Growing revenue is critical to all organizations. Yet finding new markets, new buying points, or new needs in existing clients is increasingly difficult. That is why organizations desperately need all employees, not just salespeople, to be able to effectively uncover new opportunities.
But it is not that easy.
• A US engineering firm, thinking that a financial incentive would generate new business, began offering its consulting engineers a bonus for uncovering new business from the clients they service. However, after a year, of their 35 engineers, only three had found new business opportunities.
• Research at the Stanford Shyness Institute suggests that almost 60 percent of young adults entering the business world have difficulty introducing themselves and engaging in conversations with potential prospects.
• A study in Harvard Business Review shows that strategic networking skills will help organizations uncover and capitalize on new business opportunities.
The reality is that many organizations are leaving revenue on the table, not from a lack of incentive or desire, but because of a lack of networking skills. Or, as Francesco Polese said, “The relationship with a customer has a major impact on the total value received by that customer, because value is increasingly created and delivered over time as the relationship develops.”
Unfortunately, networking skills do not come naturally to every salesperson. Technology is partly to blame, suggests Ruth Sherman in Fast Company: “Dependence on remote forms of communication has left many younger workers bereft of interpersonal skills.”
Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon, leading experts in networking skills, have boiled the research down to eight critical skills needed for effective social networking.
Eight Critical Networking Skills:
1. Understand and leverage personal style: Networking is not just for the extrovert! Introverts can be just as effective at developing interpersonal networks; they just do it in a different way.
2. Strategically target your activities: Not all networking events or organizations are equal; you need to determine which events will give you the best return on your investment.
3. Systematically plan networking: Meaningful connections don’t just happen—planning activities, evaluating experiences, and anticipating next moves is what leads to great connections.
4. Develop relationships over time: You don’t meet someone today and become their trusted advisor tomorrow. You need to learn how to build relationships and with whom.
5. Engage others effectively: Sure, laughing and socializing with others is fun, but it is not how you create effective business networks. You need to learn how to engage meaningfully, remember people’s names, and make sure they remember yours.
6. Showcase your expertise: You can learn to talk about your accomplishments and skills without coming across as a braggart, and it is essential to do so if you are going to have an effective network.
7. Assess opportunities: Easy to join, hard to leave—it is essential that you evaluate your networking experiences relative to your changing goals and decide when to get more involved and when to exit gracefully.
8. Deliver value: At its core, networking is an exchange of value, whether it is time, information, or your talents. You need to be able to recognize what you have to give, as well as what you want to get.
These eight skills reflect a comprehensive body of knowledge that gives salespeople the skills they need to immediately begin to build organizational and personal success. Organizations can achieve better performance, have more effective employees, and bring products to market faster if they devote time and effort to building effective networking skills.
About the Author:
Michael Leimbach, Ph.D., is Vice President of Global Research and Design for Wilson Learning Worldwide. With over 25 years in the field, Michael provides leadership for researching and designing Wilson Learning’s diagnostic, learning, and performance improvement capabilities. Dr. Leimbach has managed major research studies in sales, leadership, and organizational effectiveness. He has developed Wilson Learning’s Impact Evaluation capability and return on investment models. Michael has served as a research consultant for a wide variety of global client organizations, is on the editorial board for the ADHR professional journal, and serves in a leadership role for the ISO technical committee TC232: Standards for Learning Service Providers. Michael has co-authored four books, has published numerous professional articles, and is a frequent speaker at national and global conferences. To learn more about the concepts shared within this article and how Wilson Learning can assist you in addressing these issues, contact Wilson Learning at 1.800.328.7937.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author. CPSA does not endorse any of the companies, products and services mentioned within this article.
The influence of networking culture and social relationships on value creation. F. Polese. In Firms’ Management: Processes, Networks and Value, 2009.
Uncovering the unconnected employee. A. Baber and L. Waymon. Training and Development, 2008 (May).
Shyness, social anxiety, and social anxiety disorder. L. Henderson and P. Zimbardo. (2010) In S. G. Hofmann & P. M. DiBartolo (Eds.), Social Anxiety: Clinical, Developmental, and Social Perspectives (2nd Ed.). Academic Press.
How leaders create and use networks. H. Ibarra and M. Hunter. Harvard Business Review, 2007.
Gen Y v. boomers: Generational differences in communication. R. Sherman. Fast Company, 2006 (December).
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