In your search to sell more and earn new clients, centers of influence (COIs) can be your most powerful referral network and competitive intelligence conduit. As you develop relationships with COI’s, they can provide recommendations and referrals; they can help facilitate hard to make connections; they can help you learn. The end result of a well thought out COI strategy is business growth in a fun and non-traditional way – spending time with people and groups that you like.
What is a COI?
Centers of influence are typically external third parties who can guide, influence, or help you. Their help may not be direct or immediate, but they help in small and nuanced ways that will end up earning you clients and growing your business.
COI best practices
Building a COI referral network takes time. To foster a long-term relationship, these best practices are helpful:
Relate personally and professionally to the group you join.
Be genuine in your approach to help. If you want any COI to understand what success looks like to you, you need to understand what it looks like to them.
Be selective. You could easily fill forty hours a week with COI activities, but then you neglect the rest of your growth strategy.
Avoid being a user. COI’s are about long-term relationships for the benefit of both parties. Show the value of the relationship for both parties, not just you.
If you don’t believe in a cause, a vision or goals of the COI, this is a red flag that this COI may not be a good fit for you.
As a long-term goal, attempt to work into a leadership position or on the board of the COI, if allowed by your firm. Not only will you be heard, you will be able to influence results and become an expert to the rest of the group.
In our industry, there are several powerful COI’s you might consider. Learn more about them on the following pages.
Continuing education events
Not only are these events important, but the conversations during breaks, before and after the meetings start, provide incredible opportunities to learn more and establish new relationships. Consider sponsoring CE events where you are able; you will become a known expert and called upon in the future.
Host “lunch and learn” with industry participants
Information exchanges with industry participants are an amazing way to develop long-lasting relationships. As an example, Julia was a newly promoted leader and started a women’s networking group that grew from four to over 100 in less than 120 days. She stages quarterly events that have speakers and topics that appeal to the segment. This group has dramatically increased her prospect list and is a strong source of referrals.
Spouses and significant others as COIs
Don’t assume one person has the absolute decision-making authority. If something you are selling will impact others, it is important to get a buy-in from the significant other, spouse, or team members.
When you engage the partner/spouse, you may get a quicker yes. You are also doing the right thing by keeping the entire social unit informed.
Clients may decline, but they will appreciate you wanting to include their families in the process. You may also have just found a new referral network if you take a comprehensive approach to this segment.
Rotary and charitable organizations
Social and charitable organizations bring like-minded people together. You have the ability to connect over something you both agree on from the very beginning; that makes the first conversation easy to start.
There are so many great causes for which people give their time, talent, and treasure. Very strong bonds are developed, and they can lead to not only more business, but making a meaningful impact in your local community.