If you’re a business owner or responsible for business development, you know the standard benefits of training your team to network well. Three often cited benefits are:
- Securing referrals and connections
- Industry and business intelligence
- Opportunities for collaboration and partnership
I’m not going to get into these benefits today. Instead, I’m going to share three hidden benefits of teaching your whole team to network better.
The more I trained salespeople, association members, and corporate teams on networking, the more these three hidden benefits emerged.
1. Sales team to network effectively and strategically can build integrity and reputation.
2. Internal teams to network with each other increases employee engagement and retention.
3. New hires to network immediately allows them to accelerate their learning curve and increasing productivity.
Each benefit hides behind a related myth. Let’s bust those myths so your business can enjoy the results from networking training that extend beyond prospecting.
The Prospecting Myth
Yes, networking produces greater referrals and subsequent sales, but only if you approach it strategically and follow-up reliably. If I could coin a new adage, it would be, “A business card in hand does not a prospect make.” Creating goals for your follow-up, segmenting your leads based on those goals, and matching the follow-up to the segment, can turn your conversations into clients. Can you imagine going through the process for tens or hundreds of cards? In this previous blog post, I reveal the only three people you need to meet to be successful when networking.
Hidden benefit #1: Learning to network strategically increases individual integrity and company reputation
I get that sales is a numbers game; I started in sales. Any sales professional, however, who has completed a forecast report knows that some leads have a higher probability of conversion than others. When my sales trainees focus their attention on networking goals and purposefully ask for fewer cards, they’re amazed at their ability to follow-up consistently. As a result, their network has a higher perception of their integrity. When your network trusts you, you don’t have to work as hard to generate qualified referrals.
The “I Don’t Need a Network” Myth
When I train cross functional teams on networking I often have to call one or two contacts and convince them that they are intentionally part of the training. “I don’t sell anything,” they tell me. “Come anyway,” I counter. Sales is not the only function that benefits from networking.
I like Merriam-Webster’s definition of networking, “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.” Sales is a part of the definition, yes, but it’s not the ONLY part of the definition. A business network is designed to create a system of relationships through which the organization can thrive. That means everyone benefits from training on networking.
Hidden benefit #2: Networking within your team increases employee engagement and retention.
Your employees want to do a good job for themselves and the company. They want to feel valued and supported. It’s not solely their manager’s job to provide that sense of value and support. By teaching your team to develop relationships cross-functionally, and with their peers in similar positions in their industry, you’ll increase their connectedness and sense of purpose. When employees face a roadblock, they’ll have a handful of people to call. When they’re asked to collaborate, they will have contacts to call upon. When your employees feel more connected to their peers in the organization, they’re more willing to stay and put and throw their efforts behind the company’s mission.
The “I Don’t Network Because I Don’t Have a Network” Myth
The reason college students and new employees give me for not networking is, “I don’t have a network.” <<silence>> It took me some time to discover the hidden truth in their statement. I found their statement to be based on the misconception that only strong ties “count” as a network. Since they are just entering the workplace or a new company, they have few strong ties. Networking feels like a waste of time to them, yet these employees need and benefit from networking the most!
Hidden benefit #3: New hires trained in networking can accelerate their learning curve, increasing productivity.
I love this quote from a Harvard Business Review article,
“Lots of research shows that innovation and strategic insight flow through…weaker ties that add connectivity to our networks by allowing us to reach out to people we don’t currently know through the people we do. That’s how we learn new things and access far flung information and resources.”
To fully realize this third hidden benefit, train new hires to network well from day one. Instead of setting up “one-on-one” meetings with various people who happen to be available the first week of the new employee’s employment, set them up with 2-3 people close in their network and allow them to guide subsequent efforts as they learn their job. By purposefully and strategically building their network within the company, they can accelerate their rate of learning and hit their stride in productively far more quickly.
Which of these benefits would have the greatest impact on your team or business? Share in the comments and let’s learn together.
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