Just the word ‘networking’ sends shivers down many people’s spines and indeed very few people genuinely love it. However, in most service businesses in particular, it is essential that client facing individuals are confident and skilled enough to get to know people in the marketplace. This is predominantly done at events, both in person and online. Once people start going to some events, they hear about others, which are often unadvertised and if they build the right relationships, they are more likely to get invited to those which are often the real gems.
Why your team needs to network – top 5 reasons
- In a service business, it is the people that differentiate the business or firm, therefore they need to be visible to the market. The more people you have known and able to build relationships with potential clients and referrers, the better.
- Never mind new business, often individuals get invited to events by clients, they need to have the skills to navigate those well and get to know more people within the client.
- It builds their confidence interacting with others and getting used to speaking about the business they work for and their role in it – this confidence will roll over to benefit other areas of their work.
- It is not good for a business to rely on just a few people to build the reputation of the company or firm, what happens when they leave/retire? Also, if it is just the more senior people then the market doesn’t get to see the diversity of people who work for the organisation.
- The individuals will learn more about the market place they are in, related/peripheral ones and those they serve if they go out and engage with people which can shape their work and help them service clients better.
How to get your team started
- Rather than make it just another task to do, make sure individuals are aware of the benefits – for them personally, as well as the organisation. This article from Forbes explains the personal benefits really well.
- Get experienced networkers in the team to share the type of events they attend and their positive experiences, including tangible clients it has led to the company or firm having.
- Make sure they are clear on what your company or firm offers, not just in their area but beyond, so they equipped. A lot of what puts people off networking is the fear of not knowing what to say.
- To this end, remind them networking is simply about engaging with other humans and the conversation should start on that basis.
- Encourage even junior people to network; the younger the skill is built, the easier it will be. It is better to increase people’s confidence before they have specific business development responsibility.
- Suggest they start slowly and find what suits them including type of event, format and time of day.
- Make sure they are equipped with networking skills – considering the impact they have on others, how to build rapport and what to do after a networking event. This will help them network positively and give them confidence too.
Networking shouldn’t be seen as a ‘dark art’ that only a few can master. Which members of your team could most benefit? Which ones can you support to start developing their network?
Networking is one of my nine (often neglected) skills which I see as pivotal to a team having to make sure a company or firm has competitive edge. You can download the free guide with a page on each skill here.