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The Power of Business Networking

31 Dec

As our final blog post of 2009, we are featuring Inquisix member Shiera O’Brien‘s article on The Power of Business Networking.

Best wishes for a wonderful, healthy and prosperous 2010!

In the early 90s, a film called Six Degrees of Separation built its story around the idea that we are all separated by six degrees from everybody else on the whole planet. Everybody is an open door into another world and knows the people you are looking to meet or companies you want to work with. Everybody is connected on this planet by a trail of only six people, whether you are famous or not. If you find the right people to make the connection with, distance vanishes and the right opportunities will come your way.

In thinking about this I decided to look on YouTube to remind myself of the key ideas in this film and whether it really does have any relevance to our business life today. To my surprise and delight, I found a documentary on scientists who have studied and written an algorithm to prove this network theory, which they worked on for years. It shows that nature has this hidden blueprint and structure that connects us all. The scientists mapped it out and tested it on people by taking parcels across the world and asking 27 people to only use their social networks to get the package to a person on the other side of the world. It was amazing how quickly the parcels moved closer to the addressee, who was a scientist working at Harvard University in Boston.

This is an idea worth experimenting with in our daily business lives. I apply it in my own business strategy by making my business networks help with word-of-mouth marketing and create the connections and opportunities I seek with particular companies. There is no better example of the power of networks than the latest Web 2.0 social media networks. If you test the theory within your own social circle, you will find very quickly that people have connections that can open doors for you. Many of your connections within your business circle either know each other or have a contact into a client or employer that you may be looking to meet.

Looking at our own economy and applying this to our client-building strategy or job search, makes me think that the traditional ways of building businesses and finding jobs is far too slow. In this day and age, you need to be tapping into your personal, social and professional networks, if you want to get faster results. Systematically searching for the right people through your networks, using a plan, will yield faster results every time than a traditional approach of throwing out a blanket of hopeful letters and calls. In human nature, people will always respond faster to people they know than to strangers.

You may be asking yourself, “How is that in any way relevant to me?” If you are looking grow your practice or find new opportunities, it is very relevant. My suggestion to you is to take it out and test the theory yourself.

Here are six steps to help you in your own Six Degrees experiment:

Step 1: Connect into the network hub

The scientists tell us that in every network there is a traceable hub, where the core activity takes place. It is the place where people gather and take information about you back into their world. Even more interesting is that within each hub, you will find the “human hub”, the person with the highest degree of influence and connectivity. They are important people to know and start building relationships with. What they do for a living is irrelevant, their social currency is what you really want to tap into! Identify this person within your networks. This includes your family and friend networks, professional networks, membership organisations, and most importantly your on-line networks. Ask yourself, “Who are the people gathering around me with the most influential links?” Make sure you set up your social media accounts (LinkedIn, Facebook, Inquisix and Twitter) to build your on-line treasure chest.

Step 2: Have a networking plan

Key to getting the results you want is deciding or naming the companies and roles of people you wish to meet through your network, whether at networking events or through your on-line contacts. Then identify a very good reason why they would want to meet you. Human nature is designed to act principally from self-interest, which is driven by the reptilian part of our brains. So people will always unconsciously ask “What’s in this for me?” Give your network and potential contacts a worthwhile reason to want to meet you. Perhaps it’s to share some information, opportunities, save them money or help them use your networks.

Following on from that, it is important to have something to share about you that’s of value to them, and sets you apart. Direct them to your website, literature, testimonials or information that you think they would benefit from. Ask them to do you a favour. Most people like doing favours for others and help their own business contacts. It helps cement relationships.

Step 3: Authenticity at networking events

There is no end of opportunities to attend networking events as we go into the autumn. Networking is not just about getting into a room to break the world record for the largest business card collection. Nor is it a popularity contest on social media. The most valuable asset you can bring to a networking event is your authentic self. Be real, be present, engage and listen to people as you would if you were at a social gathering. And avoid talking about yourself all the time. Ask great questions. They don’t have to be about business. Get to know people, because relationships are built on this. Even if you only meet 3-4 quality contacts and have agreement to follow up and meet, you will have done a great job. Set a goal of having at least 2 meetings come out of a networking event.

Step 4: The Follow-Up

The downfall of people’s networking strategy is either poor follow-up, no follow-up or the full- blown sales pitch in an email. Think of your follow-up as a “getting-to-know-you” phase of your relationship. It must happen within 24 hours to reinforce the connection you made. Acknowledge the meeting, the event and create the invitation to connect on LinkedIn, Inquisix or Twitter. You will need to explore which of these ones suits your business needs. And ignoring emails is a poor reflection on your business, so avoid it at all costs. Arrange a follow-up meeting, even if it’s for a coffee to learn more about each other’s business, in anticipation of opportunities down the line. This is always a great starting point.

