Salesforce Implementation: The Ultimate Guide
If you haven’t realized it already, implementing Salesforce is a major undertaking.
When done right, Salesforce can completely transform the way you run your business by automating tedious tasks, giving you a complete view of your customer, and supercharging your sales team’s productivity.
When done wrong, Salesforce can cost you tens of thousands of dollars, frustrate your sales team, and leave you with nothing more than a fancy excel spreadsheet that doesn’t get used.
How do you make your Salesforce implementation a success? That’s what this guide will tell you.
We’ll cover how much Salesforce will cost, how to hire someone to help you, how to prepare for your implementation and then how to get your team to use Salesforce.
After reading this you’ll be well equipped to succeed with your Salesforce implementation.
Enjoy the guide!
– The TriFin Labs Team
Salesforce Implementation Cost
A conversation about the costs of implementing Salesforce leads to insights that are about as clear as mud. There are so many variables to consider that it feels you can’t get a straightforward answer from anyone.
To paraphrase Marc Benioff himself – there are 150,000 instances of Salesforce, and not a single one is the same.
Rather than oversimplify it, or avoid the question altogether, I’ll touch on the 3 factors that will affect 80% of your total implementation costs.
1) Who You Hire to Run Your Implementation
The first thing you need to learn about Salesforce is that nothing is free. Everything you want to do with the platform is going to be built, bought, or integrated. Keep in mind that doing either of these 3 is not exactly easy, so you’re going to have to work with a Salesforce expert to help you implement Salesforce at your company.
When it comes to your implementation, anyone you work with in the Salesforce ecosystem is going to charge you an hourly rate.
Because of this, aside from the cost of your licenses (more on that later), how much you pay these experts is going to be the single largest factor in determining how much you’re going to spend on your Salesforce implementation.
The rate you pay will be determined by the type of consultant you hire. Your options are:
- Hire a Freelance Salesforce Consultant
- Hire a Registered Salesforce Consulting Partner
Rather than debate the decision behind which choice you make (that topic deserves it’s own article), I will instead the most notable pro’s and con’s, and the standard rates for each option.
Hiring a freelancer
Depending on the size and complexity of your implementation, it may be possible to have it done by a freelance Salesforce consultant.
- Usually have very flexible pricing. If you have a specific budget, they can probably accomodate to it.
- Freelancers are solopreneurs. Their business thrives on repeat business – meaning they will go above and beyond to satisfy your needs
- You have a single point of truth for all things going on in your implementation
- Salesforce is a massive platform. A single person will probably not know how to configure, customize, or build Salesforce to the way you want to use it.
- The best freelancers will be just as expensive as working with a consulting partner.
- Your implementation will take much longer. One person working a 100 hour implementation = 100 hours vs. a team of 5 people = 20 hours each.
As an example, a quick search on Upwork will present you with people like Divyanshi:
And for $39 an hour you can hire an experienced salesforce developer and admin to start configuring your Salesforce org.
On the other hand, you have onshore salesforce consultants charging upwards of $140 or more:
This gives you a wide-ranging cost of $39-$140 per hour to implement Salesforce with a freelance Salesforce consultant.
Hiring a Salesforce Consulting Partner
- ‘Backed’ by Salesforce’s Guarantee that they have the necessary skills.
- You will work with a team of business analysts, developers, architects and admins.
- Most Salesforce partners have experience implementing Salesforce 10+ times
- Your implementation process will be clearly defined
- Salesforce Partners are more expensive.
- Your implementation may not be a top priority.
A Salesforce Implementation partner will run you anywhere from $150-$250 per hour. The reason why consulting partners have such high hourly rates is because you’re not just working with one member of their team.
Parts of your implementation will be configured by admins, integrated by developers, and planned by business analysts. Each of these roles has different skills and command varying rates.
2) The Size of Your Organization
The larger your team, the more expensive Salesforce tends to be. The effect of size on your costs is two-fold. First, you have licensing, which is directly correlated to the number of people you have using Salesforce.
Breaking down each different licensing package would be redundant, as Salesforce has already covered that here.
If you don’t understand the differences between professional, enterprise, and unlimited, (or the new small business Salesforce offering) I would suggest you go ahead and read that article.
