Tag Archives: “Shiera O’Brien”

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.


Meet Shiera O'Brien- Inquisix Member Part I

20 May


We were lucky to grab this very busy power networker – meet Shiera O’Brien, Inquisix member since April ’08.  Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, she recently started an Inquisix Group, The Dublin Chamber Business Referral Traders. 


Hi Shiera, so tell us about your business.

Zenith Training and Development is my business. I work specifically with sales professionals, helping them have more powerful sales conversations and meetings. I offer training and coaching to clients in the psychology of buying and selling and how to get better results from sales meetings and become a buying facilitator rather than a sales person.

Why do you network?

I network because meeting in person is powerful as an introduction to my company, and I am generally meeting people on the sales front line, so it’s the type of business introduction I want. I use on-line networking to back up my off-line/in-person networking and am sharing this methodology to all my contacts. I need other people to create a business network, and I want technology to do the work for me after I’ve put time and effort into an event.

What made you join Inquisix?

As an active member and Ambassador at The Dublin Chamber of Commerce, in Ireland, I found the on-line networking tools to be lacking in process, when it came to post-networking follow-up. Linked-In was too public; would I want to put all my contacts on public view? I loved the idea that I could keep my contacts in a Vault, yet allow others to tap into the contact pool and return the favour. The real attraction is holding contact privates, yet opening the doors of opportunity to others and vice versa. We get a glimpse at the potential for real connections via this tool.

I found Inquisix mentioned in a blog and then was travelling to the US and met Michael Kreppein. I really liked how he communicated the vision of what they wanted to achieve with Inquisix and so far they’ve been loyal to this vision, willing to invest in supporting users in Ireland. Inquisix went a out of their way to make the address fields work for us here, which was the only way we could kick start things and build a community.

Prior to joining, I was doing lots of in-person business networking through local business groups. I found it to be useful, yet the missing link was an easy to use on-line follow-up tool- a system to follow-up that I could have on-line, that would keep track of all my contacts and referrals. The follow-up process and technology was the big missing link- I couldn’t work with the tools that existed out there, because of the public way it displayed contacts and there was no proper referral tool. Inquisix came across my screen when I did research on it for the Dublin Chamber of Commerce.

What do you like best about Inquisix?

The layer of anonymity: I can see what’s happening in the world of my contacts. Somebody asks for a referral, and if I don’t see the real value in the connection, I can make a decision anonymously whether I want to give the referral or not, and relationships remain intact. I also like the pro-active referral tool. I meet people every day that I think should hook up and it’s great to be able to go in, hit a button and send on referral contact details with a note. Pure Magic. Like a gift in their In-Box. It’s a very powerful way to say “Hey, I am serious about helping you with your business, ” without always looking for a return favour. This helps build a reputation, which Inquisix tracks and profiles, so people can see how committed I am to networking in the local business community.

Easiest thing about Inquisix is, it does all the work I don’t like doing; keeping track, sending emails, and putting all that information on referral into somebody’s inbox with a few clicks. And it shows me graphically what is happening. It’s very well designed and takes the effort out of passing on contacts.

Any great examples of using Inquisix Trusted Referrals™?

I had a request from somebody in the network, who knew me, but I didn’t know them as well. I got the request one morning, called him, asked about his business, thought it was good fit, so I hit the referral button; 30 minutes later he was on the phone talking to a contact he had been looking to meet for 2-3 previous weeks. I gave him an additional contact in same business arena. So he got two targeted contacts from one request through Inquisix. This demonstrates the power of Inquisix and got me very excited about the possibilities it can bring to businesses in a way it hadn’t existed before.

What are the misconceptions about online networking? 

The misconceptions in this part of the world are based on people’s perceptions about social media in general. Can we trust these people? What if I give a referral? What will happen to my reputation?

The reality is, the next generation don’t have that at all, so as they come into the work force, Inquisix will be a natural tool to use; they will want to use it and won’t think twice about asking for a referral into a network they don’t personally know, they will make the connection and move to the next one. When somebody really embraces this technology they will experience rapid business growth.

Do you like the direction Inquisix is going? How do you see the future of networking?

Yes, Inquisix is going in the right direction. I like how it has closely replicated the real world of networking. Networking on-line is the way forward.We are in a time-poor work society, where connecting to the right person is absolutely vital. I can see that the next generation are going to drop all concerns and embrace this like no other group of people. They do not have the same “perceptions” around relationships. On-line relationships are as real to them as off-line relationships.

I see it being an integrated part of a Sales Strategy, CRM strategy and people will build profiles and businesses rapidly by embracing it now rather than adopting a wait-and-see-attitude. I am an early adopter and I am willing to put the effort in and harvest the reward over time. Like everything, Inquisix will reach a tipping point and create the snowball effect that will bring in the wider web community.


Next post : Part II, Shiera talks about starting an Inquisix Online Networking Referral Group.

For more information about how you can start your own group or about our affiliate program, contact Michael Kreppein.