This post was written by Kicksaw co-founder and CEO Kenny Goldman.
A couple of months ago, I wrote about how the question of whether to hire an agency or a full-time employee for your Salesforce implementation is one that shouldn’t exist. It’s a topic that has sparked some lively discussions in the Salesforce/RevOps space, and I encourage you to read that blog post as background for the following discussion.
The issue of agency vs. full-time hires naturally leads into my next topic, which is the prevalence of burnout in the Salesforce consulting industry.
Upon interviewing over 1000 people from either in-house roles or Salesforce consultancies, the topic of burnout seemed to be a constant. People either love their job or once did, but are coming up against unrealistic targets or expectations. This has only heightened in the pandemic as pipelines for agencies have dried up or (tech) companies revenues are slowing down.
The approach to employee management within Salesforce consulting hasn’t changed since its inception and it’s at the core of why many people are experiencing burnout in the industry. Let’s dive into today’s problems.
Incentivization of consultants
Consulting companies today generally lack alignment between the customers goals’ and their own company ones. Whereas customers care about the success of the engagement (as their jobs depend on it, often), along with working on the items that will deliver the greatest value to their organization, consultants are focused on completing the predefined statement of work and hitting their utilization target to achieve their year-end bonus. Needless to say, this situation breeds conflict and mistrust.
Misaligned incentives result in misaligned deliverables, and ultimately, failed projects. Think about your relationship with your cable companies relative to that of your streaming service of choice (Netflix/Disney+/etc). There is no doubt you dread engaging with your local cable company’s support center, and you probably are not surprised when their services are interrupted or intermittently down. But when was the last time you weren’t able to access Netflix/Disney+? I can’t recall a time. Cable companies are bloated utilities that have priorities that don’t include individual customer satisfaction — streaming services, though, rely on individual customer satisfaction and loyalty, which requires them to be agile and responsive to your needs. Queue in the accountability factor!
Imagine if Salesforce partners simply focused on your success, rather than solely on their bottom line. This philosophy is not new — Amazon has communicated for a long time that they value customer satisfaction above profits, and as a result, the company has flourished.
If you as a customer were able to hire a consulting organization that focused on your success, the need to provide heavy oversight with an FTE simply wouldn’t exist. It’s time we change that and focus on aligning incentives between consultant and customer. Not only will the customer realize the benefits of it, but so will the consultants.
Unrealistic expectations from management
This one irks me greatly.
Just like any organization, consulting firms require enablement, training, career development, and all the things you’d expect from an employer to support. This directly supports customers, as the successful outcome of their engagements is predicated on the growth, capabilities, and mastery of their team. But how can a consultant develop and grow if their manager is considered a billable resource for other projects too?
In my experience interviewing candidates from over 20+ well-known Salesforce consulting firms, virtually all organizations require middle management to be a billable resource while also managing a team. I’ve even seen egregious examples of requiring 32 billable hours while managing a team of 8-10 people. Not unsurprisingly, the manager is required to prioritize their clients over their own team's satisfaction/goals. At the end of the day, this impacts the customer. Disenfranchised consultants who experience little to no coaching or support end up developing an apathetic perspective towards their work. This, combined with their utilization expectations and lack of support from other core areas such as project management, is an epidemic that’s slowly eroding both the customer trust in consultants and love for the industry.
In having many conversations with younger-stage organizations on their journey to exploring Salesforce, I often communicate that starting with a consulting firm may be an ideal route, but it must come with proper documentation, guidance, and foresight to be able to ensure they are set up for success. Many second-time founders already come to the table bent on starting out with consultants instead of defaulting to FTEs. Naturally, as the customer grows and their processes become more complex, the need to have someone internally to support the day-to-day responsibilities becomes more apparent, but so does the need to have a consulting firm devoted to augmenting the lack of experience/skills of the existing admin team.
This is not an exact science, but there are approaches to this equation that will result in failure, rather than success, and it’s important to be mindful of them.
Burnout is rampant in the Salesforce consulting industry, and it’s because the industry at large is not handling engagements or customers correctly. When we do away with utilization, release consultants from the burden of incentivization, free up managers to actually manage, and truly put the customer first, two things happen. First, the customer experiences success. This is obviously an ideal outcome for all parties. Second, the consultant experiences success, which rewards and motivates them to pick up their next engagement with enthusiasm, optimism, and confidence. Burnout becomes a thing of the past, and everyone wins.
This isn’t theoretical. Kicksaw lives this philosophy, and our profits are a testament that this can work. The system works, and it works for both customer and consultant. It’s the future of the industry.
So, what are your thoughts? I’d love to hear any feedback or thoughts on this topic, just reach out to me on LinkedIn.