Networking with Salesforce Account Executives: Is it a good strategy for a Salesforce Independent Consultant?
April 30, 2021
It’s interesting as a freelancer and a consultant starting out, that you may have heard that the best way to grow is to build a network of connections with Salesforce Account Executives. Several places out there even put out content on the strategy to grow being the ability to network your way through to Salesforce Account Executives. And while there’s absolutely no disagreement that relationships with these Account Executives can be crucial in scaling your business, often people forget that such a relationship must be a win-win for both you and the Account Executive.
Which begs the question: Should an independent consultant (or freelancer) start to build his/her relationship with a Salesforce Account Executive? And if so, are there downsides one must be aware of? Bradley Rice and I discuss below:
The demand of a Salesforce Account Executive
Working with Salesforce Account Executives can be demanding. Building relationships may be much easier than sustaining those relationships. As an individual consultant, you have a limited number of hours in your week to service multiple projects. So let’s argue the fact that you start building a relationship with a Salesforce Account Executive.
You get your first project, congrats! But then the Account Executive lines up a second project, and a third. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself at the limit of what you can realistically manage. And that’s where you need to understand one of the crucial aspects of working with an Account Executive.
An expectation of dependability
For an Account Executive to bring you in, they need to be able to trust that you can take on the work at a moment’s notice. Being their resource to count on for implementations, to participate in discovery calls, to be able to quickly turn around proposals and be a guided resource in the pre-sales process. These are all things that are important to a Salesforce AE. More importantly, they need to be able to work with a partner that can keep up with the demand that they drive. Think about it this way, they want to make sure that you can take on whatever work they bring your way, so if we look back to the example above, if you at some point need to say “No, I don’t have the bandwidth to take this on”, good on you for being honest and transparent.
But realize that the AE may need to go in a different direction with someone who can, because they do not (and frankly cannot) struggle to miss a beat and slow down their sales process. Velocity is one of the crucial pillars, and if you cannot deliver, then you in all honesty cannot deliver on one of the crucial components to make this relationship a win for them.
Which brings me to my next point.
Working with Salesforce AEs: Is it for you?
So let’s start with the obvious upsides. Several websites have covered this already and this may be incredibly obvious: if a Salesforce Account Executive refers a customer to you, you will almost certainly get the deal. Barring you putting some terrible proposal together, proposing a project 10x larger the size of what the company wanted to spend, or just go completely AWOL in the middle of the deal, you should be able to lock in a project with ease.
So in that sense, it’s “easy money”. And that’s a great thing really. That said, working with them requires you thinking deeply about one question.
What are your goals as a Consultant?
The reality of it is that if you’re a solo consultant or freelancer and you’re looking to stay that way, then more power to you. If you’re not a developer, and want to focus on declarative-only projects, then again more power to you. If you have zero intents to scale, then more power to you. There are many independent consultants out there making a lot of money working part-time by building a network of customers around them to service day in and day out.
And the reality is that, if that’s what you’re seeking, then working with Salesforce AEs (for every reason of ‘dependability’ discussed above) is probably not for you. Trying to work with an Account Executive to get a leg up on your freelancing career will be like doing a great disservice to all parties because you are leveraging the Account Executive for something that you would realistically not be able to sustain their demands (if you continue to grow together).
As Bradley explains above, the “mecca” of the Salesforce Independent Consultant is being able to find your 3-5 clients that you can capture with Managed Services with a decent rate that keeps you going. Those companies that cannot justify the need for a full time Salesforce employee and/or cannot afford a full time admin, where you (as a consultant) can get the job done twice as fast in half the time needed. You will be able to manage your freelancing practice with relative ease and tranquility, without the stress or demand that it can take to managing a dozen project builds, plus building proposals, invoicing etc. (although forceAnywhere’s platform certainly helps with that productivity step)
Summary: Should You Build Relationships with Salesforce Account Executives?
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide. My take? If you’re looking to scale, and do more than be an independent consultant or freelancer, then the answer is yes. Always keep on the back of your mind what a win-win looks like from their perspective, and that your scaling plans should be centered around being there at a moment’s notice and being able to consistently participate in pre-sales activities, quickly turnaround proposals and statements of work, and of course, deliver a great project so that the customer sings your praises to the Account Executives.
And while I can understand your desire to get “easy” projects with an AE’s recommendation, it is crucial that you look at it from their perspective. If you’re just saying “Yes” to take on projects, that you may not be qualified for…. or that you may not have the bandwidth for, then you’re not only doing the client a disservice, but the Salesforce Account Executive as well.
And the Salesforce AE group is a tight-knit community. Your success spreads just as quickly as your shortcomings. So choose wisely. A relationship with an Account Executive is a great thing to have, so long as you are both capable of helping each other out in delivering amazing implementations for customers seeking to implement Salesforce within their organization.
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