It’s not ethical
It’s a huge 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.
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 somesuch.
The reality is that there probably is a better product or a better price out there from someone who actually operates full-time in the world of sales that doesn’t need to come from the “consultants” making this claim.
Because of how commissions structures, finders fees and other spiffs and bonuses work, the “consultant” has a vested interest into steering their clients into buying the product from them because that way they get paid twice – once from the customer that hired them to fix their issues, and then again from the manufacturer or distributor of the product they sold.
It’s not OK.
The reality is when you sell products, you’re a salesperson…not a consultant. Call it a broker, an agent, a GPO, whatever – the reality is that you’re pushing product because it benefits your business. When you consult for a client, you can’t walk in the door with an agenda – you need to be neutral or everything you do will be impacted by that agenda.
Other than an ethical black hole and a breach of trust, this also creates an issue where you aren’t necessarily looking at the best fit for the customer based on what’s available in the industry as a whole, and what products work best in the application regardless of brand or source. The automatic tendency is going to be to push someone into a product you can provide because it lets you benefit twice.
Essentially, all you are at this point is a salesperson selling a solution that works for the client and will alleviate some of their issues. This is the same thing outside sales reps have been doing for manufacturers and distribution houses for decades and doesn’t really bring the value to your customer that you were hired to bring.