Five Ways to Encourage Employees to Network
Too many entrepreneurs focus on bringing in new business themselves or in tandem with the sales force but overlook their support staff as a source of referrals. Building word-of-mouth for your business is not just the responsibility of your marketing or sales department. As you might imagine, it’s far better to engage your entire staff in your word-of-mouth marketing campaign-not only at startup, but also throughout the life of your business. Here are five tips on ways to encourage employees to network:
1. Include networking in the job description for each and every employee
Often, if a new hire knows upfront that he’s expected to incorporate networking into his job, it will happen.
2. Have clear and reasonable expectations.
If your company manufactures a very obscure product, your staff might have a hard time bringing in tons of referrals. However, keep in mind that people are more important in the networking process than the type of product being sold. When you have the right person, he or she will be able to build a network around any kind of product or service.
3. Teach your staff about how to network effectively for the company.
Hold focus groups where you role-play ways to ask for referrals from other customers, friends, and family. Bring in local networking experts for in-house training. If you belong to a weekly networking group, bring your staff to those meetings one at a time so each member can see firsthand what networking can produce. This also helps your networking partners feel that they know your business better since they’ve been able to meet the people in your company. Until you teach someone how to do something effectively, expecting them to do it well or even at all is unrealistic.
4. Motivate your staff to bring referrals to the company.
My wife once worked for a business owner who incorporated monetary bonuses into her word-of-mouth marketing expectations. For every new customer, she was given a bonus. It was a win-win arrangement for the company, as each new customer brought in revenue well above the bonus amount, and my wife felt rewarded each time one of her referrals came through the door.
Having a bonus system in place made it obvious that she would be attending chamber meetings with the boss and developing other connections in the community while passing out business cards and flyers for the company. To properly execute this idea, check with your CPA or tax preparer.
You might even establish a “networker of the month” status for the staff, using a reserved parking spot or an overnight hotel stay somewhere fun as a reward. Make the motivation something that’s relevant to your industry and, most of all, exciting to your staff.
5. Be sure your staff sees you practicing your networking skills.
Often, we as entrepreneurs don’t share with our staff the amount of time and energy we put into building and maintaining our businesses utilizing word-of-mouth marketing. I have always felt very strongly about this point. If I am going to expect my staff to do something, motivate and reward them for doing it, I better let them see me doing it as well. All too often, networking is something done behind the scenes and not necessarily in front of the staff.
One way to change this is to track how much business you brought in, as well as the staff’s numbers. Imagine the pride one competitive staff member will have when he or she breaks your number. Imagine the profits your company will realize when everyone in the company focuses on growing the business.
Networking is a group activity. Make sure to encourage employees to network and get your whole team on board with the process.
3 thoughts on “Five Ways to Encourage Employees to Network”
Further ways to spur smart networking: Know your top talents so you can identify those with complementary talents and seek sweet spots of mutual interest in conversation so you can become mutually beneficial allies
Over time you will then have diverse allies and thus be able to collectively see more sides of a situation and thus be able to make smarter decisions faster about a potential problem or opportunity
Remember healthy relationships are based, not on a quid pro quo but an ebb and flow of mutual support over time + Get specific sooner and you’ll boost credibility and memorability
A great way to do that is to offer an apt detail or story/example.
The specific detail can prove a general conclusion yet not the opposite
Hint: adopt a mutuality mindset
FANTASTIC AND VERY USEFUL!!! WE WILL START THESE PRACTICES TO OUR STAFF IMMEDIATELY!!!
Referrals work so well within BNI because they are part of the structured process. You’re almost expected to bring referrals to meetings. This gets you into the habit of actively looking for them. So, it’s a worthy plan to build some structure within the company to encourage employees to also bring referrals into the company. Monetary or reward-based – your call – but build a structure.