Whether we know it or not, we each have centers of influence in our life that can aid in our professional growth. the question is – are we using them effectively?
What is a Center of Influence?
A Center of Influence is someone in your network who understands you, respects what you offer and is connected to others who might benefit from your experience, services or knowledge.
As a small business owner, a center of influence might be someone who markets to the same type of prospect that you service without being in direct competition. Therefore, an example might be an accountant using a financial adviser or lawyer as a center of influence. They both connect with the same type of prospect.
However, if you are a professional business woman looking to advance your career within your industry, interested in a promotion or looking to break into a new line of work, your center of influence might be a professional mentor, your boss, or an established business owner in your community.
Tap into Your Centers of Influence
Step One – Who Are They?
The first step is to identify who those people are in your life. If you are looking to grow within the company, consider your boss or another leader within the company who is familiar with your work and is well connected.
Outside your current company, seek people who are well established in the work world, well known in the community and active in a number of non profit organizations or industry associations.
Step Two – Connect
Reach out – email, phone call, or even better – grab a cup of coffee and share with them your interest in business and a little bit about your goals. Let me know that you are interested in learning more, participating in a specific special project or being considered for promotion.
Ask them questions. I once asked a boss what he recommended I do to improve myself professionally and he suggested that I begin to read the Wall Street Journal every day. I never would have considered that without his suggestion.
Ask them if they know of anyone you might connect with that can help you along the way to achieving your goals. Ask if you can use their name.
Step Three – Be Easy to Refer
Be clear about your goals, your experience and your unique value. Make it easy for your centers of influence to describe what you bring to the table. Understand what your goal is, who you’d like to meet, what project you’d like to assist with and then share those specifics with your centers of influence.
If they don’t know what you hope to accomplish – specifically – they can’t effectively refer or connect you with the right people.
You Are Also a Center of Influence
Nurturing your centers of influence is important, however, also be aware that you are a center of influence for others in the business world. Matt Cotner wrote an article about using your centers of influence and he suggests that you look in the mirror!
Never forget that you, too, can be a center of influence. More than likely, you already coach baseball teams, belong to clubs, regularly play golf at a local country club, etc. Because of these opportunities to interact with other business people, you actually become a center of influence. Never forget that as a company owner, sales manager, or sales professional, it is incumbent upon you to make sure you are exposing your customers within your network. Therefore, you simply become the center of influence. In addition, while you should never use that wastefully, you should never forget that you have a duty to your customers to help them grow their business.
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Follow Up and Say Thanks
The final piece of connecting and tapping into your centers of influence is making sure you let them know what happens. Keep them in the loop.
If they give you a name – let them know if you meet and what happens. They will be much more likely to help in the future if you keep them informed of your progress.
Remember – a true center of influence not only knows a lot of people – they know you – they are invested in you – so make sure you continue to communicate and above all – say thank you!