24 March 2006

Selling Talent

We all need to keep in mind what we do. We can talk the buzzwords, we can say "we're partners" and talk about our capabilities. But at the end of the day, we sell talent.

If you lose site of this - everything gets very confusing, very quickly.

And the implications are serious.

First and foremost - this needs to drive HR practices. If we are selling talent, we need to be very good at identifying talent, aquiring talent, growing and nuturing talent and retaining talent. Our employees are not (and cannot be treated as) commodities. They are not interchangable and they are most certainly not replacable. Of course... this means we also have to be good at (and ruthless about) raising the bar and dropping employees who cannot reach goals. Just as it is critical to have the talent to sell - it is vital to eliminate anyone who is not salable talent. Not only are they not valuable - they also drive down the total value of the talent pool and reduce satisfaction for the true talent.

Secondly - it needs to profoundly affect the way that engagments are managed. The value of the business is the talent - and this talent cannot be obscured from the clients. Clients need to see and understand the value and this talent needs to be exposed to them on a daily basis. This is a scary idea to many companies - but is critical for success. It will also have the positive result of allowing for increased rates.

Third - it has some real impact on your financial modeling. Not only will this likely increase your rates, it will also likely increase your costs. It will also require you to move from a blended rate (if you're still doing this) to a fully exposed rate card.

Finally - doing this is likely to result in a dramatic change to your process. You're likely to have to become far more flexible about the way your develop and the way you stay engaged. Talent is unique - and you will have to be flexible to accomodate talent. In addition, it is likely that you will find that the best way to fully leverage this talent is to dedicate talent to an engagement (rather than have employees engaged on multiple client projects at the same time).

In a world where seemingly all products and all services are becoming commodities this sort of talent-based model is one of the only sustainable models. If you can couple it with a strong brand, excellent messaging and communication and PR and a good hook - you can not only survive - you can prosper.


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