by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

We make our living selling wellness campaigns. And lots of our referrals come through wellness consultants/vendors. So it’s not without reservation that we advise our customers and prospects to do their own homework. What if another vendor has a newer, shinier whatchamacallit that we don’t? What if they do choose another service provider? What if they love that provider and never come back?

If you’re a vendor and such questions keep you up at night, you’ve bigger problems than these. If you’re a buyer, relying solely on what your current vendor partners and consultants are saying, you may get lucky. But there’s a good chance you’re missing out on significant opportunity; here’s why:

  • Consultants aren’t objective. It’s not a character flaw, it’s called being human. And while they can go to great attempts with ratings and rankings and complex surveys, in the end who you like is who you like — which can be good for the client... or not. Here’s a red flag: If the consultant is proclaiming completely unbiased analysis and recommendations, you’re likely getting the least objective information.
  • Vendors are automatically biased. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be any good. We have to believe what we do is best for you and your organization and be prepared to lay out the reasons. But if a vendor is bashing a competitor (even in a subtle way), it often means they’re hiding something about their own services. Vendors need to prove their worth when they have the chance, deliver on their promises, and not give the customer a need to go shopping.
What You Need To Do

If your main purpose for hiring a consultant is so you can abdicate responsibility for the choices you make, there’s no need to read on. But if your goal really is to serve your organization with the best wellness program model and services, here’s what you can gain by doing some of the heavy lifting:

  • Review vendor websites and marketing materials. If they’re loaded with corporate jargon, industry buzzwords, and references to the latest academic theories in health behavior change, proceed with caution. Overreliance on trendiness could be a sign of a service without depth. Or it could simply mean the marketers don’t have a good handle on what may be a worthwhile service so they fall back on fluff.
  • Talk to references — lots of them. Don’t skip this step. And if you do, just remember we told you so. It’s time-consuming for sure, but until the words you hear align with the pitch you’ve received — consistently across multiple current and former clients — you can’t make the best decision.
  • Visit the vendor. Seeing the operation with your own eyes and having it explained to you by the folks who will work for you (not the sales team) in real time can be enormously instructive. If you don’t have a travel budget, set up a webex and ask them to walk you through the operation showing tools, systems, and processes that will be used to support your organization.

This is a lot of work. But do you want to do it over again in a year, or even 3 years? Total vetting and thorough due diligence up front mean you’re far less likely to have to start over when the current contract runs out. Even more important, it means you’ve hired the best partner for you and your employees to achieve your well-being goals.

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