Once you decide which Salesforce edition is right for you, you’re going to need to decide how many licenses you will need. Think about how many sales reps, managers, and executives you have along with anyone else that you would like to have access to your Org.
If you have 20 people who will use Salesforce at your company, simply do the math. For the enterprise package:
($150 x 20 employees x 12 months) = $36,000
Salesforce bills on an annual basis so you’ll have to pay the full $36k at the start of your implementation. Keep in mind this is also a subscription cost so next year you’re going to be paying again.
Aside from licensing, the size of your team tends to correlate with the complexity of your Implementation.
This isn’t an exact science, but merely a heuristic that you should consider: complexity = more hours of development and configuration = higher cost.
3) Support, Maintenance, and Upkeep
Sometimes it can seem that once you implement Salesforce, that’s it, you’re good to go. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
There is a reason for the massive ecosystem of Salesforce developers and admins that work full-time on managing a company’s Salesforce org.
You may not think of this as an ‘implementation’ cost, but you will need a Salesforce admin in some capacity. I emphasize this point because time and time again we see companies implement Salesforce only to have no one use it, or switch systems.
Salesforce has some awesome features and functionalities, but they’re not necessarily easy to use. An experienced admin will be able to train your team on how to use the platform, pull specified reports, create automated workflows, update and enhance your org, ensure data quality, and so much more.
Bottom line – it’s always better to be safe than sorry so you should budget in for the cost of hiring a salesforce admin. With the current state of the job market, you can expect to pay around $90,000 for a senior Salesforce admin. This salary can vary widely depending on whether you need a junior or senior admin, and your company’s location.
So for our hypothetical 20 user Salesforce org, you will definitely want to hire a full time admin.
Putting it all together
Let’s put all of these implementation costs together in a hypothetical example to give you an actionable estimate. To do this, I’m going to borrow from David Berman’s article because he does such a wonderful job breaking things down.
In the article, he breaks down a standard Salesforce implementation for a 20 user Org into 5 mini-projects, and assigns an estimated number of hours to each:
- Getting the base CRM system up and running (no fancy customizations or integrations) = 15-20 hours
- Cleaning/deduplicating the legacy data before = 30-60+ hours
- Importing the data and building the proper relationships = 12 hours
- Dealing with fancy customizations / integrations = 15-80 hours
- Training = 35 hours
Total hours: 107-207
Here’s a summary of the implementation costs for our hypothetical scenario:
Finding a Partner
Let’s assume that you’ve made the decision, like 99% of other salesforce customers have, to work with a registered Salesforce Implementation partner. Now what?
A quick search on the Salesforce AppExchange for consulting partners and you find out there are 783 registered Salesforce consulting partners. How long is it going to take to find the right Salesforce consultant for our company? Should you just go with a simpler CRM solution? How do you evaluate these partners?
Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be so hard. Let’s take a look at how you can find, evaluate, and choose a Salesforce partner that will put you at ease and confirm that you made the right decision.
Step 1: Finding Salesforce Consulting partners
Let’s start all the way at the beginning: identifying a list of “possible” partners. If you really want to, just head to the AppExchange and create a list of all 783 Salesforce consulting partners and skip to the next step in the process. I’m going to assume you’re not insane, so you want to start with a smaller list and then start cutting it down. Let’s build that list.
All you have to do to get a short-list of consulting companies is answer these questions:
What consulting companies have you ‘heard’ of?
This may not return the best list for you, but it’s a start. Chances are if you have ‘heard’ of a company it was in a positive light. Maybe they wrote a blog post you liked(like this one!), one of your connections was praising them on twitter, or they gave a talk at a conference you attended. Regardless, add them to the list.
Do you have any connections that use Salesforce?
With Salesforce powering thousands of businesses worldwide, chances are you have a connection or two working at one of those businesses. Reach out to them and ask who their consulting partner was/is and add them to your list. (If they would recommend them!)
Are you working with a Salesforce Account Executive? If yes, ask them for their ‘preferred partners’.
Unless you’re deploying the lightning essentials package, you are probably speaking with a Salesforce Account Executive to negotiate the terms of your deal. Remember the person that talked you through all the awesome things you can do with Salesforce? That’s them!
