Each rep gives a different answer!

When I interview companies to hire them for various outsourcing processes, one thing always comes true: If I talk to two different people at the same company, the answer is always different. The salesperson tells me one thing and the project manager tells me something completely different.

So, who should you believe? My experience is that salespeople are usually poorly trained. Unless the person doing sales has extensive technical knowledge, I would not believe a word they say, even about easy things. I had one company tell me that they had forty programmers who knew a particular language. When I talked to the project manager, the answer changed to ten. A similar situation happened with another company.

Interview the salesperson to see how they were trained
When interviewing companies, interview the salesperson, NOT to get answers, but to see how they are trained, and how accurate / honest they are. If you can catch them making mistakes, then you know the company is not perfect. However, in outsourcing, NOBODY is perfect. So, if they made one small mistake instead of three huge omissions or blatant lies, perhaps you are in reasonably good hands.

Interview the project manager for actual answers
When I interview project managers and technical managers, they are never as happy or cheery as the salespeople. The answers are often very negative and pessimistic. Interviewing these technical types is a great way to verify point by point what the salesperson said.

Assessing the company
I am very unclear as to whether or not you can assess the quality of a company based on the quality of the sales staff. However, if anyone at a particular company is poorly trained and gives out poor answers to questions, that is a very bad sign. We are all human and people make mistakes, so I would not dismiss a company that has one or two screws loose. However, I would keep a screw count, so that you can compare them to other companies you interviewed. You need to keep track of how competent each person at the company is — that means keep a scoresheet for at least two salespeople per company, and two project managers per company. If you can talk to actual workers, that is good too, because companies normally hide their shameful workers from the public — and for good reason!

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