They shouldn’t be selling products because it creates a conflict of interest. Consulting firms are hired to bring tools into a business that the business doesn’t have or can’t afford normally. They bring experience and skillsets that enable real change and shine light on issues in the company that sometimes can’t be seen by anyone but an outside party.
They also bring the ability to tell it like it is without fear of reprisal, because they are an outside agent hired to come in and do a job. Good consultants should have broad experience and up-to-date market intelligence that lets them look at a clients current process and agreements and make suggestions to improve their results.
Having finders-fee based relationships and commission-based income from vendors and service providers makes you a broker at best…not a consultant.
In procurement and management consulting, we typically come into a business, assess a situation, make recommendations and help manage the change associated with that process. As a consultant hired by a customer, your duty becomes to the customer first.
Lately, we’ve been running into procurement “consultants” who come into a company to make an assessment, and part of their “fix” is to sell some of the product that the customer uses “because they can secure a better price based on their volume of use” or some such. They make themselves into middlemen – either brokers or salespeople, or both – that push solutions that pay them a commission.
This isn’t consulting – this is sales. These “consultants” are essentially making themselves into GPO’s – Group Purchasing Organizations – that acquire savings and rebates from vendors through high-volume purchasing. Essentially, they are lumping their customers needs and purchasing into their relationships and using it to their advantage – not usually benefitting the customer either on cost or service.
Consultants should be free from influences that pay them to pick one product or service over another – the best fit should be the priority for the customer, not the best income-generator for the firm.