Organic Growth: Building an Agile, Scalable Salesforce Team

By Mariia Chernova - November 2, 2021

The landscape of the Salesforce ecosystem has changed dramatically in recent years. With the shift to cloud and the explosion of cloud-based Salesforce solutions, any company that offers Salesforce services has had to update their training and recruiting strategies in order to stay competitive.

Customertimes currently has a team of 1600+, and we plan to grow that to upwards of 2000 over the next few quarters. This company continues to be one of the most unique that I’ve worked for, and as we’ve grown, we’ve developed a successful process for building an agile, scalable team that maintains proficiency on all Salesforce solutions – including cloud – from the inside.

I recently presented at CT’s Growing a Successful Salesforce Practice webinar, and in this article, I want to take a deeper dive into the strategies we use to develop our team. We’re committed to fostering loyalty and developing Salesforce expertise at the highest level, and for us, that starts at the ground level.

 

Hiring Salesforce Talent First

When Customertimes got started in 2008, we were a very early entrant to the Salesforce ecosystem in Eastern Europe. Most of the companies in Eastern Europe weren’t using Salesforce yet, and since no one was doing it, it was very difficult (impossible!) to hire people with Salesforce experience.

So, we had to figure it out. We began hiring recent college graduates or graduate-level students, and we developed a training program that would take our recruits from entry-level to expert over the course of the program.

By starting like this, we were able to establish a strong talent base from the start and develop that talent to ensure consistent availability for our clients. Here’s a look at our approach and a breakdown of how it benefits our clients, our company, and our experts.

 

A Detailed Training Plan

Salesforce has created an extensive infrastructure of webinars, trainings, and certifications. These programs cover all Salesforce related roles – consultants, developers, architects, etc. We utilized their programs, and we supplement them with our own internal training to cover anything that’s missed.

We also host meet-ups and events within CT and externally with the Salesforce community where participants can share ideas and learn from each other. One of those events is coming up in early December this year when we partner with Salesforce to present CRM Stage, an international Salesforce conference held in UA.

But, back to the training plans. Each individual directs their own training path:

  1. They begin with essential training. This includes basic Salesforce trailheads and internal CT training built for each role.
  2. Once that’s complete, the most successful candidates are hired as a trainee and assigned to internal incubator projects.
  3. Soon, they’re assigned to more advanced internal tasks – like internal CRM for CT – and they complete the advanced Salesforce trailheads.
  4. They begin job shadowing, complete their Salesforce certifications and get grade evaluations. At this point, they’re working on real tasks for the company with the help of their mentor (everyone at CT has a mentor), and they have a clearly developed path to get them to the next level.

Benefit for Individuals

Our approach to training benefits individuals at every level, regardless of their previous experience. For most entry-level people, getting through the first round of certifications/leveling takes 3-5 months. Some people get through it more quickly, especially if they have prior experience as an analyst or on another CRM platform.

But no matter what experience they come in with, the key to developing your team organically is to make sure that everyone understands the path that leads to their desired level. If someone wants to reach the Salesforce Architect or Principal Architect level, they should clearly be able to see how to get there: by becoming a junior developer, then mid-level, etc.

It’s not magic; there are clearly defined steps for getting to each level. Those steps should be transparent, and at our company, they are.

Mentors play a key role in these career paths. Everyone is paired with a mentor that helps direct training and support trainees when they’re learning a new solution. From the outset, mentors help team members feel like they are part of a community within the company.

We also prioritize professional development by supporting the Salesforce community outside of CT. We host events, like the one mentioned above, we send our pros to speak at Salesforce conferences, and we help them find speaking opportunities. CT teams are often invited to speak at external events, and we’re happy to give them a chance to gain some recognition for their work.

 

Benefit for Customers

The major benefit for our customers with this approach is that we can guarantee quick scale with high quality. Our professional development process is well-established, and since it’s based on organic growth rather than external hiring, we can scale our team based on client needs without sacrificing quality.

A development method like this is highly efficient. We have people at every level, and since we helped them get to their current level, we have a great idea of their abilities. We can quickly move people onto project teams to work with clients as the need arises.

We’re also able to send our staff out to clients to help them with projects for their own customers. One of our key differentiators as an organization is that we are the “partner’s partner,” meaning we can place our own staff on partner’s teams so they can draw on our expertise to drive revenue for themselves.

This level of agility is rare within such a large organization, but because we built our development program from the ground up, we’re able scale on-demand.

 

Benefit for Customertimes

Retention is a challenge for IT companies. Hiring and training are expensive, so it’s always in a company’s best interests to retain their staff.

In my experience as a practice head and now as the VP of Technologies at CT, I’ve found that our approach to professional development leads to greatly increased retention rates.

Most of our Salesforce Architects and Principal Architects started as trainees at CT, and now – 7 or 8 years later – they are architects. It’s not common for people to stay with the same IT company for so long, but they do stay with CT.

Why?

First, it’s important to understand what motivates people at the middle developer/architect level. It’s not just about compensation! They need interesting and challenging tasks, a good mentor, and a good team to mentor. It’s important to listen to your team and give them projects that are challenging and interesting to them.

Second, mentorship is very important for retention. Alongside their mentor, people can see that they have a path forward without leaving the company. They have a regular opportunity to review/revise their career goals, and we help them take the steps they need to get there.

 

Don’t Limit Your Organization

 

Growing your company organically isn’t a one or two step process. As you can see, we use multiple channels to improve our level of expertise, and it takes time to develop each CT Salesforce Professional.

But the results are worth it. By leveraging our team as mentors and investing in the long-term development of our staff, we’ve established a group of experts that can deliver outstanding Salesforce work at the highest level.

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Growing a Profitable Salesforce Practice

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Mariia Chernova

Mariia Chernova, PhD, is VP Technologies at Customertimes. An accomplished lecturer, developer, business analyst, and Solutions Architect, she holds a PhD in Mathematical Physics and a master’s degree in Finance. Read more about her in our Women in Tech series.

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