Love it or hate it, there’s no getting around it. Prospecting is one of the most effective and fastest methods to grow your business.

It’s also one of the most widely disliked aspects of a sales professional’s career. So how can you make it easier? Stop cold calling and start warm calling with centers of influence and referrals.

As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. The “who” in this case are your centers of influence.

A center of influence (COI) is a person, group of people or an organization that increases your access to prospects through referrals and that crucial word-of-mouth testimony.

An introduction to a new prospect from someone within your COI is always preferable to a cold call. This automatically qualifies you as a person to be trusted more than your average cold caller because a respected friend or business colleague has vouched for you.

I’ll admit, I never like to name-drop. But after interviewing several buyers on what’s the most effective way to get their attention to secure a meeting, they all stated that it’s a referral’s name. They are more likely to call you back because they usually respect the name you are referencing to warm up the call.

Another great tip is to reference the COI or referral name at the very beginning of the conversation – even before you begin to tell them who you are and your value.  For example, “Good morning Jim, its Lisa Leitch of Teneo Results calling.  John Smith of ABC Company suggested I give you a call.” Then pause for them to say something about your COI/referral name.

Where can you easily find COI relationships in your life?

That’s easy; they’re all around you – and increasing every day! So who do you know?

Here are some idea-generating sources:

  • Happy customers are your #1 source
  • Advisors – who recommends your products & services?
  • Linked In – who do you know in your network?
  • LinkedIn Navigator – a great tool that tracks your leads easily & systematically
  • BNI – Business Network International
  • Other associations, networking groups
  • Previous employers & colleagues
  • Facebook
  • Other professionals – accountants, lawyers, architects, bankers, financial advisors

It’s one thing to approach a COI relationship and engage them for a referral, but the challenge is to stay top of mind even when you’re not around to get that referral. Consistently and impartially demonstrating your value is the way to do this. Think of your COI relationships as clients who demand nurturing as you would any other connection in your business.

Love it or hate it, there’s no getting around it. Prospecting is one of the most effective and fastest methods to grow your business. Click To Tweet

Here are a few ways you can nurture your COI relationships:

Create your list – you can always think of at least two to three COI. I’m going to challenge you to create a list of at least 20-30!   You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can create this list when you just start searching through your database, LinkedIn and Facebook accounts.

Share Progress – Compile the feedback you receive from clients to create a synopsis of the results they enjoyed from working with you. Share that with your COI relationships on a regular basis, perhaps monthly or quarterly. People in your COI may not always have personal experience with the results you deliver and may not be comfortable referring a person for that reason. Receiving a report regularly from an objective party will go a long way in removing the hesitancy a COI relationship might have when it comes to giving that referral.

Show Appreciation – When a COI relationship provides a referral, express gratitude to that person or organization as soon as possible. Acknowledging their effort, be that in written form or with a small token of appreciation, fosters their willingness for future referrals.

The key to making a COI relationship work is to understand that by giving to them freely and regularly, either through time, information or appreciation, you build trust in those relationships and start to see increased referrals.

How do you nurture your CIO relationships? Let me know in the comments of this blog.


Lisa is a Certified Sales Professional with Distinction (CSP²) and is an accredited training partner with the Canadian Professional Sales Association. Lisa carries the distinction of being the first female speaker to earn the dual designation of Certified Sales Professional with Distinction and Certified Speaker Professional in North America.