Your Account Executive is deeply invested in your success with Salesforce. Think about it: If you don’t get a ton of value out of Salesforce it would make sense to cancel your licenses, meaning your AE doesn’t get a commission. This is actually a great thing for you. Salesforce AE’s want you to be successful with Salesforce, so they tend to take note of consultants that have helped their other accounts. For this reason, they are an excellent source for your list!
By this point, you should have at least 3, if not 10+ Salesforce consulting companies on your list.
Step 2: Narrow Down Your List With Research
You’ve got a list of companies that come highly recommended, but how do you qualify them? Before giving you our recommendations, I reached out to a few members of the Salesforce Community to get their take.
“You should look for a company to partner with that is well respected in their specialty, provides great customer service and is a trusted advisor who will look out for the best interest of YOUR company, not theirs. Remember you are the customer – the decision on who to partner with is yours. Price shouldn’t be the only deciding factor.” – Eric Dreshfield, Advocacy Manager – Apttus, and founder of Midwest Dreamin’
Justice Sikikane, a CRM consultant and founder of the SF Campfire Podcast has similar advice – “When considering who to partner with; take into consideration the reputation, collective years of experience and willingness to collaborate towards the betterment of your organization. As the consumer you are in the driver seat.”
A company’s ‘experience’ can be taken in a bunch of different ways. To keep things simple, just think:
- Has this company implemented a similar solution to what I want to implement?
- Have they built this solution in my industry?
These two questions are basic but they can tell you a lot. If the company has implemented a similar solution (sales cloud, marketing cloud, communities, custom Heroku apps) then you know that they are capable of handling your project.
The second question will tell you if they have an understanding of how your industry works. Yes, they may have implemented a Salesforce Community for one company that looks amazing. But if you’re a healthcare company, you don’t want to spend time educating them on government regulations, privacy standards, etc…
The best place to find this information is on a company’s website. There should be a section for “Customers” or “Case Studies” or something similar where you can review projects they’ve worked on in the past.
Take note of any of these customers that are in similar industries or completed a similar project. You’ll need them in step #3.
The Size of The Company
I was tempted to leave this off the list, but I decided this is genuinely important. Why? Well, it goes both ways. Working with a large, established consulting firm can feel like the safest option for you.
On the contrary, working with a small firm could give your project a level of attention that is unavailable at larger companies.
I don’t intend for this post to be a dig at big-brand consulting companies or small teams. To be fair, they both do great work. The key takeaway here? Don’t discount consulting companies because of their size – big or small.
Point and click (declarative) development is one of our favorite things about Salesforce. It gives us the ability to construct complex data models and automate business processes without touching a line of code. Although as wonderful as this is, there is a limit to what you can do on Salesforce without custom development.
It’s important to keep in mind that your needs of Salesforce will ultimately grow as your company does. You want to select a partner that has the technical know-how to keep up with you as you grow. You can screen for this by reading the content of a company’s website and it will also come through in their customer stories.
Reviews – better known as ‘testimonials’ in the B2B world – are a tricky thing. Take for example the testimonial on our home page:
Now I can assure you that what we built for grid is indeed awesome. But does this really tell you anything about us? Well, if you’re anything like 90% of people, you probably assume testimonials are “made up.” Some are, and some aren’t, which is way we believe that customer references are a much better form of research. (More on that later)
If you want to find reviews on Salesforce consulting partners you can go to their listing on The AppExchange or find testimonials on their website.
After digging into each company’s AppExchange listing and their website you should have a few companies that really stand out. These companies are the ones you’re going to want to set up an introductory call with.
Step 3: The Introductory Call
At this point, all of the companies on your list look great. You may even feel comfortable choosing one of them if you had to. That’s why this introductory call is the most important piece to this whole puzzle – you can finally do some active research.
You’ve probably been on one of these calls before, so you already know the type of questions they are going to ask. If they’re not asking the right questions, that should be your first red flag.
- What does your company do?
- What do you want to use Salesforce for?
- What are your expectations of Salesforce?
- Have you used a (CRM, service console, marketing automation) tool in the past?
At some point, they’re going to ask about your budget. You may think you can gain some negotiating power by withholding your budget, but that would be a mistake.
