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Why big companies need to network their staff

I recently gave my SOS Networking Skills presentation to the trainees and newly qualified young professionals in a large consultancy firm and I stressed the importance of following up after you meet someone and exchange contact details.

Following my talk I was approached by and ‘swapped’ business cards with 14 of the 40 or so delegates. I subsequently followed all of the 14 new contacts up with a mixture of phone calls, emails, letters and handwritten notes, including sending them information about events that I thought would be of particular interest and use to them.

In some cases, my ‘follow-up’ also included a personal invitation to an important business seminar that I believed would put them into direct contact with key decision makers, including Directors and CEOs from about 100 leading UK and international companies. From everything they had told me, these people are the ideal client group that they already work with as well as seek to establish new client relationships with.

What happened next was very interesting. While most people responded with at least a thank you, some didn’t communicate at all. Some people took up my offer to connect with me online via LinkedIn. Some, a very small number, responded with emails and have kept in touch ever since, via LinkedIn as well as personal thank you emails and phone calls. They have reciprocated and our business relationship has therefore developed.

Out of the 40 delegates I spoke to and made the offer to connect with, I find it particularly interesting to note that just 2 of my 14 new contacts also happen to be the people who chose to accept my invitation to attend the forthcoming business seminar. Just 2 out of 40 in the room that day saw this as an opportunity to network at a higher level and develop their skills and follow through on the opportunity to win new clients and new business for their firm.

What happened next was for me at least, even more interesting. As I connected with people within their firm on LinkedIn, I invited one of the Associates in the firm to attend the event and she accepted. This lady hadn’t attended my seminar so we are new contacts and as yet haven’t actually met in person.

Then I was asked by one of the two young professionals who had accepted my invitation if the Partner in Charge of her Department could attend, to which I naturally replied with a definite yes.

I now have 4 people from the same firm attending a key business event in their city, which will put them together in a room for half a day with at least 100 top decision makers and business leaders from their absolutely key client group. Because they hadn’t come into contact with the organisers of the event before and they personally knew nothing about it before I invited them, they now have a great new network of client contacts to work with.

Surprisingly even though they work in different departments within the same consultancy firm, in the same building, the 4 people concerned don’t all know each other and I, an outsider, have been the catalyst to introduce them as well as connect them via LinkedIn.

So what does this highlight?

For me it confirms that networking isn’t simply about getting out and meeting new contacts from other businesses and companies. Clear communication within companies is critical. The appropriate sharing of information and the building of relationships between colleagues is vital. Recognising that strategic alliances between co-workers can and will open fantastic new business opportunities, just as much and as certainly as strong contact relationships with people outside of the company will, is extremely important.

Poor communication and lack of communication leads to missed opportunities. Major companies should follow the example and thinking of this leading consultancy and network internally, just as much as they focus their attention on cultivating new relationships elsewhere.

This recent experience has also highlighted for me that the future ‘Rainmakers’ and therefore strong candidates to become future Partners for the firm, are the young professionals who are aware and alert to the value of building strong contact networks and key business relationships and they are doing it right now. Because the Partners in the firm I worked with recognise the true value of ‘getting their people talking’ consistent new opportunities and strong new relationships are established on a frequent basis.

Isn’t it interesting to note that these opportunities have come about because the firm concerned invested in the further skills development of its young professionals and ran an internal networking event.

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