If you are not yet familiar with the term business networking, be sure that you are missing out on plenty of opportunities! In the modern world, business networking is an essential part of the success of any enterprise. Therefore, knowing what it is and adopting the basic concepts for further incorporation in your team is vital for the growth and development of any business.
So, what is business networking? In a nutshell, this term stands for creating contacts that can be potentially used for business purposes that are beyond the initial goal of the connection.
For a better understanding of this term, imagine a situation when someone from a sales team is reaching out to one of the company’s customers and asks them to share contacts of other potential clients, who may be interested in their services or products. That’s something called business networking.
Why is this skill so crucial for a business? Effective networking can provide your business with a variety of benefits:
No one will argue that who you know is much more important than what you know in business. Regardless of the sphere, the bigger the network you have, the wider the opportunities are. Therefore, expanding your list of contacts is vital for professional growth.
Increased Circle of Influence
The number of people who know you is just as important as the number of people you are acquainted with.
First of all, as you are getting more people to notice you and know who you are, your circle of influence increases. This boosts your ability to have an impact and advance your profile, which is also crucial in the world of business.
More Potential Customers
Not all people you will be connecting with are potential partners, some of them may be your potential customers. Networking with prospects gives you plenty of opportunities to present your brand and get others interested in the products you offer. This way, you will have a chance to expand the client base.
Confidence is a vital trait for every entrepreneur and professional. People tend to listen to you more if you are confident, and networking helps to boost self-confidence by taking you out of the comfort zone.
In most cases, getting stuck in our comfort zones restricts further growth and development. Have you ever thought about how many exciting opportunities are out there? And how many of them are you missing out by following your regular patterns of behavior and not being open to new connections?
Expanding the list of contacts, on the contrary, gives one a chance to come across new opportunities. The list of possibilities is pretty extensive. These could include client leads, partnerships, joint ventures, sales, and much more. All that’s left to do is to pick out the right opportunities and then you’ll get plenty of benefits.
Finally, business networking is a useful tool for getting some helpful pieces of advice. When establishing new connections, you may not always get an offer instantly. However, in most cases, there at least will be the possibility of communicating with like-minded people and exchanging experience.
Now, you know how beneficial networking can be for business. However, it is vital to learn how to do it effectively to get the most out of this activity. In this article, we are going to guide you through the essentials of business networking and will give some practical tips on how to improve your team’s skills to reach your business goals!
7 Essential Business Networking Skills for Successful Sales Teamwork
Now that you have a clear understanding of what business networking means and how it can contribute to the fast growth of your enterprise, let’s take a moment to think about what an effective networker does? What skills does one possess?
For the most successful sales teamwork, each member of the group should have a specific set of networking skills.
One of the essential skills is being able to build relationships and establishing a strong connection with people.
If your sales team doesn’t know how to involve others into communication and build a network from scratch, no other skills can make up for this one.
Secondly, every member of the team should possess strong communication skills. This includes being open, positive, bright and genuinely engaged in the communication.
Together, these skills will help your team not only create connections but further keep them, which is important.
Another essential networking skill is being a good listener. For better results, your team should do much more hearing others out than talking.
Listening performs two significant tasks. First of all, it shows your interest in prospects and secondly; it allows you to direct the conversation into the right area.
However, keep in mind that good listening doesn’t mean that you should stay passive. On the contrary, it is all about staying proactive and involved. A person with excellent listening skills always follows these rules during every conversation:
- Actively pay attention to what another person says;
- Maintain eye contact when possible;
- Show agreement without interrupting a person;
- Never make an impression that you are bored, not interested or impatient (making such signals as continually looking at your watch, shifting body weight, and so on are disrespectful);
- Add appropriate responses;
- Show curiosity.
A salesperson with a negative attitude is not likely to attract prospective customers and keep them engaged in the conversation.
Therefore, staying positive is another rule of effective networking.
Staying in Contact
Establishing connections doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t know how to keep them. Therefore, being able to stay in contact and following up are essential.
Here is another thing to keep in mind – staying in contact by no means equals being annoying. It is all about focusing your effort on developing strong, mutually-beneficial, and long-term relationships, meanwhile being appropriate and not getting your contacts annoyed by constant attention.
Being Able to Ask the Right Questions
Wrong, not thoughtful questions can offend people, ruin the impression about you, and hold you back from reaching goals. Therefore, asking the right questions is a true art that you and your sales team have to master!
Finally, none of the skills will bring the desired results if your team is not being sincere. People always feel when others are insincere in communication. Thus, it is crucial to treat partners, customers, and other contacts with genuine interest and respect.
All these skills matter and contribute to success. However, among all the skills listed here, being able to ask the right questions, and being a good listener are the two most important ones.
Besides, listening and asking thoughtful questions helps to show sincerity and respect, build trust, and indicate your genuine interest in the opinion of a person you are talking to. Thus, these should be the fundamental skills that your sales team obtain and develop to reach the ultimate goal.
Boosting Your Sales Team Networking Skills: Top 10 Steps to Take
How to encourage your sales team to start networking and how to make the most benefit from the contacts they make?
Getting started can be somewhat tricky. However, with a bit of patience and dedication, you can drive your team in the right direction and start getting benefits! Here is an ultimate guide to help you boost your employees’ skills:
Develop a Plan
Planning is an essential part of every endeavor. Usually, people attain this skill along with others at university or college, as different assignments like process analysis require students to write a well-structured plan. Thus, it is the perfect first step towards your goal of a realistic and detailed networking plan for your team. It can include the events you want your employees to attend, different meetings, and other details.