As I mentioned before, some companies have higher rates than others, and some companies can simply do things faster than others. This means that if you tell them you have $15,000 and you want to be able to do X, Y, and Z then they should account for that in their proposal.
Once you’ve discussed your company, the project, and your budget, it’s your turn to ask some questions. Here are some things you will want to ask:
- What is your implementation methodology?
- What sets you apart from other implementation partners?
- What experience do you have working with (Salesforce cloud you are implementing)? And, can you tell me more about that project?
- What expertise do you have outside of Salesforce?
- Do you have a standard rate for this kind of work?
The most important question you should ask is: “Can You refer me to any of your previous customers to ask about their experience with you?”
If the answer is no, this is a major red flag. You’re about to spend at least $10,000 on your Salesforce Implementation – you should make sure that you see a return on that investment. Getting good reviews from past clients is the best way to ensure your success.
To be fair, some of these questions may be better suited for a second or third call depending on the scenario. Nonetheless, these questions will give you a complete picture of how they will handle your project, what it will cost, and get you access to valuable references.
Step 4: Making The Final Decision
By now you have spoken with 2-3 different consulting partners, they’re drafting up proposals for you, and you’re reaching out to the references they have provided for you. Unfortunately, because things are so nuanced at this stage I can’t provide any valuable information for making the final decision. Simply make sure you’re evaluating each RFP objectively
If you’ve followed all of the steps up until this point, you shouldn’t have to worry too much. The work you’ve done up to this point will guarantee that whichever partner you ultimately decide on will do an incredible job.
Preparing for Your Implementation
If you’re thinking your work here is done because you’re hiring a Salesforce partner, I’m sorry, but this is just the beginning. You are ultimately responsible for the success of your Salesforce implementation which means you need to do everything you can to ensure it’s done right.
If you’ve followed the steps in part 2 and hired a great Salesforce partner they should walk you through a lot of this. Though, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared, and might even save you some money!
Below, we will review the 4 things you need to prepare for a Salesforce implementation.
1) Define Your Goals
Why do you want to implement Salesforce? The answer to this question is where your preparation begins.
- Do you want to track KPI’s? – If so, which KPI’s?
- Do you want to identify who your best sales reps are?
- Do you want to identify your ideal buyer persona?
Think of all the different things you want Salesforce to do for your business and jot them down. Be as specific as possible and take some time to really think about this.
Remember, Salesforce starts as a blank slate. That means every configuration, every line of code, and your entire data model is built from the ground up with your goals in mind. Not to mention, you’re spending thousands of dollars on Salesforce.
2) Decide What You Need, and What You Want
With your goals in mind, now is the time to prioritize. Some of your goals are urgent – implement naming conventions and other data management best practices. While some of your goals would be nice to have – using AI-enabled features to automatically source the next-best lead for you to call.
Salesforce has the potential to be the single platform you use to run your entire business, but you have to start somewhere. Prioritizing your goals and working through them with your consulting partner will allow you to get your implementation right the first time.
3) Start Building Your team
I mentioned earlier how important it was for you to consider hiring a Salesforce admin to manage your Salesforce org. It’s not as much of a question of if you’re going to hire someone, but rather when.
With that in mind, you may also want to consider that the Salesforce job market grows more competitive each and every day. There were over 300,000 jobs demanding Salesforce skills last year, and there are not enough qualified candidates to fill them.
If you’re serious about succeeding with Salesforce there’s no better time to start sourcing candidates than today. If you’re not having any luck, agencies like Mason Frank can help you fill a roll quickly.
4) Set Communication Standards
Once your implementation is under way, quality and frequent communication is a must. Your users need to know what is going on day to day in order to feel comfortable using the platform.
In order to ensure everyone is on the same page, we use agile meetings run by a project manager. Things like daily stand-ups, demo meetings, and retrospective meetings can be a great way to communicate throughout your implementation.
For example, you could have a:
- Standup Meeting – Every morning for the first month using Salesforce have your sales teams meet with their manager to talk about it. This is an opportunity for anyone to raise questions, comments, or concerns as they’re adopting the platform.
- Demo Meetings – Show your entire team what has been built at the end of each week. Walk them through new features, how they can use them, and how they can benefit from using them.
