Monday, October 24, 2011

Connecting with Your Centers of Influence

  • A center of influence is someone who can help you by virtue of who or what they know 
  • Our best referrals come from current or former customers
  • We cause the most customer referrals, passionate advocacy, when we have a deep bullpen of resources whose knowledge and relationships help us solve customer challenges

As we learned last week, the first place to focus, when you are trying to understand who your centers of influence are, is to learn who your best customer relies on. Who are your best customers most valued strategic relationships? They could be consultants, vendors, suppliers, advisors, etc... The supposition is that these individuals:
  • Are qualified because our best customers has faith in them 
  • Have relationships with other companies that look like our best customer
The goal then is to get to know these individuals well primarily because they are likely great service providers (resources) for our clients and future clients and secondarily because they likely have knowledge and relationships that are potentially valuable for us. When you call for the meeting, let them know that you have customers that may need their service and you would like to meet to learn more about what they do. Ideally, you’ll meet at their place of business…you’ll learn much more. The next meeting can be at your shop.

When you meet, learn about the individuals background, what they’re doing now, and who is a good connection for them. The more you learn the better. You want to know if this is someone who you would refer to your best customer. Would they make you look good?

Whether in this meeting or another, you want to agree how they will handle a referral from you. You might just ask, "If I were to call you with a referral, how would it be handled?" If they say anything other than "right away, with great care." you will want to have an open conversation about your expectation and if they can meet it. When and if you call them with a referral, it is ok and sometimes advisable to ask them to follow up with you after they have spoken with your client.

Your first priority with centers of influence is to solve customer problems. Having a deep bullpen of resources will allow you to do it best. You may, someday, get a referral from someone you've referred. Celebrate it. Don't expect it or this fragile eco-system dies. When we solve problems with our customers best interest in mind, we always win.

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