The Scarlet “V” of Solution Providers

Peter Weddle

Most recruitment conferences and many employers use a single word to describe the companies that provide talent acquisition technology. They call them “vendors.” It’s a term that all too often pigeonholes them hawkers of products.

The dictionary defines a vendor as an organization “that makes goods and services available to companies or consumers.” In other words, it sells stuff. A vendor may develop and build its product itself or it may buy or lease a product from another organization, but it becomes a vendor when it turns around and offers the product to someone else for a fee.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that activity. Indeed, many of the employers that are the customers of TA technology companies do exactly the same thing. They build airplanes and sell them to aviation companies, or they develop a financial product and sell it to investors, or they install a ventilator and sell its use by patients to health insurance companies. Even recruiters use their company’s value proposition to sell top prospects on filling their open jobs.

Selling is central to much of human activity, at least in a free and democratic country. All too often, however, being called a vendor – a seller of things – in the HR/TA field has a negative connotation. It’s a scarlet “V” that at least for some HR and recruiting professionals indicates an organization that is (a) bothersome and (b) in it only for the money. They are irritating, prone to hype and exaggeration and suspect in their commitment to delivering on their promises.

Now, admittedly, there are bad apples among the companies offering TA technology products. But, they are the exception to the rule. The vast, vast majority of those in this industry are reputable, proud of their work and committed to their customers’ success. They are vendors, but they don’t sell products. They sell solutions.

That distinction is more than semantics.

The vendor that sells a product will do so regardless of what a customer may actually need and then move on to the next customer without bothering to make sure its product actually delivers a benefit to the organization. It will talk a good game about “customer service,” but in reality, it views application success as the customer’s problem, not theirs. They own it, so it’s up to them to make it work.

The vendor that sells a solution, on the other hand, goes through a multi-step process, that feels more like a partnership than a transaction. It will collaborate with the customer to:
• make sure that the vendor’s product is what the customer actually needs or could benefit from and can apply to its advantage;
• determine the adjustments that will have to be made (to recruiter skill sets, team culture, process and practices) to optimize the product’s performance;
• build the business case both for the product, itself, and to implement the adjustments that will be necessary to deliver the expected ROI; and
• assist in the preparations for and installation of the product and the ramp up period as users get comfortable and more capable with it.

In a perfect world, we would be able to get customers to make a terminology distinction between the two types of vendors, but alas, we don’t live in such a world. That means you’re probably stuck with your scarlet “V.” You will forever be a vendor in the eyes of your customers. The key to success, therefore, is to rise above that term by enlarging your company’s brand to differentiate it as a seller of solutions.

Food for Thought,

.Peter Weddle is the author or editor of over two dozen books and a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. You can check out his latest books on Amazon or in the TAtech Bookstore.

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