People do business with people they know and trust. And chances are, you refer people that you know and trust as well. When it comes to growing your business and expanding your pipeline of potential customers, it is important to establish a healthy network of people who believe in you, believe in your value, and believe you have something valuable to offer and are willing to pass your name on.
Center of Influence: The one sales strategy you can’t do without
When I was working for a leadership development company, this was called the “Center of Influence” concept. It’s something that was originally coined (I believe) by Paul J. Meyer, one of the fathers of the personal productivity boom. You can read his whitepaper about the center of influence concept here (gotta love the font and the clip art – classic 80s!).
I saw this strategy demonstrated by a mentor over a several year period. His pipeline was always full – but he also knew the value of his service and was willing to ask for the sale. Even if you execute the COI concept well up front, you still have to ask for the leads!
While it’s not the only tool in your tool belt, having a center of influence network is a valuable strategy to keep in mind as both a marketer and sales professional.
To reap the benefits from creating a “Center of Influence” network, follow the steps below:
1. Define a Center of Influence: What does it mean?
An individual who makes a great center of influence for you is someone who:
- Believes in what you are selling, and what you have to offer
- Is influential with a number of people
- Is willing to give you names
- The names given to you are at least partially qualified prospects, more than just leads.
2. Brainstorm potential people: Who fits this description and definition?
- Current and former clients/customers
- Former employers/co-workers
- Family members
- Networking contacts
- Professional service providers (banker, accountant, lawyer, etc)
3. Schedule a meeting with at least 5-10 potential center of influence candidates.
- At these meetings or during these calls — Talk with each person about your business goals, and your desire to meet with them 2-3 times a year as a center of influence.
- *NOTE – it is important that you believe in their business as well and are willing to do the same in acting as a center of influence for them!
4. Refine your list.
- Finalize your most valuable center of influences.
- Make sure you have their contact info, as well as a good understanding of what they do and how you can help their business grow as well.
5. Communicate regularly.
- Send them personal emails each month with recaps on leads, updates on your business, and ask how you can help them.
6. Nurture your network.
- Continue to nurture your center of influence network. And keep an eye out for future relationships, knowing that a COI may not be right forever, but for a certain period of time.
Learn the value of the F-word. Seriously. One of the clients I work with has an employee who is constantly at the top of the sales charts, and her advice points right to value of follow-up. She calls herself Sally F-U Smith. Follow-up, follow-up, and follow-up. We’re all so busy that the winner is many times the one who stays in the game (genuinely) the longest. Keep up your stamina, and reap the benefits.
Last but not least — examine and analyze your center of influence network on a yearly basis!
The Center of Influence is a sales strategy should help keep your pipeline full – and if not, you may want to reconsider your product and value proposition. If people don’t believe in you and what you’re selling, that could be a problem.
Do you have additional suggestions? Please – feel free to comment and add additional sales strategies or ideas for building your network!