Recently we had the privilege of chatting with Christie McCabe about ‘The Importance of Networking for your Staff.’ Christie has been running her baby, ‘Connection Kernel’ for the past 4-5 years and her passion lies in connecting with people and those around her in the business world. Christie prides herself in finding out who the person is behind the brand, behind the marketing, behind the business. She does this through connecting on LinkedIn, meeting for a coffee and genuinely finding ways to help the community grow. Christie truly believes that “If you help your community grow, it helps you as a person, as well as your family, due to the growing economy stimulated by your community’s growth”.
Networking is imperative for building a brand and gaining your customers’ trust. Many business owners don’t utilise their staff from a networking perspective despite the benefits it provides for the business. This could be due to a variety of reasons, such as staff ‘doing the doing’ rather than the building of the business, the sales and networking is often left to top management. However, it is extremely important for your staff to be out in the real business world, networking. Your employees know your brand extremely well, if not the best, so utilise this, even if it’s just once or twice a month.
This will help your staff to build their own:
Why is it important for staff to attend networking events?
It’s really important to network because your staff need to build their own brand which in turn builds yours. Believe it or not, showing up in the marketplace helps to build trust with your potential leads, current clients, suppliers and possibly even your board members. It can be extremely valuable to do this in the local area which helps to promote the fact that real people exist behind your business.
Your staff have a different perspective and an alternative take on what your business is all about. If they are in a Business Development role, a Marketing role or an Engineering position, they will have different perspectives on the business and bring different value to the business (Which you already know otherwise you wouldn’t have them). They will therefore present and market a different area of the business whilst networking, and provide insight into the business that you as the owner may never have thought of. In addition, a CEO may talk about the big picture stuff, whereas your staff will talk about the nitty gritty and get into the details of the inner workings which can excite your networks in a new way.
Additionally, networking provides a new environment for your staff to be challenged, stimulated and possibly help them to grow and be more motivated. It provides access to people they may never approach, conversations they wouldn’t normally be part of and insights into other businesses, employment and possibly alternative ways of doing things.
How to choose the right event for your staff to attend
We cannot overemphasise the importance of picking the right event for your staff to attend. Think about what the aim of attending the event is and choose the right STYLE of event to support this goal. This includes the people you’re trying to target in terms of connections, partnerships and clients etc as each style of event will attract different types of people. Sometimes it’s also just good to be out and about so it’s ok to choose an event that is purely for the joy. Be sure to engage your staff in the conversation about the goal, the networking event options and which ones are best for them (As each person will be different) and your business. Either way, time is valuable so being strategic with the event choice will ensure the goals are achieved without wasting anyone’s time.
If you or your team haven’t done much networking, Christie advises to “initially go to as many different events as you can to help you figure out what you enjoy, what type of people attend them, and what the aims might be for your staff and your business.”
How should your Staff show up?
In any professional environment you and your staff need to be aware of your appearance. Showing up to a trade industry event in a 3 piece suit may not entice the response you were hoping for and vice versa if you turn up to a business event in dirty work clothes and boots. Being deemed “unprofessional” (Whatever that looks like) has the potential to lose you work before you’ve been given the chance to showcase your skill and your business’ expertise.
Attire: When elaborating on business attire and choice of clothing, Christie says “she likes to choose something professional yet bold and memorable as this is her personality”. It all depends on you and the environment you are walking into, sometimes arriving in your work uniform is the best option. If you are in a suit, wearing memorable socks or a tie can be a great talking point. Dresses and stunning shoes could be a great conversation starter and a way to show your personality. Looking presentable is key. Also assess your outfit choice based on the event. If it’s super hot, maybe a suit isn’t necessary – nobody likes sweat patches!
Top Tip – Feel comfortable with what you’re wearing. It’ll help with your confidence and people will feed off of this, people can sense when you’re uneasy. If you’re not used to wearing a suit, don’t wear one. You don’t have to be the “social norm”, because this will also help you stand out. You can go against the grain, we give you permission!
Behaviour: Handshakes! Now that they’re “legal” again after the whole covid era, shake the person’s hand and focus on eye contact. Shake with authority and be confident with your first impression, after all confidence is key with networking and your first impression is everything.
Keep the conversation going, be interested in the person your chatting to and what they’re actually saying. Know when to finish the conversation and move onto the next person (or group of people), connect with multiple people, that’s the whole point of networking, it’s not “solo-working”.
Attitude: In terms of your attitude, if you’ve had a bad day, try to regroup before the event as people feed off energy and aren’t always a fan of a pessimist, or someone who is grumpy or distant. At the same time, you may like to be open and honest and say “I haven’t had the best day…”, just be cautious as to how you deliver this. Like anything you practice, the more you network, the better you’ll be. Make sure you are relaxed and comfortable by the time you get there and have your “go to” points to chat about so no matter what is thrown at you, you are prepared.
The importance of follow up
Especially in business, if you say you’re going to do something, no matter who you are, what you do or what you promised, if you don’t do what you said you would, it is bound to have a negative knock on effect.
When networking, it is easy to want to make connections and help people as much as possible. During conversations, if you can’t see a clear alignment, can’t refer to the right match for them, don’t say you will. People will think that if they were to get into business with you, you simply just won’t deliver. It’s about quality not quantity.
If it’s something quick and easy like adding someone on LinkedIn or following their social media page, do what you say you’ll do. You could even take out your phone and give them a follow right then and there. If you do it after the event, pop them a quick message; “Hi…, it was great meeting you at the event last week…”. Keep the relationship building, connection and conversation going. It can be helpful if you have a system in place to follow up before, during and after networking events. Check out this quick video from our business partner Krystle Clear Solutions on “The Best Business Networking System Every Business Owner Should Know”.
Top 3 Networking Tips
- Before your staff go to a networking event – Help them with their “Elevator Pitch”. They should be able to quickly articulate what your business does, who they do it for and how they can help. This will enable the listener to identify the niche and see who they could potentially connect them or your business with.
- Before you go to an event (especially if you have the opportunity to view the attendees) – Take a look at the list and target some people that you would like to meet and you would be interested in connecting with. If you feel comfortable, even ask the organiser of the event to introduce you once you get there.
- At the event – Don’t just ask a fellow networker what they “do”, take the time to get to know them and have a quality chat. Ask them what they do for fun, what makes them tick, get to know them as a person, not as a… Insert work role here.