Consult, Don’t Supply

Consult, Don’t Supply

03 May 11:00 by Alan Jarque


There are some words that you simply dislike with a passion.

Here is one of mine: Supplier.

As a Sales and Marketing Director, that is one of the words that I avoid in describing what we do at Camino. To me, the word “supply” implies a one-way journey of goods or knowledge; sending something over and forgetting about it once it is out of the door. Source, supply, move on. Far too many service-based businesses adopt this short-term mentality. There will always be other customers, so why waste our time on attempting to build relationships if we can keep the process simple and be a “supplier” rather than an “advisor?”

In my mind, in any relationship, there is always an opportunity for a consultative approach. Success in any endeavour is closely linked with knowledge, and if you are happy to share your knowledge with others, you are automatically helping them to become stronger.

It might not be in your service agreement, and it probably isn’t even in your job description, but how difficult is it to share a recently acquired piece of knowledge when you are chatting with someone on the phone? Is it really so hard to “go the extra mile” and give them your opinion on their new website or share your views on the latest developments on the market?

This marks the difference between a supplier and a consultant.

In a world disrupted by technology, the “suppliers” are rapidly going out of business. LinkedIn can “supply” a hiring company with a stream of candidates, but it is unable to manage the nuances of a transaction. As candidate-sourcing technology improves, recruiters who adopt a fire-and-forget attitude with their CVs are gradually being made redundant. What technology cannot do, however, is help hiring companies assess their needs, mould their teams or calm their fears.

As the supply side of our economy becomes all about the technology, any sort of service company will have no choice but to focus on the consultative value that they add to their clients. It is a bold prediction, but it may well be the case that more “experienced” individuals in our industries will start to be valued that little bit more. The technology will do the job of the “hard-charging” 20-something, and the added wisdom may well come from the 20-year industry veteran. You heard it here first! At Camino, we’re working hard to equip our younger recruiters with detailed sector knowledge so they can buck the trend and add value beyond their years.

This trend towards a consultative approach is also fuelling the growth of the “gig economy.” Big companies are trusting external individuals to come into their business and provide their knowledge, without the need to have them on their payroll. You no longer need to work for a “Big 5” consultancy to have credibility – the individual is king in the gig economy. If you can provide a value-added service, your relationships will flourish.
Life is so much more pleasant when relationships are less transactional. We all live to “make a difference”, and when you go above and beyond to help others, you are leaving your mark on the world.

Furthermore, consultants deserve to be handsomely rewarded if they genuinely add value. Suppliers are in danger of suffering fee or price erosion if they only provide a non-differentiated commodity service.

Consultants believe in contributing to a life worth living.

Suppliers are content to watch it pass them by.