Networking How to Build Your Client Base

Centers of Influence: we all want them. It would be great if they were on every street corner with a line of clients behind them.

Specialization requires you to really embrace that these COIs are your hidden second client base. First you’ve got to make one essential shift in the way you network:

You must move from RANDOM networking to SYSTEMATIC networking.

Getting started is just as simple as asking yourself a few questions:

1. Who are these people anyway?

What is their business model?
Who do they target?

You need to ask yourself if someone you consider a referrer is actually a Center of Influence for you. The key word here is INFLUENCE. They have to have some specific measurable impact on the state of your business. The litmus test for this is to look at the frequency of their referrals. If they haven't referred someone to you in over a year, chances are they aren't a COI for you — yet.

2. Are they really loyal to you or does it feel like an inauthentic connection?

Before I started specializing I was hoping I’d meet an accountant here and an attorney there. I soon realized how incredibly important personality is in this business. Let's face it, people like doing business with those they actually enjoy being around.

This can be uncomfortable for some of you, but it really can be your ticket to mastering specialization. Whether you like it or not, you are the face of your business. People want to know who you are and why they should refer people to you.

3. What are you doing to cultivate your COIs?

You've got to get straight about this: Are you meeting them for cocktails or inviting them to breakfast or dinner? What are you talking about with them? How do they really know you?

Prior to having a specialized targeted message, sure people liked me, but maybe a person was giving me one or two referrals a year when I needed 20. I couldn't run a business like that. I had to start being direct about how and why they needed me. I inquired deeply into how they ran their own businesses. I would ask a lawyer "How many active clients do you need in a month to really knock the lights out?" I was doing research without even realizing it.

4. Are you listening to the pain points of your COI's clients?

This is the key to putting the end to random networking. Now it's time to really get strategic and get into the good stuff.

As I was finding out about attorneys and their business models, I found that most top litigators need 20-30 active cases a month. I asked how much of their caseload was related to estate planning, and how many referrals they were getting. Most importantly I was listening to the pain points of their clients and finding out how I could solve them by looking through the lens of MY specialty.

The biggest mistake people make is treating networking lightly and then expecting their ideal client to just knock on their door. As you start to be targeted and specific about building these core relationships, you’ll be simultaneously building your own business.

Specialization does not happen in a vacuum. It is part of an intricate system of choices, relationships building, and by following a process.

If it seems overwhelming, start small. Pick one person you'd consider to be a center of influence and take an action to better cultivate that relationships. It all starts with one action. Get your feet wet and you’ll realize it’s easier than you think.

Michelle Smith is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.

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