Throughout the pandemic, the encouragement has been to stay at home; this has meant that we haven’t seen people in the way we would have done before. Colleagues, clients, prospects and other business contacts. Whilst some may feel that this has had no impact on their professional relationships, many know they have focused just on what is ‘necessary’ to get the job done. Others feel that it just hasn’t been the same. Indeed you can’t engage with someone as effectively online or on the phone. A lot of body language communication is lost.
At best, many have focused only on the key people around them. Those who help them do their job and the clients they need to deliver for. As we hopefully exit the worst of the pandemic, now is the time to reassess. Which relationships do you and your team need to focus on?
In a service business, it is the people and relationships that make all the difference. Services are often highly comparable between companies.
In this article, I want to focus on external relationship building. So, whether you are reading this with yourself or your team in mind, read on.
Just the word ‘networking’ sends shivers down many people’s spines and indeed very few people genuinely love it. However, it is essential that client facing individuals are confident and skilled enough to get to know people in the marketplace. This is predominantly done at events, both in person and online. Once people start going to some events, they hear about others. These are often unadvertised and if they build the right relationships, they are more likely to get invited to those which are often the real gems.
Throughout the pandemic of course it has been entirely online. It’s interesting to think about what has happened in this time. Have online events worked equally as well? Have they been avoided? Did you and others at work focus on deepening relationships with those you knew already? Or, did you really do no external network building at all?
A reminder of why you your team needs to network – top 5 reasons
- As I said, in a service business, it is the people that differentiate the business or firm, therefore they need to be visible to the market. The more people you have known and able to build relationships with potential clients and referrers, the better.
- Never mind new business, often individuals get invited to events by clients, they need to have the skills to navigate those well and get to know more people within the client.
- It builds confidence interacting with others and getting used to speaking about the business they work for and their role in it – this confidence will roll over to benefit other areas of their work.
- It is not good for a business to rely on just a few people to build the reputation of the company or firm, what happens when they leave/retire? Also, if it is just the more senior people then the market doesn’t get to see the diversity of people who work for the organisation.
- The individuals will learn more about the market place they are in, related/peripheral ones and those they serve if they go out and engage with people which can shape their work and help them service clients better.
How to get you and your team motivated to get (re)started
- Rather than make it just another task to do, make sure all are aware of the benefits – for them personally, as well as the organisation. This article from Forbes explains the personal benefits really well.
- Get experienced networkers in the team to share the type of events they attend and their positive experiences, including tangible clients it has led to the company or firm having.
- Make sure everyone is clear on what your company or firm offers, not just in their area but beyond, so they equipped. A lot of what puts people off networking is the fear of not knowing what to say.
- To this end, remind them networking is simply about engaging with other humans and the conversation should start on that basis.
- Encourage even junior people to network; the younger the skill is built, the easier it will be. It is better to increase people’s confidence before they have specific business development responsibility.
- Suggest they start slowly and find what suits them including type of event, format and time of day.
- Make sure they are equipped with networking skills – considering the impact they have on others, how to build rapport and what to do after a networking event. This will help them network positively and give them confidence too.
Networking shouldn’t be seen as a ‘dark art’ that only a few can master.
Which members of your team could most benefit? Which ones can you support to start developing their network? This longer article on networking at events may be helpful too.
I offer workshops and one-to-one development work in this area, as well as many other ‘non-technical’ skill areas, so if you are interested in expert help do contact me for a conversation. There is also more information on this page.
Networking is one of my nine (often neglected) skills. I see these as pivotal to a team having to make sure a company or firm has competitive edge. You can download the free guide with a page on each here. If you are from a law firm, there is a specific version of the same guide here.
To think further about your individual career, click here to request my Nine Skills needed for career success.
About the author
Joanna Gaudoin, Inside Out Image (https://insideoutimage.co.uk/) specialises in helping ambitious professionals and their organisations in professional and financial services improve performance and achieve their goals.
She does this by helping them master and strategically use the business skills of Personal Impact and Relationship Management. These skills are necessary for professional success.
Before establishing Inside Out Image, Joanna worked in marketing and consultancy in large corporates. She understands the business world and its challenges. She now helps organisations and individuals understand how to succeed in it.