Expand Biz by Encouraging Employees to Network

Your networking efforts won't pay off until everyone in your biz takes part. These five tips will help you motivate them.

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By Ivan Misner

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Too many entrepreneurs focus on bringing in new businessthemselves or in tandem with the sales force but overlook theirsupport staff as a source of referrals. Building word-of-mouth foryour business is not just the responsibility of your marketing orsales department. As you might imagine, it's far better toengage your entire staff in your word-of-mouth marketingcampaign-not only at startup, but also throughout the life of yourbusiness.

Here are some tips on how to engage your staff innetworking:

1. Include networking in the job description for each andevery employee. Often, if a new hire knows upfront thathe's expected to incorporate networking into his job, it willhappen.

2. Have clear and reasonable expectations. If yourcompany manufactures a very obscure product, your staff might havea hard time bringing in tons of referrals. However, keep in mindthat people are more important in the networking process than thetype of product being sold. When you have the right person, he orshe will be able to build a network around any kind of product orservice.

3. Teach your staff how to network effectively for thecompany. Hold focus groups where you role-play ways to ask forreferrals from other customers, friends and family. Bring in localnetworking experts for in-house trainings. Better yet, send yourstaff to a networking class, such as the CertifiedNetworker Training, available in most markets.

If you belong to a weekly networking group, bring your staff tothose meetings one at a time so each member can see firsthand whatnetworking can produce. This also helps your networking partnersfeel that they know your business better, since they've beenable to meet the people in your company.

The bottom line: Until you teach someone how to do somethingeffectively, expecting them to do it well-or even at all-isunrealistic.

4. Motivate your staff to bring referrals to the company.My wife once worked for a business owner who incorporated monetarybonuses into her word-of-mouth marketing expectations. For everynew customer, she was given a bonus. It was a win-win arrangementfor the company, as each new customer brought in revenue well abovethe bonus amount, and my wife felt rewarded each time one of herreferrals came through the door.

Having a bonus system in place made it obvious that she would beattending chamber meetings with the boss and developing otherconnections in the community while passing out business cards andfliers for the company. To properly execute this idea, check withyour CPA or tax preparer.

You might even establish a "networker of the month"status for the staff, using a reserved parking spot or an overnighthotel stay somewhere fun as a reward. Make the motivation somethingthat's relevant to your industry and, most of all, exciting toyour staff.

5. Be sure your staff sees you practicing your networkingskills. Often, we as entrepreneurs don't share with ourstaff the amount of time and energy we put into building andmaintaining our businesses utilizing word-of-mouth marketing. Ihave always felt very strongly about this point. If I am going toexpect my staff to do something, motivate and reward them for doingit, I better let them see me doing it as well. All too often,networking is something done behind the scenes and not necessarilyin front of the staff.

One way to change this is to track how much business you broughtin, as well as the staff's numbers. Imagine the pride onecompetitive staff member will have when he or she breaks yournumber. Imagine the profits your company will realize when everyonein the company focuses on growing the business.

Networking is a group activity. Make sure to get your whole teamon board with the process.

Ivan Misner is a NewYork Times bestselling author and founder and CEO of BNI, the world'slargest referral organization with over 3,100 chapters in 17countries around the world. His new book, Masters of Successcan be viewed at www.MastersofSuccess.biz. Misner teachesbusiness at Cal Poly University, Pomona and resides in SouthernCalifornia with his wife and three children.

Ivan Misner

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Bestselling Author

Dr. Ivan Misner is a 'NY Times' bestselling author and co-author of the bestselling book, 'Networking Like a Pro' (Entrepreneur Press 2017). He is also the Founder & Chief Visionary Officer of BNI (www.bni.com), the world's largest referral marketing and networking organization.

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