Networking – it’s what we do and by we, I’m referring to salespeople, business owners and pretty much any employee with bottom-line revenue responsibility. It’s acknowledged that although effective networking takes time and effort, the rewards are there just as long as you keep at it.
But networking doesn’t have to be limited to “C” level executives and salespeople. The rewards derived from business networking can be even greater if business owners can build a “culture” of networking in their office and encourage all of the employees to get in the game.
Not everyone will be “a natural”. There will be those who are introverted, with absolutely no interest in networking. It’s OK! Ask them if they would like to participate as a learning experience in training with everyone. The remainder of the employees can be trained and supported so that they can enjoy the activity and also recognize some success.
Here are steps that business owners can take in order to build networking into the fabric of their company:
Provide Training on Core Networking Skills
There are lots of misconceptions as to what networking is and how it can best be accomplished. For some business people, it means going to lots of events, meeting new people and passing out business cards. For others, their strategy is completely different and they identify 3 or 4 “power partners” whereby everyone becomes extremely conversant in everyone’s business and actively shares leads and introductions. Bottom-line, there isn’t one “right” way to make connections and build relationships. A conversation about business that takes place on the soccer field with another parent can lead to business too. It’s critical to train your staff on the importance of developing a networking mindset as well as to impart key tips on how to “work” a room, open and close a conversation, and how to engage in business “small talk” in business and non-business situations.
(Hint: unless you are fully skilled in this sort of training it is a good idea to bring in a professional to provide a one hour tutorial for your staff.)
Make Sure You Have an Effective Lead Follow-up System
Networking contacts and leads rarely turn into immediate business and most “prospects” require “nurturing” in order for them to be converted into clients. It’s quite probable that you already have an effective “lead nurturing” process in place, however, the introductions and leads brought in by your “non-traditional” networkers may require additional screening and qualifying to make certain that these contacts are desirable and ready to be put into your lead nurturing / touch point management process.
(Offer: If you do not have a good CRM system in place, it would be our pleasure to give you several suggestion; please feel free to email or call us.)
Develop Rewards and Incentives for Everyone That Brings in Leads and Contacts That are Converted Into Business
There’s no question that employees should be rewarded for their proactive efforts in developing connections and leads for your business, however, their rewards should be structured differently than those employees whose primary job responsibility is business development and who follow-up and stay on the grid until a sale is consummated. Non-traditional networkers are rewarded for “opening the door” and rarely stay involved for the duration of the sales cycle. A flat fee bonus when the business is brought in is a common reward although some organizations find that a small commission on closed business can be a more powerful incentive. Discuss the incentive plan with your HR Department and Accountant to make certain that you establish something that is sustainable and will neither prove to be a disincentive or on the other hand, negatively impact the profitability of the sale.
Remember there doesn’t have to be a “formal” networking event for effective networking to occur. Encourage your employees to be aware of potential opportunities in their everyday communications, and train them on how to best recognize and leverage them too.
For further discussion or comments, please contact Gail L. Trugman Nikol, President Unique Business Solutions, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (516) 935-5641.