- Retrospective Meetings – At the end of each week have your sales managers meet to discuss what is going well, and what isn’t going well with Salesforce.
With just these 3 meetings in place you can ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and put out fires before they have a chance to start.
Create Your User Adoption Plan
You’ve just told your sales team that you’re going to implement Salesforce and they all are just so excited, right?
Your sales team is cringing just thinking about how much time they’re going to spend entering data. It turns out your sales reps would rather be selling than entering data.
This is why creating a new user adoption plan is the most important thing you can do for your implementation.
Create Your Official Salesforce User Adoption Plan
Your user adoption plan doesn’t need to be complicated. Executing on a few simple strategies is all you need to be successful.
Here are the five aspects of any successful adoption plan:
- Training – How are we going to train new users?
- Incentives – What incentives are we going to use to drive adoption, and what disincentives are going to use to drive adoption?
- Leadership – Who is going to be responsible for the success of our implementation?
- Administration – How are we going to work with a Salesforce admin?
- Tools – Are we going to use any additional tools?
You have to decide how you’re going to tackle each aspect of the user adoption plan. Luckily, you’re not the first person to ever do this – not even close. Over 150,000 companies are using Salesforce and with that comes a lot of trial and error.
Let’s look at some strategies that you can use to fill out your plan.
If you’re not going to educate your employees on where to enter data, how to enter it, and most importantly – why they’re entering data, how can you expect them to do it?
You can’t, which is why training is the core of your user adoption plan. It all starts with helping your employees learn Salesforce.
One option you have is to start with Trailhead by Salesforce.
Trailhead is the most complete way to learn Salesforce and it’s super easy to track your employee’s progress. As a start, you can assign all of your employees to complete this trail(if you’re using classic) or this trail(if you’re using lightning) to bring them from zero to power-user in about 7.5 hours.
That may sound like a lot of time but with just an hour each morning you can be sure your team understands how Salesforce works in under 2 weeks. If you’re using Marketing Cloud, there’s a trail for that. If you’re using Service Cloud, there’s a trail for that too..
Next, you need to make sure your employees have a thorough understanding of why you need them to keep Salesforce data updated and how it will help them. Here’s a tip for you sales managers: don’t show them your fancy dashboards to try and get them excited.
Instead, show them how easily they can forecast their quarterly numbers, estimate the number of calls they need to make to hit them, and actively monitor how close they are to that top-sellers vacation.
Need help with this? Call your Salesforce AE. Ask her to send you all of those cool demo videos and powerpoint slides that got you to buy into Salesforce, and use them to put on a presentation for your team. Or you can simply head to youtube to find a ton of demo videos from Salesforce.
The key is to get your sales reps excited about all the things they can do with Salesforce. When your sales team falls in love with Salesforce, revenue growth is almost guaranteed.
If training is the driver of user adoption, incentives are the fuel. Whether positive or negative, the right incentives will motivate your entire organization to adopt Salesforce.
Here’s a few incentive strategies you can try:
Keep your momentum by creating a rewards system that can run for the next 3-6 months for anyone who is doing things the way they are supposed to. Fill in all the necessary opportunity information? 5 points. Correctly move someone from lead -> opportunity -> closed won throughout a deal? 5 points.
How you want to structure the points system will largely depend on how you structure your sales team. But don’t get hung up on creating the perfect points system, it doesn’t need to be complicated to be effective. In fact, the simpler it is for people to gain points, the more likely people will play along.
For this to work you need to have a juicy incentive on the other end. A couple examples are:
- Top points earned each month gets a $100 gift card
- Every 100 points earned, gets you a raffle ticket for an extra paid day off (if applicable)
- Redeem 500 points for a gift card (amount dependent on how liberal you are with points!)
These are just a few ways that you can ‘gamify’ your Salesforce adoption to get people using the platform the way you need them to.
Create Some Friendly Competition
The best sales reps I know are super competitive. They are always striving to be the best and close more deals. Naturally, they respond well to friendly competition.
Turning your Salesforce adoption into a competition couldn’t be easier. If you check the AppExchange, there is a pre-configured dashboard available that tracks some basic Salesforce user adoption metrics. Setting up this dashboard is super simple and can be done by someone without much Salesforce Knowledge.
