The ABCs of sales has changed dramatically over the past few years. ABC used to mean Always Be Closing. Now, ABC means Always Be Connected. The repercussions of this development has obvious implications for IT professionals. The same way that people do business with people they know, like and trust; people will only use IT equipment/networks that are easy to use, efficient and reliable.
The commonalities between business networking and IT networking are many and varied. Firstly, let’s have a look at ease of use. Your IT system needs to be robust and user friendly. It may be argued that the best system is impenetrable which using a narrow definition means that no one can get in, not even intended users. Your system would be strong but pointless! Therefore, your IT network needs to be fit for purpose and users have to be comfortable using it otherwise it becomes a hindrance rather than an enabler to meet business goals. The same can be said for your business network. You need to surround yourself with people who are easy to work with – people that your clients will find easy to do business with. The top geek or specialist in their field will not help grow your business or reputation if they are difficult and not customer driven. Every referral reflects on you.
Secondly, your network has to be efficient.
This applies to both your business network and your IT network – time is money after all. I am told that it takes seven mouse clicks or less to book a flight online these days. This is a great statistic as long as you get the flight you want for the price you are willing to pay. Speed should not be confused with efficiency. To ensure the most effective system is implemented, a full client brief and requirements gathering process is needed so that the system can deliver optimal results. The business networking parallel would be ensuring that your network yields referrals and leads that are virtually pre-qualified. To ensure effective use of time, market segmentation and research is needed to work out who and where networking efforts are best expended. Your network should open the door to warm sales calls to increase the likelihood a lead is converted into a sale. Remember, your network is an extension of your marketing team.
Lastly, your network has to be reliable.
All the contacts in your business network must share the same customer driven approach as you do. This means that all referrals must be followed up and service delivery must match your standards. Reliability builds trust and as I have said before, people do business with people they know, like and trust. If a contact in your network is unreliable you can not continue to keep the contact in your network. This is as true from an IT perspective – you wouldn’t keep an unreliable piece of code or equipment in your system so why would you have it in your business network? With IT networks, clients need the certainty that any system downtime is kept to a minimum and redundancy is built into the system.
There are many similarities between your business network and your IT network. Accordingly, we believe that this makes maintaining both a matter of priority for any business. It is also critical to bear in mind that business networking does differ to IT networking in one important area – while there are similar protocols and handshakes in business networking, the transaction isn’t a simple one for one swap of information or referrals. I have had referrals passed on to me months after meeting a contact and vice versa. The key is to Always Be Connected so that you give your network a chance to work for you and gift you referrals as they come up. In summary, a good network hums along in the background with some maintenance from you to keep it going so that it enables you to achieve your business goals.