If it quacks and walks like a….

I try not to judge when I see sales practices that mimic consulting opportunities.

Some approaches seem to cross the line but, maybe its just me.

Case in point is this email we received yesterday:

To: [CareerXroads]
Hi Gerry,

I'm working with Groupon's Global Head of Talent Development & Diversity and she was telling me how important it is for the company to make immediate strides in the performance management and leadership development areas.

In fact, Groupon is just one of many enterprise level companies I am working with to help them potentially partner with innovative solution providers that can help with these challenges. After doing some cursory research on your organization it looks like you may be able to help Groupon and these other companies with similar challenges.

What day and time can I call you to discuss your capabilities and the group I am working with for our upcoming Chief Talent Officer Exchange ?

I look forward to speaking with you.

Warm Regards,
[Name withheld]
Director Exchange Partnerships
[email withheld]@iqpc.com
Chief Talent Officer Exchange

So, while I'm not, and never have been a fan of IQPC (they've been around a long while), my concerns [here] are not with the firm but with the practice- specifically:

  • If I were IQPC, I would be justifying this approach [I think] by stating that the company [Groupon in this case but you could substitute your company name] is open about their needs, planning to attend a small group meeting free of charge and therefore is an IQPC investment. They are willing to listen to some number of solution providers in 30 minute 1-on-1 sessions and be influenced by sponsors to purchase a product/solution/service. They gave permission for the marketing strategy that sends thousands of emails to solutions providers. If I were IQPC, I would focus on selling the value of charging a premium booth cost  with the more direct ROI of a series of 1-to-1 meetings with highly qualified prospects. Since the 'sponsors' are the primary source of income, they therefore are my true clients. My short-term incentive is to facilitate sales- even at the expense of the employer. Those employers who are actually satisfied will be highlighted in the marketing for the next event since I'll need to get an entirely new set of attendees with the same need or, focus on current attendees who have a different need to return.
  • If I were IQPC's "Director of Exchange Partnerships" and [as in this case] recently graduated from college with 3-5 years successful [car] sales experience, I would want to keep the focus on the prospective sponsors' self-assessment that they are a qualified and interested in the employer delegates and offer a range of solutions.  (It is doubtful I would look closely at the success, retention, service ratings or any other performance indicators of a solution provider willing to pay).  If a solution provider is willing to pay but the attendees' needs are clearly not a match, then that is data for IQPC to offer another 40 person 'Exchange' and go find more firms with similar needs to come to a free meeting.
  • If I were a consultant hired to help build an RFI/RFP [instead of the above model], I would be charging the client firm and pitch that I have the knowledge, skills and experience to narrow the field of 'solutions' to a reasonable number from the universe of providers who can satisfy the need. I would disclose any existing relationships in which I received a 'commission'. I would defend my choices by digging into the client's needs and comparing them with the success the solution provider has had with similar firms- going to their client to get their satisfaction with approach, results, service, etc. I would add, if asked, additional help in facilitating the discussions, and possibly even integrating the solutions. These services would not necessarily be connected. I wouldn't worry about IQPC's model because I think I could easily contrast the quality of my work versus their approach- and I would not be kind.
  • If I were Groupons'  Head of Talent Development, I would appreciate the free meeting to listen to solution providers but am not sure I would want my 'needs' displayed this way to thousands of  prospects by IQPC's sales folk. I was likely assured that the solutions providers were vetted but may suspect that some of better solution providers might have other means to reach prospects. The unintended consequences [like this post] of publicly outing a specific delegate's needs should be interesting. [I'm trying to reach her through connections to get her reaction].

Bottom line: Publicly pimping individual event 'delegates' to groups of hungry solutions providers is, to me, unseemly but, maybe its simply a small degree of difference from this to a booth on a conference's trade show floor.

What do you think?

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Gerry Crispin
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Gerry co-authored eight books on the evolution of staffing and has written 100s of articles and whitepapers on similar topics during a career in Human Resources that spans more than 40 years from HR leadership positions at Johnson and Johnson; to boutique Executive Search firms; a Career Services Director at the University where he received his Engineering and 2 advanced degrees in Organizational/Industrial Behavior; and, GM of a major recruitment advertising firm even as he launched CareerXroads 20 years ago.

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If it quacks and walks like a….

by Gerry Crispin time to read: 3 min