This is a true story.
It highlights three highly important aspects of business development that could have a positive effect on your ability to win more business in the future.
Here we go then.
In a previous life I owned and ran an IT recruitment company. One of our targets was a water company who we conservatively estimated spent £15m ($22m) on contract IT people each year and we badly wanted a piece of that action.
The person who gave out the work, we’ll call him Brian, and I didn’t really get on. Our moral compasses pointed in different directions and I wasn’t prepared to do what others did to secure business from him. He would mess me about no end: cancelling meetings at the last minute and breaking promises but I pressed on.
Then two things happened at pretty much the same time.
Firstly, a contractor who was working for me and had worked at the water company before, let’s call her Alice, was contacted by her old agency to go back to work on a specific project that she had extensive knowledge of. She refused to go back unless it was through me.
Secondly, Brian called me up to say he had good news and bad news: good news was they would let Alice come back through me (whoopee); bad news was they had just installed a supplier panel for 3 years and I wasn’t on it (booooo). He also added that he was moving to another part of the organisation, I took this as more good news but didn’t let on.
Then a new resource manager turned up, why don’t we call him Pete, who I only got to see because I had Alice on site. Had I not then he would have given me the brush off like all the other wannabe agencies (lesson #1).
My relationship with Pete was different from the start: identical moral compasses, the same interests and an amazingly similar sense of humour. Added to this early on he gave me a really obscure technical requirement that his panel suppliers had drawn a blank on and after working solidly on it for 2 weeks I found somebody. Our relationship entered a new phase as a consequence (lesson #2).
Roll forward three years. We had over 70 contractors on site making us the second biggest provider of contractors even though we could only get the requirement 3 days after the panel suppliers. I also had excellent working relationships with Pete and all the hiring managers (lesson #3).
So let’s summarise those key lessons: –
- The difference between zero and 1 is greater than 1 and a hundred. Being on the sales ledger makes all the difference so do what you need to in order to make it happen. Had I not had Alice on site I would not have got to see Pete and you wouldn’t be reading this blog post.
- Do something exceptional. The other agencies gave up because the requirement I satisfied was hard and one of many so they just pressed on to the next easier one. I didn’t. If you succeed where others have failed great things can happen and frequently do.
- It’s all about strength of relationships. When it comes down to it people buy from those they like, trust and feel valued by, Pete certainly did and it helped me to overcome the strictest of supplier rules. Added to that I also established a relationship with all the line managers who actually had the need for IT contractors. Relationships based upon trust and affinity will always trump those based on process and rules.
For what it’s worth this is the best of several very similar stories from that era that all deliver the same key messages which are as relevant today as they were then.
If you have time I would really like to hear comments from anybody with similar relationship-based success stories. Thank you.
Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net