Centers of Influence (COI) is a new term for an old business networking strategy. We want to use traditional concepts that worked well before technology, then discuss how to use information and business technologies to take the traditional concept to the next level.
What is a Center of Influence?
Here’s a traditional definition, pulled off the internet.
“Centers of Influence” are those people (or organizations) who can boost your market access and credibility through referrals, testimonials, and word-of-mouth.”
The typical example that comes to mind is a realtor. When buying a house, the homeowner will need a realtor, loan agent, home inspector and Escrow Agent. Other people that might be needed by the homeowner is a handyman, a general contractor and maybe someone to re-decorate to better show off the home. All these people may be involved in the sale of the house. So potentially a realtor could make 6 or more introductions to the homeowner. In our traditional definition, each of these people would be a center of influence for each other.
Vision 1.0 Realtor Center of Influence model
At its core, the COI (Centers of Influence) is a networking strategy. In another article, The business Network Definition - According to Benjamin Franklin, we express the importance of "...mutual benefit..." for the whole group. The best Centers of Influence group is one where everyone in the group follows Franklin's principle of mutual benefit.
In networking as in everything, the 80/20 rule is in effect. In other words, 80% of leads are made by 20% of your COI. In other words, What often happens in these COI groups is that two people in the group hand out 80% of the leads. If only one other person in a COI group gave out all the leads, what would you do? Over time we notice how these two people who give out 80% of the leads, leave the group and create their own group of two.
There is another problem for the sales manager and the owner of the organization. The 80/20 rule tells us that 80% of sales are made by 20% of sales people. What if a top sales person gets a better offer from a competitor? The company has been depending on the leads generated by the tops sales person's Centers of Influence group. When the top salesperson leaves, the source of those leads is also often lost.
Why do we care? Even among the top 20% of the sales force, the 80/20 rule is in effect. A sales team with 10 sales people will have two sales people that make 80% of the sales (i.e. $800,000 for every million dollars sold). Of those two sales people, 80% of the sales is being made by the top sales person (i.e. Top Sales person $640,000 , Sales person #2 $160,000). What this means is that losing the top sales person, can mean losing a source of lead generation worth over 50% of the sales for the organization.
Which means that 50% or more of the sales of the organization may be dependent on the Centers of Influence group created (and owned) by the top sales people in the organization.
Vision 2.0 Center of Influence Model
In a Vision 2.0 model, we breakdown the original Vision 1.0 model and rebuild it. In our new COI vision, we redefine what a COI is.
“Centers of Influence” (COI) are those people who influence the communities that your target customers/personas hangs out in?”
To better understand it, we offer a definition,
A group of people focused on a common interest.
As we attract influencers and build a Vision 2.0 COI, we are going to assume a principle that may seem a bit counter-intuitive.
Statistically what we find is that we get more leads from casual influencer than we do from close friends we have known a long time.
Knowing key influential people in targeted communities will provide more referrals than 8 or 9 close friends you know well. It then follows that the more community influencers you know, the more potential you have for network referrals. That potential increases even if relationships with the influencer is very casual.
Vision 2.0 Center of Influence model
In this new model, the marketing department has identified the communities where target customers hang out. The objective of the sales team is to develop relationships with influencers inside the community. The formal or informal role of these key influencers is to develop stronger relationships within the community. For the community, this means the influencer will be developing and making introductions among the membership. Including introductions to your target customers within the community.
In this model, the relationship is with both the sales person and the organization. The sales person has more ability to apply Benjamin Franklin's principle of mutual benefit for the community. This has two benefits for the organization.
- First, the sales person will attract the networking Experts and Masters that share the most leads and opportunities. (see our article 4 personalities you'll meet when networking) Providing more leads and opportunities for the organization.
- Second, the long term relationship with the community is still in place with the organization. The sales manager just introduces a new representative to take the sales person's place. COI lead generation from the COI group continues and builds on the previous relationships.
Vision 2.0 COI Transition First Steps
Would you like to learn more? Take our Vision 2.0 test. The test will help you quickly evaluate how close your organization is to Vision 2.0.
Please feel free to contact us directly if you have questions. We would be happy to share how others have been able to take their organizations to the next level using any of the Vision 2.0 strategies and tactics.