Each quarter our ProCoach Success System members collectively focus on mastering a Success Factor - a crucial principle utilized by all highly successful entrepreneurs. This quarter we are working on strengthening and utilizing our network connections, a lesson I call Develop Your Centers of Influence.
This principle, when diligently applied, can accelerate your results more than virtually any other success practice.
Here's a small example: When my wife and I bought our home last year, we knew the roof needed to be replaced. This spring I began my research by asking other homeowners about their experiences with roofers. I short-listed three recommended companies, all of whom gave quotes in the range of $22,000. I was just about to go ahead on it when a friend of mine said, "I know an excellent roofer who will do the job much cheaper. Call this guy." I did, and his price was significantly lower. His credentials and references checked out, and he is pounding away on my roof as I write this newsletter. He's doing an awesome job and charging us just $14,000!
This roofer isn't listed in the yellow pages. He relies entirely on word-of-mouth marketing, which enables him to keep his costs down. If I hadn't reached out to my centers of influence, my wallet would be $8,000 lighter.
Your centers of influence can do a lot more than save you money on necessary services. They can connect you with new business opportunities, send you referrals, influence situations in your favor, provide information and resources, introduce you to mentors or business advisors, and expand your circle of friends and acquaintances.
Given the multitude of benefits centers of influence have to offer, you'd think everyone would be consistently leveraging this great resource. Yet this is not the case. Based on my experience I estimate that over 50% of self-employed entrepreneurs and sales people rarely, if ever, utilize their business and personal networks. In fact I would say that less than 10% of people I meet have strong skills in this area.
To what extent do you leverage your connections? Read the questions below and rate yourself on a scale of 1 - 5 (with 5 being high) for each.
1) I maintain a complete, up-to-date database, card file or list of my business and personal contacts;
2) When I need something I habitually contact people I know and ask them for assistance;
3) If my contacts can't help me, I ask them if they know anyone who can;
4) I regularly keep in touch with my business and personal network via personal contact, newsletters etc;
5) I strategically build relationships with quality people who can assist me to achieve my goals. I even contact successful people I don't know and ask them to meet with me.
How did you score? If you got less than 12 points, you are leaving a lot of opportunities (and money) on the table and you are likely struggling in your business; 13 - 19 points means you are doing a moderate job but there is plenty of room for improvement; if you scored 20 points or more, you are a master!
So why are so many people resistant to developing and using their centers of influence? The biggest reason seems to be a resistance to imposing on other people; the fear of being a nuisance. If you think this way, your self-esteem needs a boost! Most people actually like connecting with others, and enjoy helping them succeed. Obviously you must be sensitive to their situation and needs, but at least give people you know a chance. If you don't contact them, you both miss an opportunity for something good to happen.
The second major obstacle is the fear of rejection. Instead of worrying about being a nuisance, you are afraid that someone will say "no" to you. Underlying this is a fear of not being good enough and therefore being rejected personally. In actual fact, when people say "no" it has little or nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Think of the last time you said no to someone. Was it personal, or was it because whatever they were asking did not work for you at the time?
What both of these obstacles have in common is that they are mental barriers; they stem from fear-based thinking. You can overcome them, and when you do you will notice an immediate and significant boost in your business and personal results.
A great way to develop yourself in this area is to review the five questions in the quiz above and make a plan to increase your score in each. Here is my challenge to you. Think of someone who could help you achieve your goals, and invite him or her to lunch. You might choose someone you already know, but if you want to step up the challenge, pick someone you have never met. When asking, be aware that your meeting does need to benefit the other party, but you are not responsible for knowing or creating their value. Let them decide for themselves whether they are willing to meet with you and why. Make sure you have a clear intention as to what you want to receive from your meeting, whether it's advice, information, developing a relationship, a referral - whatever you need. The more high level the person you are meeting, the more you need to prepare.
Summer time is an excellent time to connect with people. Workloads are usually less and schedules tend to be more flexible so it's a great time to plant seeds that can bear fruit by the end of the year.
Make developing your centers of influence a habit. Each week ask yourself, "What actions can I take this week to further develop my centers of influence?" Asking this question on a consistent basis will literally transform your life.
Master Certified Coach
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Andrew Barber-Starkey is a Master Certified Coach residing in Vancouver, Canada. His coaching program, the ProCoach Success System, is designed for entrepreneurs, small-business owners, self-employed and commissioned sales people who want to double their income while simultaneously doubling their time off within 3 years.
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