Guest article by Tom Erb
Try this the next time you attend a networking event: sit back for a few minutes and just watch people interact. Notice how some people always seem to gather a crowd? That everyone who walks by seems to know them? Passersby say “Hi,” shake hands, or pat them on the shoulder? Those are the influencers in the room – the people you need to get to know first and best.
What is an influencer?
Influencers are individuals who are well known, highly respected, and fully plugged-in to an organization or profession. They may be current or former board members, the association executive director or president, speakers, consultants, even vendors.
They have put significant time and effort into establishing their presence. You ultimately want to be just like them. But in the short term, you can benefit from the respect they command in the association.
How do influencers work?
Influencers, more than anyone, fully embrace the concept of networking. Once you develop a relationship of trust with them, they will be glad to open doors, share leads or make introductions for you. Here’s how to develop that relationship:
- Introduce yourself – Ok, this is pretty obvious, but it’s a good start. Even better, ask a mutual connection to introduce you.
- Ask for help – Don’t be afraid to tell an influencer what you need; increased involvement in an association, industry or profession they are involved in, introductions to decision makers, or just a chance to pick their brain over coffee or lunch.
- Be genuine – Don’t go in with the sole intention of using them to get business. Unless you sincerely want to develop a mutually beneficial relationship, they will sense you’re in it only for you. Business is a byproduct of strong, trusting relationships.
- Be a resource for them – Offer to return the favor and help them, by referring leads for their business or association, or sharing your own expertise. Once they see that you are interested in a mutual exchange, they will be more interested in reciprocating whenever they can.
Networking is all about building relationships and leveraging them for increased business opportunity. Networking with influencers takes it to a whole new level. It’s like playing in the minor leagues versus playing in the MLB All-Star game.
Connecting with your association’s “all-stars” is the best way to accelerate your networking and sales success.
About the Author:
Tom Erb is the President of Tallann Resources, LLC. He is the immediate past president of the Ohio Staffing and Search Association and past president of the Human Resources Association of Central Ohio, and currently serves on the board for the National Association of Personnel Services (NAPS). He is a Certified Staffing Professional (CSP) and Senior Professional of Human Resources (SPHR).