Networking Skills: Can I Outsource My Networking?
Not if you're selling yourself ...
POSTED BY JACKY SHERMAN ON 17/04/2019 @ 8:00AM
I got asked a question the other day about networking skills and I must say that in all my years' networking, I've never been asked this before ...
If you're selling yourself then networking skills are essential and can't be outsourced!
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I've met many small business owners and enterprising people who have set up to offer outsourced services for most functions in their clients' business, but not this one.
The networking scene abounds with small companies offering to do your online marketing for you. From managing your website, email marketing, telemarketing, blog post writing and, most common of all, social media posts, but no-one offers to go networking for you.
"If you know of such a service, I'd love to hear from you!"
Of course, companies do employ people to make sales for them and many a salesperson uses their networking skills as part of their sales strategy. Although, interestingly, networking groups do not have as high a proportion of these as you might expect and their membership in the group is usually short with one or two notable exceptions.
Some firms, especially in the financial sector, do offer commission for referrals dressed up as introducer fees. When I first came into the commercial world, I belonged to a network of business advisors where there were known to be two types of members often referred to as the 'Finders' and the 'Grinders'.
The finder is the one who networked and then offered the work to the appropriate grinder who delivered the service for 80% of the fee. Other freelancers prefer to work for an agency or larger consultancy who take a healthy cut of the fee for finding and managing the client.
In our referral marketing model, when applied fully, your referral partner is effectively networking on your behalf with an informal agreement that you are doing the same for them. This is different in that it doesn't free you up from networking yourself.
My own personal observation about the success of either employing or paying someone to network for you is that the success depends on the nature of the service you offer and the level of motivation and training the person has had in referral marketing.
If you're offering a personal service where what your client is buying is you, then it is tough for someone to sell for you. Your referrer will want to have their relationship directly with you before introducing you to their contacts. I have witnessed one coach try to employ someone to go out networking on their behalf, surprisingly without any success whatsoever.
On the other hand, where you are selling a product or service that is delivered by a team, a dedicated salesperson can have more success if they can get their head around what they are doing when networking.
"The successful ones build their own network of referral sources who refer them to people who want your product or services!"
It is fair to say that a high proportion of employees who go networking don't grasp this subtlety and persistently seek their sales from the people in the room. That probably is the primary reason why they are don't tend to last long.
Other reasons for why employed people are less successful are to do with the level at which the company supports their endeavours. Referral marketing, when done correctly, needs to be deeply embedded in the organisation's overall marketing and sales strategy.
When networking for your own business, you may be happy to get up at 6:30 in the morning, or pay for lunch, buy tickets for the rugby and go with your referral partner to watch on a Saturday. An employee needs the same resources to build those relationships.
They also need the freedom to refer their contacts to your company's clients and contacts. I've seen many an employee struggling to get the business owner to assist with this.
Then there is the question of who 'owns' this network. If that employee leaves, does their network go with them? If a covenant about contacting clients after leaving is problematical then restricting access to their referral contacts can be more so.
And lastly, and this is a plea to both senior partners and business owners, don't expect your staff to know how to network effectively. In the same way that you would expect to train people in sales, so add in networking skills and referral marketing training too.
So, to answer the question that prompted this blog post. Can you outsource your networking? To be effective, I'd recommend that if the chemistry between the end client needs to be with you personally, then the answer is no. You need to be introduced by someone who can endorse you.
If you're offering a service or product delivered by your company then yes, the trust is with your company and your representatives. If you want them to represent you effectively then invest in their training and support them with a full referral marketing plan and the resources to build the referral relationships.
"Would you like to know more?"
Remember ... you've outsourced or delegated this process, not abdicated it, and there will still be times when you have to engage too. If you'd like to find out more about networking skills for you and your team, then do give me a call on 07970 638857 or click here to ping me an email and let's see how I can help you.
Until next time ...
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