Four Questions and Answers on How to Build your Centers of Influence Network
Whether you are a business owner, sales professional, or service provider, building your Centers of Influence (COI) network plays a vital role in your long term success. Building the “me” brand is by far, the biggest brand on the market and the most competitive, too.
Real estate professionals, insurance agents, and bankers figured out long ago that having a constant stream of referrals from COI’s is by far the best way to build their business and their brand. The question is, how does one go about building a network in the ever competitive field of COI’s?
Let’s start with analyzing four questions:
#1 “Why should someone refer business to me?”
#2 “What makes me unique when compared to other professionals in the same field?”
#3 “How can I help a COI’s customer?”
#4 “What’s in it for the COI?”
These four questions are the key to building a vast network of COI’s. On the surface, the first three questions appear separate, but in fact, they are tied together.
Question #1 seems simple to answer. Common responses I’ve heard are “because I’m good at what I do”, “No one will treat the referral better” and, my favorite, “because we offer a great product and/or service”. Take a look at those responses and ask yourself what would my competition say differently? Would your competitor say they are terrible at what they do and that they would treat the referral poorly? Would they say that they offer an inferior product and they lack service? Of course they wouldn’t. Experience tells me they would say the same things.
Questions #2 and #3 really define who you are and why someone should refer business to you. How are you unique and most importantly, how will you help the customer? Think of several specific examples of how you’ve helped customers. Start with what the scenario looked like before you met, the process you went through to identify Opportunities For Improvement (OFI) and what you did specifically to improve them. Be prepared to discuss in detail, how as a result of working with you, the customer benefited. That benefit might come in the form of increased production, financial savings, increased profit, decrease in risk, or a myriad of other results. Make your point crystal clear that customers benefit when working with you.
Finally question #4, what’s in it for the COI. This is the toughest of all because each COI is very unique. If you are able to refer business to them as well, it’s a big win, but what if you aren’t in a position to refer business? Under promise, over deliver and by all means, prove to them that you will help the customer. At the end of the day, by doing a great job with the customer, you will make the COI look good for referring you and that will lead to a steady stream of referrals. It certainly doesn’t hurt to show them you appreciate the relationship and their referrals by doing something special for them throughout the year.
Building a solid COI network is hard work and can take months, or more likely, years to produce results. Have those examples perfected and memorized so that the next time you meet a potential COI, you’re ready to answer the questions and start earning their referral business.
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Gary Kieper, CEPA, CFBA, is President at Kieper Sales Sales Solutions.