Changing Stripes: Contractors hiring Customers

Zebra to Tiger: Changing StripesAt BOMA’s Office Building Show this week I saw lots of contractors courting customers. It made me think about contractors who hire customers to bring on new business.

It’s the rainmaker model. Hire someone for the business they’ll bring. Only in this case, it’s someone from the other side of the fence.

Contractors do get business from the customer/rainmaker’s friends. It does happen, but rarely. When it does happen, the amount of business isn’t as much as expected.

So, after six months there sits contractor and customer/rainmaker, in a desert of unfulfilled expectations. Eventually the contractor lets the customer/rainmaker go. What’s the point of such a short-term employee?

I know why customers take the plunge and become contractor employees. It’s for the:

  • Money
  • Career Advancement
  • Excitement
  • All of the above

However, I believe the customer/rainmaker model is flawed from the start. It’s a risky move for both parties, unless of course the Tiger Woods of customers shows up. But if you’re even slightly risk-averse, I’d stay away from it.

Here’s a look at the positives(+) and negatives(-) of the model.

These are over simplifications, but worth considering when contractors hire customers to bring business with them. Customer/rainmakers should:

(+) Be very knowledgeable about their specific market (owners, trends, decision-makers)

(+) Know how the contractor is viewed in their marketplace (helpful for tweaking marketing/sales messages)

(+) Understand how the contracted service can help/hurt customers (where hidden benefits can be found)

(+) Provide specific knowledge for improvement areas (guide contract operations to make changes)

(+) Have other positives that I’m not aware of

Again, these are over simplifications, but from a contractors perspective I’ve seen all of them play out. Customer/rainmakers:

(-) Are more passive than contractors, expecting work to come to them, they’ve not had to aggressively solicit business in the way they now have to

(-) Require more sales skills and experience

(-) May look down on the sales profession as a result of past experiences with “bad” sales people

(-) Over estimate the number of their peers who will give them business

(-) Must learn more about the contracted service than they knew before

(-) Under estimate the amount of work it takes being a contractor

(-) Must work differently than when they were customers, less time and more requirements

(-) Have a shorter life span with a contractor if they don’t deliver than as an employee with their customer company

Who would you rather hire for new business development? A zebra or a tiger?

Chris Arlen
President, Service Performance

Technorati: hiring sales people, sales, selling

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