Networking Skills For Your Team: Part 2 - Who Needs These Skills?
The simple answer is everyone ...
POSTED BY JACKY SHERMAN ON 27/01/2016 @ 8:00AM
This facetious remark masks a truth that actually, everyone in your organisation has a network, and every interaction each person makes has the potential to strengthen their relationship and play a part in generating business for your company as a result ...
Everyone is networking every day. With the right training you can capitalise on that.
copyright: belchonock / 123rf stock photo
And the more skilled they are in playing their part, the more business you will generate. However, not everyone in the team needs the same level of skills. In organisations where introductions are a significant feature in winning quality clients, some people will have it as a major component of their job while, with others, it might just be an add-on to their main role.
Training and coaching to embed these skills into an organisation are an investment in time as well as money. So it pays to prioritise and pace training to get some quick wins and then plan for other supporting activities once these early successes become apparent.
"My recommendation, as always, is to start at the top with the business leaders!"
This may be the business owner or senior partners or an employed managing director. The chances are, if they are successful in a business where introductions contribute significantly to generating clients, they will have already acquired a large and active network of referral sources themselves.
Even so, in my experience, most business leaders have achieved this largely by trial and error and few have had any formal instruction. This has two major impacts on the results of the team.
Firstly, the leaders don't know what they don't know about referral marketing. So inefficient and less successful methods are likely to have crept into their practice alongside the success. Their networking activities may be limited to what works for them which might not be appropriate for others.
Secondly, they have often forgotten that they were not born knowing how to network so others in their team need help with behaviours which for the leader appear to need no instruction. Common sense? Yes of course, but it's only common sense when it's brought to your attention.
So the leader needs to have continuous instruction, not only to generate business themselves but to use their knowledge of how to help their team expand their network too.
You would think that it was common sense to train team members who are tasked with winning new business in how to turn their networking into sales opportunities. In my experience although organisations will invest in sales training there is often a reluctance to extend this to networking or referral marketing skills.
"Although there is a definite relationship between sales and referral marketing, they are not the same thing!"
Most importantly, they require a different mindset. Referral marketing is all about developing relationships to get introduced and working in collaboration, while in the traditional sales approach, it is much more about making the first encounter yourself or responding to enquiries through the website. This difference is often analogised as hunting and farming.
It can be tough for people who have been trained in sales to make the switch to the highly collaborative working that is inherent in referral marketing. I well remember witnessing a Financial Advisor at one of my events, spend her coffee break trying to sell her pension services to another Financial Advisor who offered the same service! When I spoke to her about it, she hadn't even realised that was what she had been doing.
Another person I often see is a partner who has no role in generating business, what I call the operating partners. Their job is to make sure the service is delivered.
Often they have come into business with an ex-colleague or friend and they divided the leadership roles in business development and operations. It is fair to say this works well ... as long as their relationship remains positive and both stay in the business.
I have seen many small businesses disintegrate quickly when the operational partner suddenly has to pick up the networking role. My personal advice is that although they may never be the sales person for the company, all partners and the business will benefit from developing a healthy business network of their own.
As the deliverer of the service, this can be incredibly valuable to generate client referrals and repeat business. After all, they have the key relationship with these clients.
"The time to think about training partners is before they become partners!"
It seems obvious to train your associate and junior partners to learn these skills before you promote them. That way, both you and them will find out if they have an aptitude for it before accepting it as part of the role. Nothing causes conflict in a partner relationship faster than not realising your expectations.
On the other hand, you won't know if they have an aptitude if you don't give them the skills to be successful. I've lost count of the times I've watched intelligent professional people looking completely lost at networking functions. They're the ones huddled together in a corner.
My best anecdote on this was an associate solicitor who, at a regular lunch time group, would always take herself off during the buffet meal break to catch up on her emails rather than talking to other people.
Lastly, what about all the other people in the organisation who at first glance don't have a role in generating clients? Surely it's a waste of time training them to go networking for you? It's not their job after all.
I believe it's time for you to rethink networking to include all those interactions your team have with clients, suppliers and others with relationships to your business. Also, all the people they know outside of work. Friends, families, hobby or sporting club members as well as ex-colleagues and customers from previous jobs.
"How can they incorporate networking into their work with you and why should they bother?"
Over the next couple of weeks, I'll publish two more blog posts that examine the different skills your team need to have as well as some ideas on how to motivate them to use these skills to generate fantastic business for your company.
Until next time ...
More about Jacky Sherman ...
More blog posts for you to enjoy ...