016 at 2:23 pm

      Hi Nina! All of the information you need for certification can be found at certification.salesforce.com. There you can find information on the certifications offered including study guides, pricing and details on training courses and information on how to register.

      Reply

  12. Connie

    February 13, 2016 at 10:37 am

    Hi Brent,

    Nice little gem, this site! Some real valuable information for anyone interested in Salesforce. Already picked up your 5 steps and decided to enhance my skills with Trailhead.

    I do have a question. I have a couple of years experience as admin and as trainer / tester / sort of do everything.

    I want to go into Consulting, but wonder how to best approach this.

    Reading your day log, it seems that I have quite some of those skills, some more developed then others, as I have a quite varied career background.

    Whenever you see job adverts it is for experienced consultants. I am in the process of doing the certification, but wonder if you have some tips on how to become a consultant. Especially based around contract roles.

    Cheers

    Reply

    • Brent Downey

      February 13, 2016 at 11:09 am

      Hi, Connie! Thanks for your kind words and the comment! Here’s how I will answer the question. My transition to consulting wasn’t terribly difficult as I have been working on the Salesforce platform for quite some years. My product knowledge is pretty good, and I’m a fast learner. However, there were/are some soft skills that I had to learn and hone. To me, getting started in consulting is possible with a knowledge of the field you’re consulting in. If you have a high confidence level in that knowledge, and you’re continually expanding your learning, then I think you will be successful. The soft skills can be learned as you go. That being said, it does take a particular personality to be a consultant and I don’t think everyone is necessarily cut out for it. That is something you’ll have to identify for yourself! Good luck!

      Reply

  13. Dee

    April 20, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Hi Brent,

    What a great post! Thank you for sharing this great example of your work day.
    I am working toward building up skills to be a consultant, and was wondering if you could explain more about billable hours — I understand this may vary by company, but how much do you typically work in one week on top of your company’s required billable hours per week?

    As a junior level admin, sometimes it takes me a long time to research and come up with solutions, but the build time does not take as long once I am clear on the tasks. How do you factor these sort of things for billing? (I would like to take on freelance work and this is a question that comes to mind on how to build for that as well, especially since it sometimes takes time to figure out the org set ups and work processes…) Thank you!

    Reply

    • Brent Downey

      April 29, 2017 at 10:56 am

      Thanks Dee! It really does depend on the company. In my case, I usually don’t have non-billable time for a specific project. Reading release notes for the upcoming release, for example, is non-billable unless I’m reading through them researching a new feature for a specific client (as an example). Salesforce’s documentation is such that even the implementation guides are quick reads. Research time, within reason, is typically billable, as well as all of the items that lead up to the build (discovery meetings, time to design the org, and building). I hope that helps!

      Reply

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