Step 5: The Power of Reciprocity

Give without expecting something back demonstrates how powerful reciprocity can be. If you see an opportunity to share some information or introduce a contact to your contacts, “Just Do It.” This is building some credit for reciprocal behaviour from others in the future. I saw this recently when I did a favour for a business contact. In return, an out of the blue opportunity came my way through the person I did the favour for. I was the first person that came to mind. This is the power of reciprocity.

Step 6: Build it and they will come

People often give up before they reach the momentum that makes them a network hub in their own right. They are inconsistent or dismiss people as not being of value. I suggest a rule of thumb is to treat everybody you meet like your clients, even your “so-called” competition, as they may be a vital link for a joint venture in the future.

It’s far too easy to assume people in your network as not worth knowing, because they wouldn’t understand your business of have the right kind of contacts. The business people I have met are very intelligent so give them your time! And don’t be a dabbler by attending networking events, gathering cards, connecting on social media sites and then abandon ship. Use your 20:20 vision. See the value in everybody you meet as a chain in your network and a part of your most valuable asset: your contact database.

To truly understand the power of networking, read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, who writes brilliantly about Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople. These are the people turning their businesses around, making money and finding great jobs, when the masses are doing things the old way. Be a pioneer in your business or profession and tap in that that rich reservoir. Your best client or the perfect job is only six handshakes away.

Biography
About Shiera O’Brien: Shiera is an expert in sales optimisation. She specialises in consulting and training companies in sales and communication strategies to their clients. She offers training and coaching on business networking, communication skills, presenting and selling excellence. Contact her in Ireland on (086) 399-6601 or shiera@zenithtraining.ie Visit www.zenithtraining.ie for more information.

By Referral Only – Wed Dec 30 event

8 Dec

If you’d like to learn more about building and strengthening your business 100% thru referrals then I highly recommend you attending this special event from a master networker and early Inquisix member, Rick Roberge.

Rick’s program, “By Referral Only” will be offered on Wednesday December 30th, 2009 from noon to 1:30pm US ET. You have two options of attending  – you can be there in-person in Westboro, MA, USA or participate via webinar.

But act fast, as the first 24 people who register for each event using “RR1230” as the discount code will receive a $50 discount when they register.

Pick your option but don’t do nothing!

Join in-person

Join online

Joanne Black adds social networking links to her site

26 Aug

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of Joanne Black and her book, “No More Cold Calling” because so much of what she writes is the foundation on what Inquisix is built upon.   When Dave and I were first sharing the referral exchange idea that became Inquisix, we were introduced to Joanne by Philippe Lavie, sales trainer from Chicago.  Joanne and I talked a few times and then agreed to meet at the first Sales 2.0 conference in San Francisco.  I had a chance to pick up Joanne’s book and read it before meeting her in Chicago.  I felt like I was in college again because when I was done reading her book, it was filled with my yellow highlighting.  I’ve now met Joanne a few times while I’m in San Francisco and her advice on building a better Inquisix has proven invaluable.

NoMoreColdCalling

Joanne has now extended her website’s offerings to include a blog, Facebook page and Twitter account.  It’s now even easier to get her good advice.

Talk Radio Event: Emergence of Reputation Networks : Sept 23, 2009

23 Aug

Jon Hansen hosts a Talk Radio Show, “PI Window on Business” that reaches an estimated 300,000 syndicated subscribers worldwide every month.  The PI Social Media Network is internationally recognized for its ability to identify, structure and disseminate the ideas and visions that are reshaping the emerging global enterprise.

JonHansen

He’s talking with Michael Kreppein, Chief Sales Officer of Inquisix, to examine more closely the emergence of “reputation networks” and their effects on personal branding in the Web 2.0 world. Reputation networks, like Inquisix, are gaining ground to combat the growing problem within the realms of social networking, where references or testimonials are bartered by an ever-expanding network of interloping relationships between name collectors versus relationship builders.

Please join us.

Wednesday September 23, 2009 at 12.30pm ET

Networking : The Key To Your Next Job

18 Aug

Editor’s Note:  At Inquisix, the networking is primarily for building your business.  But sometimes you need to start your business or career again.  Which is why when Inquisix member Debbie Boucher asked me if she could post about finding a job through networking on our blog, I agreed.  After all, I referred her to one of her jobs.

Can networking help you get your next job?  Absolutely!  In this current economy, networking plays a critical role in landing your next job.

