A center of influence (COI) is a person you know or wish to know, who is well connected in a certain geographic or professional marketplace. This person has many contacts and is well respected in his or her network.
In most cases the COI is a professional who has influence in a certain network of people. Examples of COIs in the financial services industry are certified public accountants, attorneys, mortgage brokers, property and casualty insurance agents, and bankers. These professions have the power to refer their client to advisors. Think about your own career path. What other professions have close contacts with your industry? How can you leverage these contacts?
The second type of COI has a more general scope. These people are not directly involved in your industry, but they are well-respected professionals who are connected to many different types of people from all walks of life. Some examples may be a beloved professor at your college, the Executive Director of a non-profit organization, or the owners of a long-standing staple restaurant in town. Who are the COIs in your community that you should be fostering relationships with?
When you meet with your COIs and ask them about their own career paths. Learn about how they progressed in their careers. See if they are willing to introduce you to people who can help you. Some questions to ask are:
- “How did you get to where you are today?”
- “What advice do you have for me as I pursue this path?”
- “Who are five people I should be meeting?”
These questions allow time for general business advice, personal advice, and introductions. Make sure to revisit this information and keep your COIs updated as you grow. If you try something one of your COI suggests, let them know your experience. Your COIs serve as your personal board of advisers to dispense advice and new connections as you move upward.
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Eddy Ricci, Jr., is the Author of The Growth Game: A Millennial’s Guide to Professional Development and Founder of The Growth Game, LLC a professional development company. He has been labeled as “the emerging expert in developing Gen Y sales professionals” by the chairman of Publicis Kaplan Thaler and is also noted as “understanding what motivates Gen Y sales teams. He is on my radar and should be on yours” by international speaker and NY Times bestselling author, Erik Qualman. Eddy serves as the director of a unique training and development collaborative platform that services financial planning firms in the northeast where he has arguably worked with more Gen Y financial professionals than anyone in the country over the past four years. Eddy is also a columnist for Entrepreneur. www.thegrowthgame.com ; @thegrowthgame (recently created twitter).