Once while traveling to a book tour date, I sat next to a young man in an airport who struck up a conversation with me. We started talking about what we each did for a living and after explaining what I do, I found out that he worked for a small, family-owned grocery business. I commented that it was probably tough to be the little guy in competition with the larger chain grocery stores and that his employer must be doing something right to still be in business.
Now, being in the business of networking for 20+ years at that time, it was a no-brainer to me that my comments and inquiries about the young man’s employer were a prime opportunity for him to explain what made his company special and to possibly make a valuable networking connection that could bring in business, and maybe even mean a promotion for him.
However, instead of taking advantage of the open door I was extending to him with my curiosity, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Yeah, we’ve had the same customers for years, so I guess we’re just lucky that they are so loyal.”
That conversation reminds me of how critically important it is to teach your employees to network! Many business people just don’t do this one simple thing which could dramatically boost their networking efforts. It doesn’t matter how much you – the manager or business owner, may know about networking, or even how well you network to promote your business. You don’t know what you could be missing out on if your employees were trained to network for you.
The fact is that until you teach someone how to do something effectively, expecting them to do it well, or even to do it at all, is unrealistic.
As you might imagine, it is far better to engage your entire staff or team in your referral marketing campaign when you start it, but also throughout the life of your business. When you show employees how to properly network, they are much more likely to network and talk about your products and services, providing your organization with a greater chance of gaining more business.
Here are some ideas to help your staff learn about business networking
- You can do a short demonstration during a team meeting where you role-play ways to ask for referrals from customers, friends, and family. “Do you have a friend or neighbor who may also need our _____ service?”
- If you belong to a weekly networking group like BNI®, bring your staff to those meetings, one at a time, so each team member can experience business networking and see the results it can produce. This also helps your networking partners feel that they know your business better, since they are able to meet the people in your company.
Networking is a group activity, so make sure to get your whole team on board with the process. Tell them WHY networking is important and teach them how to do it. You may find that it builds employee loyalty and pride in their job as they get to contribute to the success of the business in additional ways.
Have you done something to get your employees involved in networking your business? I’d love to hear about it.