Anyone can access this dashboard and see who’s leading the way in real-time.
Now, if you really want to get crazy you can use a tool like Geckoboard to turn any monitor around your office into a real-time adoption leaderboard.
This dashboard acts as both an incentive to top the leaderboard, and as a disincentive to not drop to the bottom.
The Dark Side of Incentives – Disincentives
So your sales rep doesn’t really care about winning a $50 gift card this month, or being recognized as a ‘worst of the pack’ when it comes to adoption numbers. So what can you do?
Well you’re the boss, and – “If it’s not in Salesforce, it didn’t happen.” At the end of the month when your rep doesn’t see a couple hundred, or a couple thousand dollars accounted for in her commission check, that HURTS.
If in reality it feels like your pushing a boulder up a hill – take this approach and enforce it – I guarantee you will feel like that boulder is rolling downhill from now on.
This leads well to the next aspect of your adoption plan.
Whether you want to call it “executive sponsorship” or “management Buy-in” doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you have someone that is directly responsible for the success of your Salesforce implementation.
This person should be able to provide incentives to people making progress on the platform, and disincentives for those who are not (more on this later).
When it comes to choosing an executive sponsor, here are some guidelines from Salesforce.
Your executive sponsor should:
- Have a vested interest in the program’s success.
- Champion the platform across the enterprise.
- Have a vision to use Salesforce innovation in order to achieve their company’s business objectives.
- Influence others to effect change throughout the organization.
- Prioritize Salesforce projects based on strategic business objectives.
Here’s a hint: Once you choose one, send them this article!
Aside from getting executive buy-in, some companies find success in assigning “Salesforce heroes.”
If you want to take this to the next level you can choose someone who you see as a power-user and make them your “Salesforce Hero.” You can use a much less corny name but I think it gets the point across.
This person is going to be the source of answers for anything that isn’t in your documentation. After they answer a question they should record it in your documentation so they don’t need to be asked again.
Your users will now have a single point of truth for all of their Salesforce related questions. Over time this will help people from becoming frustrated, and take pressure off of your Salesforce admin.
This isn’t even a question. Sometimes people on your team are going to need help with small things like recovering their passwords. Other times you are going to need someone to pull a report, add new users, install an appexchange app, and more.
No matter the size of your organization you’re going to need someone who is a Salesforce expert on your team. Whether you choose to hire a Salesforce admin full time, or work with a freelancer is going to depend on your unique situation.
Even if you have a small sales team I recommend retaining a Salesforce consultant for at least 10 hours a week. The cost will be minimal in relation to the amount of time and frustration they will save you and your sales team.
Tools, like incentives, are a great way to speed up your adoption. Any way that you can make Salesforce easier to use, require less time, or more engaging, is going to is going to provide a great return on investment.
These are just a few apps, out of the hundreds available on the AppExchange, that can supercharge your Salesforce org:
X-Author by Apttus – A Salesforce Excel Connector which can update opportunities, assign leads, create quotes, upload data & more. Users have the power of Microsoft Office inside Salesforce. Admins drive toward 100% Salesforce adoption.
WalkMe – A Digital Adoption Platform fosters organizational growth by promoting Salesforce® proficiency for end users through contextual engagement and step-by-step guidance.
Bunchball – A tool that combines behavioral economics, big data, and gamification to inspire loyalty that lasts. We empower businesses to motivate, engage, and generate true loyalty among customers, partners and employees.
GridBuddy – A Salesforce data productivity app that makes accessing important business data and gaining greater business intelligence easy. With GridBuddy your Salesforce teams can improve their pipeline and shorten their sales cycles for faster revenue conversion.
Zynbit – The only inbox app for Salesforce that you’ll ever need.
Thank you for reading the TriFin Labs Salesforce Implementation Guide. Implementing Salesforce is a major challenge, we hope this guide has made that challenge just a bit easier for you. If you have any questions about implementing Salesforce, you can get on a call with one of our Salesforce consultants today – Contact Us
About Shane Rostad
Shane Rostad is a marketing manager for TriFin Labs that loves to share his knowledge and learnings about tech through writing. When he's not reading you can find him exploring Florida's parks or loitering in a local coffee shop.