Death of the Saleshole

Are your vendors saleshole or partners?

I’ve spent almost my entire career in small HR departments of 1 – 4 people managing the recruiting, hiring, on-boarding, training, performance management, benefits, vacation and leave, discipline and termination of more than 500 – 2000 employees. Most would argue we were understaffed for the number of employees we were responsible for … And depending on the day of the week, I might agree with you.

What made our success possible was strong relationships with 3rd party vendors. Being able to call on someone else for advice and support in a pinch in HR is critical. Whether your HR department is small or large, at some point, you will have to reach out to an outside party for help. The good news is there are vendors out there for everything ready and willing to offer assistance and services!

The bad news is that not all of these vendors are great ones. Or even good ones. A lot of them are just “salesholes” who will over-promise and under-deliver. They are not interested in partnership, only invoicing … And I am most definitely over it! Death of the saleshole is long overdue.

Saleshole or Partner?

Being able to identify the saleshole is a critical skill for any HR professional. For the practitioner, it can prevent hours, days, weeks, months and years of frustration that comes from selecting the wrong vendor. For the provider, it can both show and tell the kind of vendor you should never be.

  • Salesholes ask about your business. Partners know your business. When a vendor calls and asks me to tell them about what my company does and what my needs are, I think they’re a saleshole. Vendors who want true true partnership research the company before even making contact so they have an idea of the industry, organization structure and department size so they can anticipate how they can meet your needs.
  • Salesholes are canned. Partners are customized. When a vendor tells me their product/service cannot accomplish a unique, quirky request, I think they’re a saleshole. Vendors who want true partnership understand your organization is unique and are willing to make reasonable tweaks to gain and keep the relationship.
  • Salesholes give suggestions. Partners give advice. When a vendor starts giving a laundry on all the things I could do to solve a problem I’m facing, I think they’re a salesholes. Vendors who want true partnership provide counsel based on their experience. They can often connect you with others who have walked in your shoes and can help you navigate challenges — and they often do it free of additional charge.
  • Salesholes say you. Partners say we. When a vendor tells what I can do to fix a problem or what a challenge a situation is going to be for me if I don’t get it under control, I think they’re a saleshole. Vendors who want true partnership see themselves as in the trenches with you. They know their success is tied to your success. They work with you from start to finish on viable, measurable solutions.

I know being a vendor in the HR space isn’t easy. Nothing about being in the HR space is easy, contrary to what many believe … And if we’re going to do this work, we need to do it with heart and passion.

Take a look for yourself.

So as we say good-bye to this year and hello to a new one, take a look at your vendors. Are they partners or are they salesholes? If they are the former, it’s not too late to get them a nice holiday gift to thank them for all they do. But if they are the latter, it’s never too soon to start reasearching other options.

Posted in

Buzz Rooney

Reader Interactions


    • Jon DeWitt says


      I think you have coined a new word “saleshole” and unfortunately they exist in all industries where there are customers and vendors. Your points are well stated and you use powerful words like partnership, heart, passion and relationship to name a few. These are all important in the elixir that makes for a successful business or personal relationship. It has been my experience that perhaps the most important ingredient is “trust”. The most successful relationships seem to be built around this simple word.

  1. Steve Ardire says

    Hi Jessica – so how do you really feel about Salesholes 😉

    I like your contrast between Salesholes and Partners but unfortunately there’s way more of the former so must qualify and address with ruthless triage from get go !




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