Sunday, October 16, 2011

Determining Your Centers of Influence , part II

Reminder...a center of influence is someone who can help us by virtue of who or what they know.

When applying the center of influence concept to business building the first place to focus is to develop a base of centers of influence that will help you better serve your customers. Not only will this help you provide better service thereby creating more referrals from your customers, but it will also help you develop relationships with a cadre of non-competing industry professionals who will help you increase the depth and breadth of your connection to valuable knowledge and relationships.

Follow these steps to determine the shortest path to growing your greatest number of high value connections. 
Two steps to Identify your centers of influence for business building:
  • Identify your best customer - You can define best customer however you want. Maybe it is the customer that does the most business with you. Maybe it is the customer who provides you with the highest margin business. Maybe it is the customer that refers you the most business. However you define best customer, it is critical that you realize that you have only one best and that you identify them by name. You should be able to complete this best customer is      XYZ Company     .

    Best customer test - Think for a moment about your average customer. Can you think of the value that your average customer brings to you as compared to your best customer? Imagine that you have a one time opportunity, in this moment, to receive either 100 more of your average customer or 5 more of you best customer. Which would you choose? Approximately 95% of the people who do this exercise find that they would take 5 best customers over 100 average customers. If your answer is different double check that you have truly identified your best customer.

    Paradigm shift - If you choose to receive 5 more of your best customers, then why are you networking to your average customer? By taking 5 more or your best customer you have just said that your best customers are at least 20 times more productive than your average customer...
  • Identify the resources that serve your best customer - Do you know who your best customer relies on? Who are your best customers most important suppliers, vendors, or counselors? What professionals have helped your best customer get where they are?

    Having trouble with this? - If you don’t have this level of intimacy with your best customer are you vulnerable? You certainly are...a smart competitor will unseat you very quickly by learning this information. But this is not a customer retention exercise.

    So how do I find out who my best customer relies on? -  Er...Ask your customer. This is not a direct question. Learning who your best customer relies is a bi-product of being a student of your best customer and it is knowledge that is built over time. Some simple questions that will begin you on this journey include: Looking Forward - “Can you tell me about some your goals in the coming year?, Why are they important?, Are there specific internal or external resources that you will rely on to help you accomplish these goals?” Looking Backward - “Can you tell me about your company growth over the last 5-years?, What have you learned that you’ll apply to your objectives for the next 5-years?, Are there specific resources/vendors that you have found to be most valuable?”
Hopefully, you have been able to identify a path to discovering your centers of influence. Having gone through this exercise, you can see that this is a discovery process that never ends. Your understanding of who your centers of influence are is a journey. A continuous application of these two steps will allow you to focus and improve your networking to a level you never thought possible.
Next week we will discuss what to do once we begin learning who our best customer relies on.

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