I have been meeting with centers of influence on a regular basis. Our goal is giving and
receiving referrals from one another. What advice do you have on making the most of these
Kudos to you for meeting with centers of influence as a referral source. Many salespeople
mistakenly think only clients can provide referrals!
By definition, a center of influence is someone who is well known and influential in the
communities you want to expand your business. People know, like, and trust them. When they
reach out to others, their calls and emails typically get returned. Additionally, they attend events
on a regular basis and “naturally” meet and engage with people they know daily.
The best “centers of influence” tend to be known as “trusted advisors”. Their clients and friends
ask their opinion on many topics – even beyond what they do professionally. The reasoning is:
birds of a feather, flock together. For example, fantastic, honest people tend to know other
fantastic, honest people! A referral from this trusted advisor already has the “good
housekeeping seal of approval.”
What follows are a few suggestions on how to get the most from our centers of influence.
Be very clear about what types of clients you really want to work with or attract. A common
mistake is to think everyone is a prospect for you. That is “code” for treading water at best. List
your favorite industries, job titles (decision makers), geographical area, number of
employees/revenues. On an annual basis, review your minimum sizes of clients. The best sales
professionals continue to elevate the size and types of clients they work with. They also tend to
have niches or specialties.
If you are both connected on LinkedIn, review each other’s first connections, and prepare a list
of 5-7 of their connections that you would like to be introduced to. When you center of influence
shares their list to you, be sure to ask each other: “Why is that person/company/industry a good
fit for you?” Have them return those questions when you are sharing your list. This allows you to
understand each other’s businesses more and each of you will likely think of other connections
you are not connected to on LinkedIn.
When referring your center of influence to someone you know, call or email the person they
want to meet and share with them why you think they should take a phone call from them. Do
not attempt to sell their product or service – you’ll likely mess it up for them. Instead suggest by
spending a few minutes by phone, they can both decide whether (or not) to continue the
conversation. Once you consistently provide these types of referrals to your centers of influencers, you will be more likely to expect the same type of referrals. To steal a golf analogy, we call this “teeing up” the referral.
After a center of influence referral meeting, commit to contacting no more than three people on
behalf of each other. This makes the “teeing up” process more manageable and likely to
happen. My experience is, when the number is larger than three, people tend not to call any of
them. They feel like they never have enough time. Three or fewer phone calls or emails is more
likely to get done – for both parties.
Invest in “up and comers”. Up and comers tend to be younger influencers (typically under age
40) who are not stars yet. As someone in my 50’s, there are many people I have met in my
thirties and forties through serving on boards or our children went to school / played sports
together who are stars now. If I contact them, they are more likely to return my call because I
had a history with them before they were stars. Plus 10-15 years goes fast, and it allows you to
enjoy their relationship right now.
All the best and great selling to you!
Dan Stalp is president of Sandler Training, a sales and professional development firm. He works with CEOs, presidents, business owners who sell, and peak performers who are tired of walking by their salespeople’s offices to see them on their computers instead of on their phones — and sick of having a superior product and losing out on price. email@example.com • (913) 451-1760 • DanStalp.com