Home health companies need to explore every possible venue to grow their businesses. A venue that is extremely valuable, but underutilized, is networking. Networking, sometimes referred to as relationship selling, includes the sharing of ideas, resources and other information that can benefit all parties. Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps in The Networking Book define networking as people connecting with people, linking ideas and resources. Ronald L. Krannich in Network Your Way to Job and Career Success states that networking is a communication process-exchanging information and receiving advice and referrals.
Networking relates to results, relationships, effectiveness and efficiency, and involves promoting yourself and others, giving, receiving, contributing, accepting and supporting.These are words that usually appear in a company’s mission, vision and purpose. These words reflect a mutually beneficial relationship.
Networking includes the sharing of ideas, resources and other information that can benefit all parties..
Networking has often been compared to other means of generating business such as cold calling, advertising and public relations, but networking usually comes out on top in terms of providing the greatest return on investment. People like to do business with people that they trust and where there is confidence in the quality of service provided.
There are many benefits to networking: it has been shown to generate 80 percent more results than cold calling; referral business compared to business generated from advertising is easier to close and costs a lot less; and a referred customer has a higher sense of trust, has fewer objections and remains a client longer. Networking is typically far less expensive compared to an extensive public relations campaign.
A structured word-of-mouth campaign must begin with the understanding that there is a segment of the public that wants you and your services as badly as you want their business. If you want to have good word-of-mouth marketing, you must generate it yourself. Too many business owners believe that an excellent product or service is enough to entice people to buy. Good customer service, in and of itself, cannot match the volume of business that can be generated by word-of-mouth marketing. Good customer service helps reduce or eliminate negative word-of-mouth, but it has little affect on positive word-of-mouth. Remember Rule 3-33; if you do something good, a person will tell three people, but if you do something bad, that same person will tell 33 people. Therefore, to increase your business you must do more than improve the quality of your customer service department.
Another aspect of networking today is the need for relationships. Every relationship is one of give and take. Ivan Misner, founder of Business Networking International and author of numerous best sellers on networking, coined the phrase, “givers gain.”
Relationships are more important today than ever because our work environment is in constant change, the workplace has become technological in nature, our job descriptions and roles have become broader in nature, we are experience more stress than ever before, and living without a strong reference group is a troubling phenomenon of modern times. People who fail to realize that in the end that all business is conducted through personal relationships, will fail themselves.
The following are some opportunities for networking:
1. Casual Contact: Any general business that allows membership to include many people from various overlapping professions. An example of such would be your local chamber of commerce.
2. Strong Contact: Any group that allows only one member per profession or business that meets weekly for the express purpose of exchanging leads and referrals.
3. Community Service: Any group that exists for the primary purpose of serving the community, such as Rotary, Kiwanis or Lions.
4. Professional Organizations and Associations: Any group of people in a single profession or business, whose primary purpose is to exchange information and ideas, such as a state medical equipment supplier organization or a local managed care group of nurses.
5. Social and Business Groups: Any group with a dual purpose that combines pleasure with business with the emphasis on the social aspect. Examples of such are the Jaycees or a Gourmet Club.
6. Women’s business organizations like the National Federation of Business and Professional Women.
Your best plan is to visit several networking opportunities within each group and select a well-rounded mix of organizations to join. Make sure that you visit each at least twice and talk to the members to get your questions answered.
Most members attend a networking function with no objective or plan in mind, but it is essential that you have a purpose for attending the event and set a plan of action for meeting particular members or businesses.
The secret of networking is to develop contacts that can help you accomplish your goals and can help you correct any mistakes that you make.
To design your own network, create the key essential functions: based components, an information network, a support network and a referral network. Make every occasion a networking opportunity. Arrive 15 minutes ahead of the scheduled start of the event, have a game plan in place with targets and goals, be a great listener and a good speaker, believe in what you do, and most importantly, be there with an attitude to help others grow their business.
Practice your presentation skills by preparing your 30-second commercial and try to include a memory hook that people will remember after you have left the room. Planning you actions before and after the event. Use an effective call activity and contact management system that will allow you to follow-up on each and every contact.
Remember, sales is like hunting for new customers and networking is like farming-cultivating relationships. Remember, to be successful in networking, you must first participate, communicate, educate and then reciprocate. Make sure you drop everyone a note that you networked with at trade shows like Medtrade Spring. If you didn’t do any networking, then start now by sitting down and creating your networking referral marketing plan.