Also, set a plan for the number of connections that should be made each month. Having such a strategy will help you keep the employees organized and on track.
Define the Activities and Events That Could Come in Handy
To set your team on the right track, it is crucial to ask around and define what types of activities and networking events are popular among your prospect customers and partners.
Having a clear idea of events that your team should attend to establish new connections is a good starting point for improving their skills!
Encourage Employees to Make Connections
Encourage your salespeople to be willing to share their stories, be genuine, honest, and approachable. Train them to be open and capable of stimulating the conversation.
Find a Coach
We’ve already highlighted some of the essential networking skills. Your main goal is to help your team disclose their full potential and develop those skills.
The easiest way to do this is to hire a mentor. A professional coach will quickly identify at what level your employees are and will offer solutions that will help them get better.
Set the Right Goals
For maximum productivity, a team should have shared goals that will drive them and encourage them to develop. You can start with smaller goals. For example, take the whole team to an upcoming networking event and set a goal that each should make at least a few valuable connections during this event.
The right goals keep people engaged and motivated, which is essential for success. Over some time, your goals will be getting more massive and, respectively, you will see better results.
Show How to Follow Up
Following up is essential for keeping the connections you make. Thus, you have to encourage the team to keep the link alive by making appropriate follow-ups.
Encourage Employees to Share Connections
Since a common goal drives all of you, it is important to share the connections you make with each other. This will make your business networking strategy even more effective and strengthen the relationships in the team.
Organize the Contacts
As the team will be getting better in business networking, the number of new contacts will keep growing.
At this point, it is important to remember that every connection matters regardless of whether it was established a day or a year ago.
In order not to lose the contacts you already have, encourage your salespeople to organize them. Ideally, you should create a shared database divided into relevant groups. This will help you store them safely and nurture all relationships.
Devise an Elevator Pitch
This is a handy strategy that will make it easier for the team to establish the right connections. An elevator pitch is an engaging and thoughtful statement that clearly describes your business and brand. The main goal of this statement is to immediately drive the attention of potential contact and make one want to continue communication.
Create a creative and compelling elevator pitch and ask your employees to memorize it.
Think Smaller to Get the Benefit
Without a doubt, big conferences and events give you an opportunity to meet hundreds or even thousands of people. If you are lucky, there may be dozens of short conversations. As a result, you will end up having a big stack of business cards and newly established connections. But how effective those would be?
Often, big events are so packed that each visitor sees thousands of faces and can’t really focus on establishing relationships with a particular person. This means that most of those people you meet at such events won’t even recall having a conversation. Thus, such connections are often worthless.
Instead, many specialists recommend thinking smaller. Many entrepreneurs prefer arranging regular meetings in small groups that allow everyone to get to know each other better.
Of course, attending big events still makes sense, and you shouldn’t give up on them. Just make a bigger focus on smaller dinners and meetings for establishing stronger relationships.
Managing Networks for Customer Relationship Management Performance
The business circle of contacts plays a vital role in CRM (customer relationship management). However, it is crucial to understand that merely expanding it is not enough to reach your CRM objectives. It is also essential to know how to manage those networks.
As a rule, every business network consists of one internal and four external components. The inner part concerns you and your employees. The external component consists of other contacts, including investors/owners, customers, partners, and suppliers.
What does this mean for you? Every chain in your network has connections with different profiles. In turn, this means that the purposes of these contacts vary.
For example, while establishing relationships with a potential customer, your goal is to encourage one to purchase your product or service. On the contrary, meeting a new potential investor, you want to show the relevance and potential of your business to proceed to the investment.
To make the most benefit of your business contact list, it is vital to understand the difference between each group. Also, outline the goals you’d like to reach within each. This understanding will help you manage the network wisely and reach CRM goals.
Some Employees Hate Networking: What to Do?
Have you ever noticed how some people love making connections, going to events, and communicating with new people, while others feel uncomfortable and awkward?
It’s true, networking can be tough for some people. They find it hard to start a dialogue, break the ice, and socialize.
It is okay, and not a rare occasion. However, from a business perspective, having such people in your team can be considered as hindering the progress. Their unwillingness to establish relationships can make you miss out on some great opportunities. What to do in this case? Is it possible to change your employees’ attitude toward networking?
Before you make any radical steps, let us assure you that even true introverts can excel in making connections. However, they might need a bigger push to start working in this direction.
First of all, we advise entrepreneurs to take it slow and easy. Pushing your employees too hard can have an opposite effect and destroy the relationships inside the team.
Thus, instead of requiring the colleagues to go out and start making new connections even though they don’t want to do this, encourage them to make small steps to become better in establishing contact gradually.
Also, a good strategy is to offer your team nice bonuses and benefits for their accomplishments. Such an approach will increase motivation and help them improve their skills faster.
Finally, you can help your team by providing them with the needed materials and tools for developing their skills. You can even invite a tutor or share some effective methods on how to become better in business networking.
Don’t forget to be an inspiring example. All these efforts will definitely pay off, so don’t hesitate and start acting!
Networking is something that helps businesses expand, chase new opportunities, and survive the competition. Thus, the more extensive your list of contacts is, the higher the chances for success you have!
Learning the basics of business networking is not hard. However, when it comes to developing those essential skills and applying them effectively, that’s when the real challenge begins.
Hopefully, this article will help each of you understand the main concept behind effective business networking and find suitable solutions to incorporate this technique into your sales team for higher revenues and success!