One of the biggest challenges for companies that we speak to at the moment is generating new business.
Whilst it is not a method to generate new business in the short term, networking is a really strong and important part of any lead generation activity.
If the service you offer to the market is one which has a longer-term buying cycle, then committing to a 12-month networking plan or supporting your team with such a plan is important.
Networking is a cost-effective way for your team to get out to events and meet people and when done well, can position you and your company effectively.
A couple of small points you need to consider though in relation to networking.
Don’t expect networking to drive results straight away.
It is a great way to meet new people and find out about the challenges those in your industry might be facing but it’s not going to drive results straight away. You need to show patience here and commit to a 12-month plan. Heading to one event, trying to sell and then not coming back will give your company an unwanted reputation.
Don’t push your team to attend every networking event out there.
Doing this will waste their time and your resources. Ask your team to compile a list of the most suitable events and organisations within their area/your area of business and create a shortlist which you can then review. Ask them to put together a networking plan which shows the time they will commit to the events and the outcomes they want to gain from this. Outcomes by the way may not be business straight away but could be 10 new connections within 3 months and 5 follow-up meetings.
Provide advice and suggestions on how the team should approach networking.
Many may feel uncomfortable about meeting new people or are unsure about how to network well. Many think that networking is all about presenting and showcasing what they do. This is a mistake. The best networkers listen, involve others in the conversation and make people think ‘Wow they were lovely’. We have created a guide on how to network effectively. Click here to request a copy of it.
Make sure those attending treat everyone with respect and courtesy.
Trying to appear as the ‘Macho networker’ doesn’t work. I’ve seen too many examples in the past of people who have dismissed someone they were speaking to as not being relevant or important enough for them and yet that person has connections (friends, family, associates) who they could have done business with. The person they meet is often the path to being introduced to someone else and even if they are not, treating people disrespectfully is not going to build a positive impression of them or your company.
Encourage those who do make connections to follow up afterwards and connect on Linked In or other social channels.
It’s likely that they will need to spend further time engaging with people afterwards and have 121’s which may or may not go anywhere. Encourage those conversations to take place, but also outline that it’s okay for the conversation to not go anywhere.
Sometimes, there just isn’t a fit or a link to do anything and that’s ok if it is the case. A useful tool is to create a Referral Guide that your team member can use to share with the person they meet after the conversation. People forget things and so it’s a simple document that outlines who you work with and where you are a good fit. Here is the version that we use at The SBSA. Have a look at it. We of course welcome any referrals but maybe use it as a template within your own organisation?
When done effectively, networking generates results and great relationships but when done badly burns money and reputations!
Empower your team to network in the right way and it will not only increase awareness of your company and brand but it will build their confidence and long-term pipelines!