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TMC shares employeneurship with R&D partners

“Researchers like to research; it’s what they are good at. Traditionally they were never trained to work on developing projects with the customer. Due to the changing world in which R&D institutes have to act, there is more need to pro-actively develop projects and business with customers and government. Especially technical specialists with their expertise, are well equipped to discover and meet the needs of new customers within their field,” says Martine Brandsma, director of TMC Chemical.

Martine: “With our R&D customers, we’re noticing more and more the need to develop the entrepreneurial side of their researchers and projectmanagers. We wanted to help our partners and share some of our knowledge using our employeneurship model. That’s why we invited four R&D institutes to send over their talented researchers to participate in a masterclass in Consultative Selling.”

Coach and trainer Gerard Zegers gave the masterclass, which focussed on situations the researchers already encounter in their daily life. Gerard explains: “We looked at their current situations and their roles, and from that starting point talked about what mindset is needed to persuade potential customers of the value of their services. We asked, how do you handle a customer with a complaint, and how can you use that complaint to widen your project or convince the customer to start a new research project? How do you cold-call a customer? We used role-playing to take them out of their comfort zones and gave them immediate feedback. How are you perceived? What language do you use? What’s in it for the customer? The answers to these questions can open up huge new fields of possibility for the participants.”

Els van Hoffen, Project manager at NIZO food research, was one of the participants. Els: “It was very interesting and educational, especially for people like me who have an academic background and are not primarily educated to develop business.” Mark Overwijk, senior manager at Bio energy ECN, sent two of his researchers to the masterclass, and agrees with Els: “It has been very inspiring for the people who attended, and the approach perfectly matches our processes and the direction we are going in as a company: how can we better serve the market? It’s really great that TMC got these R&D institutes together, so that we can learn from each other. A great initiative.”

A follow-up course in not yet planned, although the success of the masterclass has made Martine Brandsma consider doing another one next year. Martine: “Yes, it was supposed to be a one-time thing, as a gift to our partners, but maybe we will do one next year, who knows. We just wanted to share our knowledge and experience. It’s great to get such positive responses. I already got an email from one of the participants. She said she was sceptical after the class about how the things she had learned could be applied in her daily work. But she wrote to tell me that she had just made a cold-call and already had a very concrete first meeting set up with a potential client. It’s great that just a one-day masterclass can do that.”

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