Invest in Influence Not Friendships

May 5, 20180 Comments

As the CEO or Founder, networking is about investing in those people who have influence, and credibility and can pass on those credentials to you.  They are equipped to open otherwise unapproachable doors rather than just providing you with a referral.

Here are four areas to think about when investing in influence as the CEO or Founder:

1.  Be prepared to make a strategic connection.  Before approaching a potential connection, make sure you are ready and you know what you want:  

A.    Your business message:  Can you speak of your business powerfully?  In other words, if the person you want to make a strategic connection with asks exactly what you do, can you answer them in most simplistic, yet confident terms?

B.    Your external business face:  Once you present yourself and your business, you have to make sure you can back up your image with a professional external face (i.e. Website, business cards, thank you cards, etc.).

C.    Your connection purpose:  What kind of strategic connections do you want?  Who do you need to meet and why?  It is important to know why you need to meet your strategic connection and be able to tell them so.  For example, I had a client who wanted to meet a publisher of a large business magazine and they had the opportunity to do so.  When my client was introduced she realized that she had not prepared a compelling reason for meeting this publisher or a reason why the publisher should listen to what she had to say.  As a result, the meeting was your typical, “I really love your magazine…” type of conversation.   Do not let this happen!  Write down who you want to meet, why you want to meet them and a compelling reason why they should listen to what you have to say.

2.  Understand the different types of business relationships.  Next, you have to understand the different types of business relationships based on your industry so you can recognize an opportunity to make a strategic connection:

  • The customer relationship.  The customer relationship is made up of those who are buying customers or clients.  It is about how well you maintain your customer before and after the sale.
  • The prospect relationship. The prospect relationship is your target market and how easy and quickly you can turn them into clients or customers.
  • The business associate relationship. The business associate relationship is someone who you network with or exchange referrals with.  This relationship should be defined by you.  This person may be the strategic connection you need to make in order to acquire viable prospects and eventually buying customers.
  • The networking relationship. The networking relationship is someone you go to events, luncheons, conferences or any other networking type of environment meet.  You can use this person to work the room with or someone you just have there for support.
  • The advisory relationship. The advisory relationship should be those business experts who can give you strategic advice as you build your business.  Your advisory relationships can also fulfill any of the above relationships, but their main role is an advisor.

The customer and prospect relationships are a must in any business, but the other three are where you may find those powerful people, the strategic connections, that I spoke about earlier.   It is up to you to investigate and reveal the strategic connection prospects.

3.  Pick the right venues to meet the right connections.  There are three types of networking venues to start with:  (1) high lead generating, (2) high visibility and (3) educational.    Start with those events that are high visibility because these provide optimal potential for making strategic connections.  You may have to attend a few to figure out which events are best, so just take a couple of months and attend as many events as you can so you can eventually focus your time and attention on the right ones.  Do this at least twice a year because the dynamics change and new faces may appear.  Once you have determined the right venues and events, you can begin to make the connections.

4.  Build the relationship.  Below are four ways to build and maintain the strategic relationship:

A.    Research the connection targets you have chosen.  Know them like you know your target market.  Depending on the identified targets you could be researching the companies they work for, the business they own, or the individual you have identified.  Make sure you want a relationship with them before you develop it.

B.    Building the relationship will be approached differently depending on the type of relationship your building.  Make sure you have a way to track your contacts, their information, your follow up dates, etc.  I would recommend a database management program like ACT or Outlook.  You want to make sure you take notes on every contact and also make sure you are following up in a timely manner –these programs will help you do that.

C.    Maintaining the relationship once you have established the connection can be very easy.  It is just a matter of sending thank you notes, making sure you stay in touch and making yourself available to them in the future.   Most importantly, stay connected – do not wait for them to contact you.

This is a basic format to get you started.  Once you begin the process and begin to identify the right strategic connections, you will have a clear path to those you can create influential relationships with.

Be confident, be clear and be concise!

Join me as a community member to begin reaching higher!

Your Transmogrifyer,

Sherese Duncan

© Effició, Inc.

p.s. Learn more about our Entrepreneurship Education.

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About the Author ()

Duncan has owned and operated Efficio, Inc., a business education company for over 20 years. As the visionary leader of Efficio, Inc., Duncan is spearheading a global initiative to help entrepreneurs build successful business enterprises. In addition, over the last seven years, Duncan’s expertise extends to seven additional viable businesses including dimage, an image consulting firm, Efficio Radio Network, a small business talk Internet Radio Station, Efficio's Business Institute, an online school for entrepreneurial credentials, Tactical Growth, a strategic marketing firm for small business owners and For Educators, an organization dedicated to serving higher education institutions with entrepreneurial curriculum, marketing support and program development.

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