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Growing Talent Management Firms: Business Development Engine

Thursday, December 11, 2014
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Another ingredient important for achieving success in the talent management industry is the maturity of a firm’s business development engine. This includes both the quantity and quality of the distribution model, in terms of its reach to targeted buyers and the system to access those buyers.

Direct selling

Multiple distribution channels that cover a global market have distinct growth advantages over purely localized markets—if effectively managed.  With the recent widespread use of social media, traditional sales and marketing channels are challenged daily with the ability to reach more people at significantly less cost. But organizations that have incorporated these tools into their traditional direct-selling methods are likely to be more successful than their counterparts.

However, talent management firms have a history of using direct-selling approaches—whether through their own or their partner channels, and they are really only on the fringe of virtual distribution techniques. New players entering the industry, who are not hampered by an existing labor-intensive business development engine, are more likely to hurdle some of the more long-term players in the business.

While the latter would argue that complex, and sometimes difficult to explain, products and services require direct face-to-face selling, it is clear that today’s more sophisticated buyer is willing and able to purchase through more alternative virtual methods.

For example, the access to “free” content is being used as a new way to make contact with potential buyers interested in a specific knowledge area. The thought is that if you don’t provide this content to potential customers, they will discover it for themselves elsewhere via the internet or social media outlets. Thus, why not exert your own “guru” status by creating a Facebook page or blog, or tweeting your messages. Likewise, it is common to sign up for an “expert” webinar for which you are one of a thousand or more participants from all over the world.

Indeed, many firms in our industry use targeted marketing tools to identify likely interested parties. Mailing lists are easier to assemble and serve today than ever before, while reach is relatively inexpensive and streamlined.

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Lead generation

Perhaps the most important element of the business development engine lies in lead generation. Given the transfer of so much information to each and every person, how do you first identify qualified prospects in a time-efficient and inexpensive manner?

We have all been on the other side of a “dialing for dollars” robotic telephone campaigns. They are, to say the least, annoying. Thank the stars for caller I.D. so we can screen a large percentage of them before lifting the receiver.

But reaching out to the workplace is a little different, particularly if your job performance depends on being able to capably deliver the products and services of the talent management industry. In this case, one is more likely to entertain a call from a vendor to explore mutual interests.

A recent Harvard Business Review article, “Unlocking the Wealth of Rural Markets,” listed the pros and cons of five different sales and distribution approaches: extension of existing network; hub-and-spoke model; local influencer model; “feet on the street” or village entrepreneur model; and piggybacking on or collaborating with other networks. While the article focused on penetrating more rural markets, these five strategies can apply to selling to any market. There is not space here to detail the pros and cons of each, only to say that each can work under the right conditions.

Bottom line

Creating a business development engine that specifically caters to your own market needs is an all-important ingredient for success. In fact, one could argue it is the key to success in today’s highly competitive, fast-changing environment.

On the one hand, acquiring and retaining customers is easier (thanks to available technologies), but more competitive than ever before on the other hand. In either case, the most successful business development engine rests on a foundation of a unique value proposition that differentiates your firm from it competition.

About the Author

Dr. Cohen is a 40+ year veteran of the talent management industry having founded and/or led eight different business entities in the field. He currently is in private practice focused on strategic and business planning including senior leadership development. He also has served on 19 different advisory Boards for firms in the training and education sector helping them effectively navigate their growth strategies. He can be reached at: steve@strategicleadershipcollaborative or 952-942-7291 and his website is: www.strategicleadershipcollaborative.com.

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