I have been an NRG Member for several years. Here is the story of how I gained a major new client, a National Health Trust, from a relationship built through NRG.
I am a business coach by background and have a training business called Emotional Intelleigence at Work.
I met Dave Richardson, a Train to Gain skills broker, through NRG and, over time, built a close work relationship. Over four months, we had three one to one meetings – in the cafe of Blooms garden centre, I seem to recall. Each meeting was between an hour and an hour and a half so, at a conservative estimate, we spent four hours on the relationship – and this in addition to conversations we would have had at NRG events themselves.
During this time Dave explained to me how Train to Gain worked: what’s its purpose is, how it operates and what, as a skills broker, he is looking for. In turn I explained what I do and how I do it. I am at an advantage here: being a coach and trainer, I have a lot of material which I have either deliberately learnt or which I have used so often that it comes off the top of my head conversationally. This material ranges from training models to stories.
Effectively, I keep someone interested by turning the one to one into a mini presentation of what is relevant to them. One of my most influential mentors, Darren Shirlaw, has a saying that the models are not to the coaching – so give the models away. I myself teach that people learn from experiences and that is what I gave Dave, and other people I have one to ones with. By the time Dave and I finished, I think he was convinced that what might be a woolly term, ‘emotional intelligence’, had specific, clear benefits in the workplace.
A full six months passed before I got an email from him asking if I was interested in working for the Great Western Hospital. From my initial meeting there my business gained a valuable contract.
Had Dave been a business person, I suspect that leaving the relationship unattended following the one to ones wouldn’t have been a good idea – it would have gone cold. But Dave added me to his portfolio of many providers of diverse education services so that, when a specific need arose in one of his clients (the hospital), he knew just the person to fill it. Personally, I err on the side of caution when it comes to ‘pestering’ people – in fact, I don’t do it at all, because nine times out of ten it creates a resistance which wasn’t there before I started pestering. However, there are many ways to keep a relationship active and, now I am working in the hospital, I make sure I keep Dave up to date with how the training is going. And he continues to have meetings with the training manager so he gets the client’s perspective of what we’re doing, unsullied by my interpretation of it.
How do I reciprocate? Well here the standard business networking model doesn’t really apply. Dave’s interest is in satisfying the client’s training needs so us doing a good job goes a long way to pay back the lead. Of course, I am aware that he has a quota of NVQs which he has to encourage employers to send their staff on so, in coaching, I always raise this subject with my SME clients if at all appropriate.
The moral of the story, however, hinges on the fact that you don’t seen NHS training managers at networking events aimed at SMEs. Yet, if you provide training services, you need to meet these people. The same principle applies to any business sector.
It isn’t about who you know – it’s about who they (the people you take the time to build a business relationship with) know. And they won’t yield up their contacts – can’t, in all integrity – after a five minute chat over a bit of chicken.