Once your organisation reaches a certain size, it becomes impossible to keep track of every point of outside contact. Each department will have its own address book, its own email contacts database. Marketing will talk to one group of people, sales another, business development yet another. Developers and engineers, PR people, managers – each department will have their own contacts.
There will be some overlap between departments, but not as much as you might expect. Sales and support teams will share some organisational contacts, for example, but the people they talk to within those organisations will be different.
What this means is that you have a wide range of external business contacts in your organisation, spread throughout numerous departments. And the chances are you’re not making the most of this network. But you should – and you can.
For once, the solution to this problem isn’t solely a technological one. Instead, you can learn from scientists. Until a few years ago it was rare for scientists from different disciplines to talk to one another. Physicists avoided biologists, chemists steered clear of sociologists and psychologists, while mathematicians and cosmologists wandered off and did their own thing.
It’s only in the last ten years that inter-disciplinary scientific seminars have become really popular, and the results have been spectacular. Each discipline has learned from the others, and continues to do so. For example, evolutionary psychology and mathematics are being used to predict future crimes, while physics and chemistry are helping unravel the biology of our senses. Much of this has come about through the sharing of information – and contacts.
The same approach can work for your business. Begin by finding ways in which different departments can interact more often, on an informal basis. A good start can be made by rearranging your office space so that social areas such as kitchens and breakout rooms are shared by different departments. This will help reduce any ‘them and us’ feeling between different groups of people.
Then you can go further. Invite key staff from each department to give regular presentations to the other departments. It doesn’t have to be often; perhaps once a month. Do this in person and keep it informal, with no Powerpoint slides or lengthy prepared notes. The idea is for people to share information about what they’re working on – and who they’re talking to.
You will soon find connections being made, new contacts that wouldn’t otherwise have surfaced. And these will lead to new business opportunities. The next step is to take advantage of those new opportunities. For each new connection that’s made, ask the primary contact in your organisation to send an email introducing the new person. For example:
“Hi Steve, it’s John from Big Corp here. I wanted to introduce you to Jane in Marketing (cc’d) as she has some ideas that might be of interest to you.”
Take the time to ensure all this email communication is professional and consistent. When people receive emails from different people in the same organisation, they expect those emails to have the same branding and design. That’s not always easy if your R&D department sends emails from a desktop PC but your sales team uses smartphones while on the road. So use a professional email signature service to do the work for you – they’ll add your branding to every outgoing email automatically, regardless which device it’s being sent from.
That’s all it takes to open up new connections from your business to a client or potential client. And the more of these connections you can create, the stronger your business network will become. It’s just like the human brain: the more connections we make, the more intelligent we become.