Senior Managers have different contacts and networks from the rest of the company. Their contacts are of a higher level. It is important that Senior Managers build their profile and have a planned strategy to work their network in order to get more business. Even Managers in Accounts and HR will have, or should have, a network of counterparts within other companies. Every Manager should see it as a part of their role to be proactive in working their network and contacts to build stronger relationships or gain market intelligence that could lead to new business.
This can not be delegated to someone in a lower level within the company as their contacts and network will be at a lower level of authority.
A strong network with regular contact within client or joint-venture companies, will ensure:
- You learn market intelligence early
- You learn about changes within the client company
- You learn about new projects earlier
- You learn about on-going problems which you may have solutions for
- You are up to date with arrivals of new people or replacements
- Your relationships will strengthen
When you have a planned strategy, you leave nothing to chance and do not have to rely on memory, skill or inclination. You will be in the right place at the right time to offer ongoing support and create added value to the client.
There should also be a budget allocated for Managers to take clients to functions, lunches or coffees. Plus there should be KPI’s to measure the networking activities and the annual results.
How Is this Done?
Each Manager makes a list of clients and segments them by priority such as Gold, Silver and Bronze. The goal is to strengthen the relationship and get more work from Gold.
Gold would be an existing active relationship and a significant amount of work. The goal with Silver is to move it to Gold, and move Bronze to Silver.
Occasionally, you will drop clients from your Bronze status and put new clients into this segment. Companies grow and change either through natural growth or through merger and acquisition.
Once a client has been allocated into a segment, each Manager must make a decision about the frequency of the contact, the type of contact and the manner that suits them. The company may set a Matrix with set frequency for each segment. If the contact is decided to be monthly, then within a quarter, you may have a coffee meeting one month, contact by email another month and invite them to be your guest at a business breakfast the next month.
Functions ideal for inviting clients
I recommend that you subscribe to a paper with a strong focus on business. They will promote breakfasts and functions that would make great opportunities to invite clients to attend as your guests. Other opportunities are charities which have business breakfasts or speakers and Chamber of Commerce functions.
The ultimate objective of networking is to meet new people with the intention of either converting them into potential clients or to establish ongoing relationship. So, simply meeting them is not enough, you have to know firstly how to meet them and how to start a new relationship and how to keep it going.
It is important that all Managers learn how to network effectively. Therefore, they either need training or operations manual modules that cover the following:
How to network effectively when you know no one in the room
How to work a room, how to approach a group of people you don’t know, what to say, how to move on and how to connect quickly and be remembered.
The business card system
How to follow-up by email or phone call.
What to do prior, during and after the function to create new relationships
How to make a call when you have nothing to say
How to make a ‘cold’ call where the person willingly agrees to meet
How To Build and Maximise your Profile
Strategies to build, maximise and extend your network
The final part of this strategy is the sharing of the information gained. This can be an informal process but this is often not shared with all the people who could take advantage of the information. Managers should share in their weekly Management meetings, any market intelligence or change in the companies they are in contact with. This would then be filtered down to other levels where they could use this information as a reason to make contact with their network. Again, this works best as a formalized process.