The New York Times recently published an article entitled, “Network To Find A Job – The Basics” By Vault.com.  The article talks about how 80 percent of jobs are through word of mouth and how managers first go to their network asking for referrals.  Here’s an excerpt from Marcy Lerner’s book, “Vault Guide to Schmoozing“:

We’ve moved past the point where we expect that jobs will be mainly filled through company recruiting and advertising. According to widely-cited statistics, 75 to 80 percent of all job-seekers find their new position through referrals; most openings never see the light of day (or newsprint). By schmoozing, you make word-of-mouth work in your favor. You can learn about a variety of industries and make friends and contacts whom you can call upon for career advice or assistance. . . .”

I’ve had firsthand experience in networking.  Over the past 11 years, three of my last four jobs were due to networking based on people I’ve worked with or who referred me to colleagues.

I’m constantly networking.  Case in point, I recently finished my kickboxing classes for the season (BTW, love it).  I attended the classes for 12 weeks and ended up knowing everyone in the class as well as what they do for work and vice versa.  I was able to get my niece to join the class and we talked about networking and how important it was (especially since she was out of a job).  As a result of our discussion and through networking, she was able to get a job by one of the HR Managers who was taking the class as well.  She is now a strong believer in networking; thus the reason for this blog posting.

Matt Bertuzzi, a colleague of mine at The Bridge Group, and I recently posted a survey in several groups within LinkedIn for feedback.   We received over 75 responses (thanks to all who participated) and found that “networking” helped 90% of respondents find at least one job.  That says a lot!  So here’s the breakdown:

Has “networking” ever helped you find a job?

DebbieB-1

Over 50% of respondents report that networking helped "every time" or "almost every time"

 

Also interesting was who within their networks provided assistance in finding the job. Here is what the survey shows:

What was the nature of your connection?

(Select all that apply)

DebbieB-2

Colleague (57%)  and Friend (43%)  were the top two connections in "getting the job".

 

Have anything you’d like to add?  Then please post!

Inquisix Member Debbie Boucher is an Inside Sales Consultant for The Bridge Group, Inc.

 

When a referral is not a referral

28 Oct

I read a great blog post this morning by Diane Helbig on the SalesDog blog entitled, “Don’t Use My Name!

She writes about people who give out someone else’s contact information and tell you to call them but, “…don’t use my name!”  And they consider it a referral.  That’s not a referral, that’s an invitation to start a cold call.

What’s a true referral?  When the person making the referral makes the introduction on your behalf.

You calling someone and saying, “So-and-so gave me your name and told me to call you.” is not a true referral.  And Diane’s example is nothing like a referral. I agree!

Diane thinks this behavior is worse than a cold call because it damages the reputation of the person giving out the contact information and the person acting on that information.

Then she goes on to discuss what quality referrals really mean.

Please go read her article in full!

Referral Expo 2008 – Register for Free NOW

1 Oct

There’s a little more than one week left to take advantage of the Referral Expo 2008. We’re in the last stretch of 2008: Gain insight, expertise, new ideas, and power yourself through this these challenging economic times.

The Referral Expo is a virtual event, conducted over the phone. It’s free to attend, but registration is limited:

  • Breathe new life into your business
  • Generate more referrals
  • Find better quality referrals

Get new, innovative ideas! Bolster yourself against the economy. The Referral Expo 2008: Register now.

In times like these, building relationships and creating referrals are the keys to success. By attending this virtual expo, you’ll get loads of innovative ideas and strategies for generating referrals – all from the comfort of your home or office.

The Referral Expo 2008
Tap into 15 world-class marketing experts as they share their best referral strategies. I’m honored to be included in the team presenting at this year’s Referral Expo.

What: Referral Expo 2008
When: Now through October 10th

  • Each 1-hour presentation will be conducted over the phone on successive weekday evenings.
  • Monday – Friday at 5:00pm Pacific / 6:00pm Mountain / 7:00pm Central / 8:00pm Eastern

Cost: FREE
Register now!

See you there!

8 Steps to Recession-Proof Your Business

25 Jun

To continue the theme of our March 2008 posting on Recession-Proof Selling, here are three more steps to accelerate your sales, retain your loyal customers and attract new business without increasing your cost of sales.

Steps 1-5 are here.

6. Stay Connected
Get out there. Attend at least one networking event a week. Even better—attend three. Talk to people, find out how you can help each other. Pick up the phone. Email is great, but you’ll get the best information and the most productive relationships when you have a person-to-person conversation.

