Tag Archives: referral

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.

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.


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.

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?


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)


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.


Do you "Give to Get" or "Give for Money" Referrals?

3 Aug

Did anyone see JigSaw’s recent announcement that they’ve sent up an exchange where you can sell a referral to your contacts?  It’s called “JigSaw Connect” and given the number of members they have (850K registered  members), this could be the first exchange to make selling a referral by the individual sales rep successful.

Selling a referral to your customer isn’t anything new.  Companies have been doing it at the corporate level for years.  They call it the affiliate program or the business development partner program or just the reseller program.  And this seems to be a well understood and accepted practice by the customers.

Individual sales reps and agents selling a referral to their customer in certain industries isn’t new, either.  The introduction of a mortgage broker by the real estate agent that just found your new home probably comes with a kick-back to the agent from the mortgage broker.  Maybe the referral fee is not as well understood by the consumer but I don’t think anyone would be surprised.

Now JigSaw is taking this to a new level.  It’s at the rep level where an individual rep can earn $200 by referring their customer to any vendor that’s signed up to advertise on JigSaw Connect.  And it’s many industries, even ones where traditionally the selling of referrals at the rep level is frowned upon.  The only other site I’ve seen that offers this exchange of referrals for cash is SalesConx, a startup based in New York City.  But they don’t have the membership scale that JigSaw has.

I’ll be very interested to see how JigSaw Connect fares.  JigSaw itself received a lot of negative press early on because people were offended that their business information was sold anonymously.  JigSaw will say that they’re just collecting business information differently than a Hoovers or OneSource but aren’t any different in the information they deliver.  I’ve used JigSaw for years and Inquisix is a JigSaw data partner so I don’t have an issue with the service.

Still, selling referrals versus giving referrals is an interesting dilemma for some.  BNI members give referrals to get them in return, i.e. “Givers Gain“.  At Inquisix, we encourage members to give referrals to increase their reputation with their own customer.  But no money is exchanged.

Would you anonymously sell the business cards you’ve collected to a data broker, i.e. JigSaw?

Would you sell a referral to a business contact you have?

There’s a big jump in effort, responsibility, and reputation between the 2 questions.  Let’s see how this pans out.

Managing Customers in the Short Term for the Long Term

28 Jun

How do you treat long-time customers when the economy is this challenging?  Are you tightening the rules to manage costs or are you more liberal in your policies?

I went to a business that I had purchased from for many years but not over the last year.  They greeted me warmly as if I had just talked with them yesterday, with no hint of criticism or complaint in their voice.

Later that day, I went to another business that I also frequent often.  They know me well enough to recommend new products they think I’d like.  And they know I’ve referred other customers to them. I was 90 minutes late in returning an item I had rented and they wanted to charge me another full day.  It’s their policy and it’s posted.  When I asked for leniency, the owner’s reply was, “It’s our policy and you need to pay.”

The next day I received a rather large bill.  I had made a mistake in understanding the rules so the bill was correct if unwelcome.  When I asked the Accounts Payable person for some flexibility, I was flatly turned down.  When I asked to speak to the owner, I was told that he refused to discuss these issues with anyone.  “Even customers who’ve purchased from him for 20 years?” I asked.  The answer was, “Yes.”

The economy is going to get better.  I will spend more money.  I will continue to make referrals to my vendors.  Which vendor mentioned above will continue getting my business and my referrals?

White Paper Available – Inquisix Referral Networking

4 Mar

Whether you’re a front-line sales rep hunting for new business, a consultant delivering solutions, or small business owner communicating with customers, board members and employees, it’s all about selling: selling to win new business or selling to retain customers in an increasingly competitive marketplace. So what’s the deal with the buzz around emerging Sales 2.0 solutions? Which approaches are best able to fill the pipeline? How can you integrate informal networking with the latest technologies?

This White Paper by Michael Kreppein, Inquisix’s Chief Sales Officer, explores the value of referral networking by using Inquisix to combine your in-person with your online networking.

Please download the White Paper in pdf format by clicking the link below.

Inquisix White Paper on Referral Networking

Networking is for Mentoring, too

14 Jan

I read just a great article today about 6 brothers who are all successful IT sales reps in the Boston area.  You can read the full article at MassHighTech and it’s well worth the read.  They said that the main reason for their success was the mentoring they all did amongst themselves over Sunday dinner.  They did it themselves because they found that “…many companies put less emphasis on mentorship and training than they should.

MassHighTech 6 Murphy Brothers

The brothers not only mentor each other but take pride in mentoring the new hires working for them.

Do you have a mentor?
Who are you mentoring?

Creating a Referral Machine

7 Jan

John Jantsch has a great blog post about creating a systematic process for creating referrals that everyone in the company should be using.

You can find the link here.  I don’t see anything dramatically unique in his steps but they’re all important and it’s surprising how many people forget some of the steps.  Of course his big reminder is to “make giving referrals a business strategy…best way to get is to give.”

He closes with “…everybody’s in marketing…” to which I’d reply, “…everybody’s in sales!”

Happy Referring!

How Strong is Your Referral?

5 Dec

An interesting post on EyesOnSales by Paul McCord got me thinking early this morning.  He says to make sure you know how strong your referral is before contacting the prospect.  Just because someone gave you a referral doesn’t mean that the prospect values that referral.  Seems like common sense to find out what the relationship is and how strong it might be before acting on that referral.

But maybe it’s not common sense.  Inquisix (as you all know!) maps the process of getting (and giving) referrals online.  Just like a SFA system tracks a sale from lead to prospect to opportunity to close, Inquisix tracks referrals from search to ask to get to rate.  Our data shows that the referrals with the best rating almost always have the best exchange of information at the ask and get stage.  Why?  Because at this stage in the referral exchange is where you are networking with another person to gain a referral from them.  Thus, you are exchanging your bona-fides on why you deserve the referral and why they can deliver on the referral.

The best referrals provide you the opportunity to strengthen your reputation with not one but two parties – the person you’re asking the referral of and the person you’re getting the referral to.  Makes sense to take the time to do it right!