Salesforce implementation can be an absolute game-changer for your organization. It can also be incredibly costly and frustrating when you’re not certain where your money is going. 

Salesforce is a complex system. Configuring the system to meet your needs takes time, skill and expertise. It’s also not a one-size-fits-all process, so any cost estimate will likely be a broad range. A Salesforce implementation can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $250,000 for the first year. In some instances, a large-scale Salesforce implementation can be up to $500,000 over a couple of years. 

We can’t tell you “It’s going to cost x dollars.” But based on our extensive experience doing these implementations, we can tell you what factors drive the cost to give you a better understanding of what you’re paying for. 

It’s about more than just Salesforce implementation

It’s tempting to evaluate the cost of implementation as just another tech expense. But it’s way more than that. 

Investing in Salesforce is an investment in your organization’s ability to be efficient, scale and grow. When set up well, it can give your front line staff and employees the necessary tools to deliver your org’s services, configured to their unique needs.

The real power of a CRM system like Salesforce comes when it is tailored to the unique needs of the organization. Salesforce is a system that will adapt and change with your organization over time. We even go so far as to think of it as “living.” 

Viewing Salesforce as a one-time expense without recognizing the system’s ability to grow with the org means you’ll likely be looking at the same expense 3 to 5 years down the line. 

Before implementation: Let’s start with your goals 

We start every project by defining the mission-centered requirements. This is where a lot of implementations fall short. We have to start with the big goals and vision of the organization, driven by the mission. Refining and prioritizing requirements in the beginning can prevent additional costs for significant changes later.

We don’t force our clients to consider the future five years from now. But we do need to reverse-engineer the technology needs to reflect the future goals of any organization. It is important to have attainable objectives, but we also want to reflect on how those objectives may change throughout the years. 

This process saves our clients money in the long run but can still be costly. We work collaboratively during our Discovery (which you can read more about here) with new clients to define their requirements and begin building and implementation. Once we know the mission-centered requirements, we can make some determinations about the scope of the project:

  • How many requirements do you have? 
  • How complex are they?
  • How much do you have to build right now?

The answers to these questions will help determine the cost. Bear in mind, the more complex a project, the higher the cost will be. 

(By the way, if you don’t have a solid 5- or 3-year plan for your org, our Compass Playbook is a good place to start.)

The cost of talent for Salesforce implementation

Salesforce is a hot topic right now, and the number of companies offering Salesforce consulting is rapidly growing. Individuals with 1-3 years of Salesforce experience are expecting salaries of upwards of $95,000 (based on our own experience interviewing talent last year). That number increases for those with configuration experience.

The increasing costs and demand of talent in the field will be absorbed by overall rate the consulting firm charges a client. 

Other business models will create a rate structure that allows them to have the margin to acquire and invest in new talent. Or, some have talent that is at a premium in terms of rate. Sourcing knowledgeable and adept talent is a variable cost with many considerations, but one we believe is incredibly beneficial to our clients.

As you plan for a Salesforce implementation, think not only about what you’re paying for outside help, but also about what it will cost in terms of staff time. Oftentimes, we work with 3 to 5 key team members for 3 to 5 hours a week for the entire implementation. There’s a cost to that time, both from the perspective of number of hours invested, as well as from the perspective of opportunity cost (when a team member is spending on Salesforce, what projects are they not spending time on?)

Project length for a Salesforce implementation

The length of an implementation will vary. You can expect to see a longer duration (and a higher price tag) for a Salesforce implementation in organizations with more requirements, more complex requirements and larger organizations. 

The length of the project is also determined by the level of throughput the client can tolerate and how fast the consultant can work. Throughput in this case means the amount of time the client can dedicate to move the implementation forward. Once we configure a feature, the internal client team needs to test it. If they’ve allocated sufficient time to turn this feedback around quickly, everything can keep moving at pace. But if it takes 4 or 5 days to turn around feedback, it slows down the entire process. 

Some implementations can take only six months, while others require closer to 18 months. Ultimately, the price will reflect that. 

Licensing cost for Salesforce

Another variable driving cost is licensing. Salesforce is generous in terms of licensing and provides nonprofits 10 free licenses in perpetuity before charging any additional license at their standard rate. So, you will have a baseline Salesforce licensing (a variable cost depending on how many licenses you will use) but the power of Salesforce is an ecosystem. It’s a platform model that allows for many additional “plug-and-play” applications. Some are paid, some are free – and most are really effective. 

If you choose to use an additional tool, there may be some lightweight configuration costs. Or you may want something custom-built for your organization, which would cost more on the implementation side, but would decrease your ongoing operational expenses.  

Data migration

Salesforce is a relational database, and implementation will primarily require data migration. The amount of data that will need to be imported – and from where – will vary from organization to organization. Additionally, the approach a Salesforce consultancy will use to migrate that data (which can include cleaning up and consolidating spreadsheets before mapping them to Salesforce) will vary. 

Some consultancies may provide organizations with a template to clean up the data themselves while they focus on importing. Others will create a data mapping spreadsheet based on the data provided. We’ve witnessed data migrations that were almost more expensive than the overall implementation because it was consolidated from twenty different sources. We’ve also had clients with upwards of four million records across multiple sources! 

Our biggest piece of advice to avoid the hidden costs of data migration is to take the time to clean the data before the migration starts. This ensures that the migration is done correctly, won’t need to be redone, and avoids the mistrust in the system that creeps up if it’s not done right the first time. 

Cost of training and ongoing support

After Salesforce is configured for your org, your team will need to be trained to use it. At MMG, we work with clients to design a training program. This may include a “Train the Trainer” model, where a member of your organization will collaborate with us to build a training plan and be responsible for taking it to the organization. 

Other organizations may not have this individual in-house, so they rely on a consultant or subcontractor. This is an important consideration when implementing technology solutions such as Salesforce, as documentation is key to proper training, including training at go-live, onboarding of new staff and ongoing training as features change.

Salesforce is an ever-evolving tool that can be configured to an incredible degree. Not everyone has the aptitude or desire to learn Salesforce, and we understand! But your organization needs it. Many consultancies will offer an ongoing support agreement. We provide clients with quarterly support contracts that are hours-based. This is beneficial to the client as it allows for increased or decreased support depending on the season. 

For example, many nonprofits require additional help during campaign seasons but may need significantly less afterwards. We’ve found this works best for our company, but others may offer an annual or quarterly fixed price. Regardless, we highly recommend ongoing support as Salesforce requires continuous updating and troubleshooting to best leverage it. 

Have more questions for about Salesforce? We’d love to answer them.