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I currently work for a consulting firm (A), who sell my services to a big client (B) whose office I'm spending my work-time at. Effectively, I'm always at the client office and almost never see the company I'm working for.

Things being as they are, the consultants here are way closer to B than the A-salespeople and hear a lot of things on the client side. I also have a casual relationship with my direct B-manager (on the client side) and we're able to have friendly conversations.

Multiple times, that B-manager slipped in the conversation how much the A-salesperson in charge of us was annoying him and the other B-manager on our floor. The grievances point to the A-salesperson's efficiency not being up to the standards the two B-managers are expecting (things such as: not knowing on the spot the contract's monthly price for a consultant they are trying to place, lack of care in reviewing the invoices that caused small inconsistencies - such as trigrams being wrong).

Not making any judgment on that (since I only heard one side's version and would personnally tend to minimize those mistakes), I'm perplexed as what I should do in such a situation. I'm relatively new in the consulting business (less than a year). I feel like my "loyalty towards my employer" (as is expected and per my contract - working in France) should lead me to share as many useful informations about the client to my A-management, as long as it does not breach any non-disclosure policy. On the other hand, I don't know if it's my place to tell my A-salesperson, and reveal what are in fact off-hand casual conversations.

Moreover, I get really rare opportunities to exchange informally with my A-salesperson (only when they come to the B-office in fact). I would prefer to have this exchange off the record, as a friendly pointer, to avoid any written traces that could backfire in any way (don't know how or why, but again, don't know if it's my place to share that information in the first place).

TLDR: Should I let my salesperson know that their behaviour is causing slight dissatisfaction with our client and that the phenomenon is escalating? If so, is it a problem to do so informally and off the book?

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You obviously care about both your employer as the client you are working for. You want to share this information with your employer, without breaking the trust of your B-manager. This seems like a win-win situation to me, where the relationship between your employer and client will improve if said annoyances are fixed.

You mention having a casual relationship with said B-manager. Next time he mentions (one of) his grievances, could you tell him something along these lines:

"Hey Bob, I noticed you've mentioning some things about COMPANY NAME you're not happy about, on several occasions. I've been thinking about this, since I want you to be happy with our services, and it bothers me to hear that you aren't. Would it be okay with you if I mention these issues to my manager at COMPANY NAME, so we can see how to fix this? I don't want to break your trust by not asking you first."

If he doesn't want you to tell your employer, then don't. If he is okay with it, your company has a great opportunity to use his feedback for improvement. In both cases, you've showed B-Manager that you listen to what he has to say, and value him as a client.

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Things being as they are, the consultants here are way closer to B than the A-salespeople and hear a lot of things on the client side. I also have a casual relationship with my direct B-manager (on the client side) and we're able to have friendly conversations.

Both of these things are pretty common, especially in long term engagements.

I feel like my "loyalty towards my employer" (as is expected and per my contract - working in France) should lead me to share as many useful informations about the client to my A-management, as long as it does not breach any non-disclosure policy.

Again yes. Loyalty to the employer is expected and in many cases is usually emphasized in the contract.

On the other hand, I don't know if it's my place to tell my A-salesperson, and reveal what are in fact off-hand casual conversations.

I don't know if "it's your place to tell [them]" either, but I do know that if their relationship and business interests are damaged when this could have been avoided, they will blame you if they find out you withheld information.

I would tell them informally, then follow up with an email giving the examples which the client, B, helpfully gave you. It's up to them to act on this information.

  • It's interesting to add that in France, loyalty to one's employer is not something that's merely expected and can be emphasized in a contract. It is a legal requirement which can lead to a civil suit even if it is not emphasied in a contract. If you know of something that can hurt your company (like a bad relationship between a client and a salesperson) and don't act on it, or pass it on to someone who is in a position to act on it, you are liable (within some limits). – FrenchFigaro Jul 23 at 10:08
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I'm working in the exact same kind of situation as you, except insofar as I have a good relationship with my managers at my employer and generally meet them at least once a month.

At our company, it's my duty to let my manager know of any issues with the client, whether good or bad. In your situation, I'd tell them just what the client told me, including the circumstances around it, such as fact that it was in a casual conversation.

Your manager needs to know that the salesperson working with your client isn't doing a good job. This isn't tattling, or passing gossip, or otherwise talking out of school - it's part of your job to give the manager the information they need to be able to do their job.

Since it appears you don't have regular meetings with your manager, I should call them and ask if they have time to see you over lunch or a coffee at a time that won't bother your client. Again, in my own company, that would lead to me seeing my manager within the next few days.

If your company doesn't have any way to handle this kind of feedback, start looking for a better employer.

  • I was more thinking about letting the salesperson know, instead of directly escalating to our unit manager. These are simple "mistakes" easy to fix and that aren't affecting (yet) the number of consultants from our company being contracted by the client. I fear it might in the future, though. – Nyakouai Jul 23 at 9:33
  • I can't say which would be the more appropriate; it depends on your company culture, what relationship you have with your manager and the salesperson, etc. There are simply far too many unknown variables here. But I think you should talk to someone at your company, and if you're unsure, perhaps there's some more experienced consultant that you could ask for advice on how to proceed? – Jenny D Jul 23 at 12:44
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It could be a good idea depending on a couple of things.

How good is your relationship with the sales person? are they likely to take offense to the idea that someone doesn't like them? or react negitively to critisism?

do you think these critisisms are fair and resonable or was the manager just whining?

if you think these are genuine critisisms, that could help the salesperson improve their realtionship with the manager and they are going to take the critisisms on board and try to improve. then yes its a good idea to tell them

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