I honestly cannot believe I haven’t done a post solely about the Sphere of Influence before. This is one of the more important elements of sales and marketing. Using your SOI is critical to generating business! It is the audience that has the highest Return on Investment (ROI)!
Let’s face it: Using your SOI = High ROI
What is a Sphere of Influence or Golden Group?
Your Sphere of Influence is an audience comprised of your friends, family, current clients and former clients. It is colleagues (not your competition) in your business or other related businesses. It is the greatest source of your referrals. For the purpose of this post, lets call them the “Golden Group.” “Sphere of Influence” is a term that seems sort of vague and unrewarding.
If you are a sales person, you are in the service industry — really, you are in the Relationship Business. You are NOT in the product business. After all, one sale does not a career make. Building relationships with potential clients, helping them achieve their goals, and keeping in touch with them AFTER their transactions is how you build a lasting business. If you do that, they will refer their friends, family and colleagues to you.
Why is the Golden Group so powerful?
Part of its power comes from recognition. In marketing, we often refer to the Rule of Seven — you need to tell someone something seven times before they remember. But, what if they already know you? That changes the game quite a bit. If they know you or have worked with you, you don’t need to tell them the whole story over and over; you simply need to remind them. These are relationships, after all. Do you need to tell your friends your life story every time you see them? No. You just need to update them on the most recent changes in your life.
In addition to not being as memorable, information coming from a stranger can be seen as an interruption. If you get a call from a sales or marketing person you don’t know, you try to get off the phone and fast. If you get marketing materials from a stranger, they are probably going in the recycling bin after garnering a mere millisecond of your attention. But, if you have worked with them before, it is kind of nice to hear from them. And if you get a card from them, you are more likely to read it. It is like old friends or neighbors just catching up.
The largest power comes from the trust you’ve built. If I have worked with you before and you did a good job, I trust that you will do a good job for me or my friend. Trust is a key element in selecting someone to help you and it makes us feel comfortable endorsing someone.
How can you build this efficiently?
Make keeping in touch part of your business plan. Call or email at least one of these people every day. Make sure they are getting something like an email newsletter every month that shows your business activity. Send them hand-written cards to show you remember their anniversary, birthday or you are thinking of them during the holidays. And, most importantly, be helpful!
Don’t let a lot of time go by in between points of contact. Once you stop fostering that relationship, it will shrivel, like an unwatered plant. Don’t expect an unwatered plant to flower. (Believe me — I have several in my office.)
How can we us our Golden Group to generate referrals?
We used to pay a lot to introduce ourselves to new audiences — working hard to create brand recognition. Now, that can be done without spending those giant budgets. Social media, affectionately referred to as “social,” has changed the rules of the game. We now want to be a resource for people. This is like beginning a relationship with someone before you’ve ever met them. How does it work? Just like you would rely on an in-person introduction by one trusted client to one of their friends, these days “sharing” creates an introduction to their friends en masse. If you offer engaging and helpful information on your social media sites, it is likely to be shared. That sharing is sort of a social endorsement of you and your business. The most important thing is to be sure you are establishing a voice that is consistent with your brand; with who you are.
You also could try creating a Referral Rewards Program. Make it easy for people to refer you business and reward them for doing so. Gift certificates to restaurants, for instance, are nice rewards. This shows appreciation for the referral. Regardless of whether you spend money on rewarding them, place a call to the person who referred you business. Thank them personally. It really matters.
No matter what methods you choose, be sure you are developing and fostering relationships to nurture that Golden Group. They will be the greatest source of your referrals.