What You Need to Know: Internal Networking

Posted on March 1st, 2024 to Uncategorized

One of the questions I get asked most often by my clients is how to meet more buyers within the companies they’re already serving (known as internal networking).

When they started their businesses, they thought it would be easy, after signing one contract, to get introductions to other decision-makers internally who needed their services. But they quickly found out it’s not so simple…

If you Google how to network internally to meet more buyers and grow the value of an account, you’re apt to find dozens of articles about how to get these introductions.

But what they don’t tell you is how to get these introductions in ways that actually lead to business. 

Let’s say you provide leadership development training to one department of a large CPG company and have a great relationship with your direct client. You’re trying to break into other departments and have asked your champion for internal referrals.

She replies with, “Sure – I’d be happy to pass along your name and capabilities deck to my fellow directors.” 

Sounds incredible, right?

Not so fast!

While an introduction is kind of her to make, the offer of passing on some information is not ideal.

In fact, many things would have to line up for this approach to lead to an actual opportunity.

Her fellow directors would need to be in acute pain. Their pain or needs would also have to be a top priority to solve. Plus, an interested director would need to have the budget and authority to get it done (BANT – budget, authority, need, timeliness).

If all four of those items are in place, you might get a call. And, if not, your deck and email will likely go unread or land in the trash.

The same principles of lead generation apply when you’re networking internally to meet new buyers: 

Meet them powerfully, not passively.

In this blog post, you’ll learn why connecting with other buyers within a company powerfully is critical, and four strategies to put yourself in the best position to make the most of your introductions.

Internal Networking Strategy #1: Bare Minimum

Let’s set the stage: your client graciously offered to share your details with a colleague. You’re thrilled but then they ask for a deck or the best link to share.

In terms of meeting other buyers powerfully, this is your absolute last resort, yet it’s the way many founders rely on. 

If all of the strategies below don’t work or aren’t at all possible (read to the end!), here’s your strategy:

-> Thank them for making the connection

-> Suggest sharing more information before a deck 

-> Reinforce the value of conversation vs. presentation (even over email)

-> Send a well-written introduction for them to share with their contact

Your ask for this might be something like this:

“Thank you for being willing to make the connection! Would you be open to sharing a bit about us with the CMO and see if they’d be willing to connect for a brief call?

With everyone so busy these days, I find that sharing a deck ahead of having a conversation can add to the overwhelm — when, in reality, we’re here to take work off your plates!

If you’re open to this approach, I’m sharing some wording you can copy/paste below. Of course, if you believe the best next step is to send our marketing materials, just let me know — you know your colleagues better then I do!”

While this approach is the bare minimum, you’ve done all you can to communicate your value in the early stages of the sales conversation.

Next up: enroll your Champion.

Internal Networking Strategy #2: Your Contact As “Co-Conspirator”

This approach works well with certain client personality types for whom you’ve provided a lot of value.

If you have a close working relationship — and they love you — you can loop them in and ask for their strategic help in making connections.

Here’s an example of how you might approach this conversation:

“I so appreciate you being willing to share my name and info — however, because people are so overwhelmed these days, I find that these types of introductions don’t get very far.

Do you think that could be the case here, or are they likely to take action because it’s coming from you? If you fear it won’t get far, I wonder if we could get creative…”

You can then share suggestions about similar scenarios and ideas you’re confident will work in this instance.

Here are some suggestions:

Make a Strategic Offer of Your Time & Expertise

If your “co-conspirator” is in close relationship with your desired contact, you can coach them to offer an hour of your time 1-1.

This works exceptionally well if your co-conspirator knows the potential buyer needs help and can say: 

“Hey — I’m working with this great company, and I think they could help you, too. I’m sure the founder would be willing to give you an hour to ‘borrow her brain’ — want me to make the intro?”

Leverage an Upcoming Event

If there’s an upcoming industry event, suggest attending together so your champion can introduce you to the desired client. 

Position it as a casual meet-up rather than a formal meeting, lowering barriers and creating a more open, relaxed environment for introduction.

Craft a Customized Value Proposition

Tap into your champion’s insider insight to create a highly customized value proposition, demonstrating how meeting with you could address specific challenges or opportunities they face.

This approach shows you’ve done your homework and are capable of providing value.

Not all of these creative ideas are appropriate or viable, but by enlisting your champion as a co-conspirator, you increase your chances of powerfully connecting with new business prospects. 

Internal Networking Strategy #3: Share an Invite

You can show up powerfully by extending an invitation to a relevant and enjoyable event via your champion.

One of my clients hosts a virtual panel discussion on hot topics and invites leads and strategic referral partners to share the spotlight. The leads and partners are eager to accept the invitation to be on the panel, as it gives them an opportunity to flex their thought leadership muscles, network with peers and show off in their LinkedIn feeds!

My client regularly uses these panel spots to invite new contacts/buyers from within the companies they serve — a very powerful way to meet new contacts and show you value their expertise.

Here’s a simple script that allows your champion to look like a hero and connector to their colleague.

“Hey Laura, we’re looking for a CMO to contribute to a discussion around the topic of X. Do you think your CMO would be interested? She’s had some really insightful posts on LinkedIn about it, and I think our community would love to hear from her.”

Another client actively engages the expertise of higher-ups in organizations they’re already working with by inviting them to contribute to white papers or articles they’re working on.

As with strategy #2, many innovative ways to open the door to new projects with other Decision-Makers exist.

Internal Networking Strategy #4: Plug Into Existing Opportunities

Are there any existing opportunities you can plug into within the company to get in front of other internal buyers?

For example, the company may hire speakers or workshop leaders as part of their C-suite off-site. Or they may regularly invite experts to lead seminars or company-wide trainings.

It’s easier to get face-time with busy Decision-Makers with existing opportunities, rather than to carve out time in their schedules, so ask. You never know where the road may lead.

Tying Together Internal Networking

Mastering the art of internal networking is not just about expanding your network within an organization. It’s about taking a powerful vs. passive approach to building new relationships.

You’ll increase your chances of success and establish a foundation for long-term partnerships by employing strategies ranging from:

  • making the most of the bare minimum connections
  • engaging your champions as co-conspirators
  • sharing invites to events
  • plugging into existing opportunities

Are you using internal networking in your process? Do you have another approach that’s worked for you? 

You’re invited to join me and a group of ambitious founders every month for the Sales Roundtable where we discuss your most pressing sales topics. It’s free! Check it out and register here

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