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Centers of Influence – why they are key to sales growth.

May 15, 2009
Cindy Donaldson, Marketing Director - Founders Insurance Group

Cindy Donaldson, Marketing Director - Founders Insurance Group

I’ve been doing this sales game for a long time.  I must say, I’m pretty good at it.  I learned from the very beginning that I’m not a good telemarketer and I really don’t like knocking on doors. Why?  Because those two forms of prospecting are “cold” – you need to do a heck of a lot of them before you find someone who might consider buying from you.  As many of you know by now, patience is NOT one of my strengths – ergo Plan B went into effect asap when I was a newbie sales person.

I needed to figure out a way to meet my numbers and not have to do the dreaded cold calling – my sales manager thought I was crazy, but being true to me I said “Trust me, not only will I figure it out, I will beat my numbers.”  Guess what – I did.

Here’s how:  I made other people work for me.  I learned how to network and network well from the very beginning.  I was the queen of vertical growth – I got my foot in the door with one small piece of the business and I treated that person like an absolute king or queen. They in turn told the rest of the world how great I was.  Those listeners were now warm sells  and warm sells in my book are easy sells.

Ok, my book of business was growing.  Now I needed bigger fish. I quickly learned about the glory of the Center of Influence – COI.  That person who is well respected in the community and knows everyone.  I sat on committees, boards, commissions – I became friends with CEO’s and Presidents – the COI’s.  When those COI’s were hob nobbing with their golfing buddies and one of those buddies started complaining about some service they were lacking my favorite COI’s said – call Cindy – she can fix it.  And the empire began.

Before some of you say – OK Cindy, it’s not that easy – stop over simplifying it.  I’m going to say it is that easy.  You do need to get outside your comfort zone and feel comfortable around COI’s – remember they are people just like you.  They too have COI’s that they network with.  It’s one big happy networking family!  It takes a bit of time – you have to prove yourself and become a trusted advisor.

Here is the most IMPORTANT part of networking and using COI’s as part of that mix:  It is IMPERATIVE that when someone calls you and says “Joe ( the COI) said I should give you a call.”  you respond immediately to that person’s needs, and you call Joe immediately and thank him for the referral.    If you do this – trust me, more leads will follow.  If you screw it up just once – that referral source is gone forever.

Remember any salesperson needs to find his or her niche, their selling sweet spot. If you are a sales manager – give them a chance.  If they meet and beat their numbers, customers love them and they are playing nice with the rest of your staff – let them go do their thing!  Sales people are ego driven – it’s all about the win and the accolades. Encourage them to get involved in the community – it’s all about working smarter, not harder – and it is truly all about who you know.

Happy COI hunting!

Cindy Donaldson


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