7. Don’t Cut Price
Many pundits say that the worst thing we can do in a lagging economy is to cut price. Yes and No. Adjusting your price should never be the first thing you do. A marketing expert told me that 95 percent of salespeople cut price before they’re even asked. If you do adjust your price, always get something in return. (Trim fat, not muscle.) Carve out your work and offer smaller chunks. Get in and get started. Help your clients in a down economy and be there when their business turns around.

8. Commit to Building Your Referral Business
What if you could reach your market without hard costs—no marketing budget, no direct mail budget, no advertising budget, no trade show budget. The only budget you need to worry about is your “Time & Referrals” budget—simply your time…your time to ask for referrals!

You know about referrals. When a qualified prospect is referred, you get a new client a minimum of 50 percent of the time, and typically between 70 and 90 percent of the time. Additionally, you are pre-sold, your selling time decreases, you have credibility, and you ace out the competition. There is no other business-development process that can claim these results. Results are the only thing that matter.

Bottom line: Sell more with higher margins, accelerate your “win” ratio, and take business away from the competition.

Become a referral-selling star from your home or office with my No More Cold Calling Webinars.

Marty’s Top 7 Rules Of Networking

14 May

We have a guest author today. Marty Eerhart is an Inquisix member and manages a nationwide mortgage broker and lender business based in Rhode Island. He previously owned a sales and management training company providing networking training sessions coast-to-coast.

Marty’s Top 7 Rules Of Networking

1. Don’t sell at networking meetings. Your goal is to meet people. You don’t have time to do a good sales presentation. Besides, there will be too many distractions.

2. The best way to get something from networking is to give something. Don’t expect to get leads when you never give others leads. Networking is like marriage: You get out of it what you put in it.

3. Remember me? When someone asks you what you do, say something memorable. This way it is easier for the other person to think of you when they meet someone who needs your product or service.

4. Qualify the people you meet into three categories: Potential clients, source of referrals, interesting-but-nothing-more. Realize that not everyone will be a prospect. Networking is more then prospecting. It is also finding people who could lead you to potential new customers.

5. Networking is more like farming then hunting. It takes time to cultivate and harvest. But once the harvest season starts, you will be well compensated.

6. Did you miss me or am I just another number? Remember the first date you went on? You waxed the car. You put on your best clothing, shaved or put make-up on. You opened the door for the other person. You paid him or her a compliment. But after you see them a few times, the extra efforts are gone. Keep all your meetings like the first one!

7. Remember, it is net*work*, not net*eat* or net*play.* It takes energy and effort to make network work for you.

Recession-Proof Selling

13 Mar

The U.S. economy is in a funk. Have your phones stopped ringing yet? The “R” word–recession–is back. Housing starts are falling, the consumer price index keeps jumping, the stock market is like a roller coaster, massive layoffs occur daily, and renowned companies are declaring bankruptcy. The Fed has lowered its projection for economic growth. Is it 2001 all over again?

How do you tackle economic uncertainty? Cut advertising, travel, training, marketing, and discretionary expense line items? Cut purchasing? Ouch! The pipeline starts to dry up and the anxiety level goes through the roof. Many people think that since there’s nothing they can do, they should just do nothing. But “nothing” is futile thinking.

What if you could reach your market without hard costs–no marketing budget, no direct mail budget, no advertising budget, no trade show budget? The only budget you need to worry about is your “Time & Referrals” budget–simply your time…your time to ask for referrals!

You know about referrals. When a qualified prospect is referred to us, we get a new client a minimum of 50 percent of the time and typically between 70 and 90 percent of the time. Additionally, we are pre-sold, our selling time decreases, we have credibility, and we ace out the competition. There is no other business-development process that can claim these results. Results are the only thing that matters.

Here are five “Killer Steps” to accelerate your sales in a lagging economy, retain your loyal customers, and attract new business without increasing your cost of sales.

1. Broaden Your Perspective
What business are you in? Redefine and reinvent yourself. Is Starbuck’s in the coffee business or the people business? Build new alliances and consider alternate distribution channels. Don’t go solo. Assemble a group of advisors and get their input and creative ideas.

2. Be Nimble and Innovative
You’ll never have all the facts. Make quick decisions. Be fearless and make tough choices. Create new uses for your products. Why not a new business model?

3. Dazzle Your Current Customers
Your current customers need care and feeding. Don’t ignore them at the expense of new business, because they are your best source for new business.

4. Prioritize Wisely
The most important activity for any salesperson is to do what’s “closest to cash” the first thing every single day-whether it’s following up with a prospect, writing a proposal, or closing a deal.

5. Become an Expert
Companies hire experts because they can’t afford to make mistakes. Position your company as the expert with a specific product or in a specific market niche.

Bottom line: Sell more with higher margins, accelerate your “win” ratio, and take business away from the competition.