The salesperson's matchmaking network: Salesconx
What are your best business relationships worth to you?
I have tried to keep an open mind about services where users buy and sell personal contact information. My default position is that personal relationships are priceless, and if you try to sell them you're asking for big trouble. That's why I find services like Jigsaw and Yuwie (review), both of which pay you for selling your friends and contacts to strangers, ethical disaster zones.
There's a new product that I was considering putting in this bucket: Salesconx. It's a site for buying and selling introductions to sales leads. If you're looking for the account manager at a company you want to pitch to, you can put a request into the system. Or, if you're a salesperson with relationships with buyers, you can, likewise, put those contacts up for sale. Buyers and sellers can respond to open bids for contacts, or they can post their buy/sell offers on the site and wait for bites.
Unlike Jigsaw, though, Salesconx sells introductions, not just names. When you buy a lead on the service, the money is put into escrow while the seller decides if he wants to sell you the contact. Assuming he does, he only gets the money from the sale once he makes the introduction and you confirm that it happened. There's a reputation and ranking system on the service to keep things honest.
It looks like an efficient marketplace for "warm leads," as the company calls them, and the transactions are priced to reflect the personal effort that sellers have to make to close them: In this early alpha test, few open bids for connection are priced under $75. (Salesconx keeps 20% of all transaction fees.)
While I don't like the thought of my contact information being bought and sold, it's a lot less obnoxious than someone simply re-selling the data on my business card to spammers and telemarketing agencies. Salesconx sells personal introductions, and only a very short-sighted salesperson would sell his or her contacts without considering the side-effects of that sale.
Since there's nothing really wrong with salespeople helping each other do their jobs by trading contacts, the argument on this service comes down to putting a monetary value on those trades. Salesconx CEO Evan Sohn reminds me that in many fields, referrals between peers are already monetized. Recruiters and real estate pros pay each other when they exchange leads. Sohn say he just wants to set up a similar marketplace for salespeople. And he's not trying to compete with LinkedIn, which he sees as targeting a higher-end audience. Sohn wants the broad middle of the sales market to use his service: mortgage brokers and copier salespeople.
So I'm going to give this service a qualified pass. Not that I'm any great ethicist, but I've seen several businesses that turn my stomach, and this one, after a little examination, does not. I would not be surprised, though, to see Salesconx eventually devolve into simple and cheap exchange of names. Sohn's team is going to have to put a lot of work into keeping this marketplace clean, well-trafficked, and above-board.