Who’s Got Your Back? How to Expand Your Circle of Influence

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 By Jennifer Ransaw Smith

Ever notice that there are some people who seem to know everyone. They fly into a new city and instantly have a lunch companion. Or, walk into a room and have a connection within less than a minute. When they need something, they are able to open their Rolodex and place a call to someone who can help them personally or, refer them to someone who can.

The fact is, these people have developed what is often referred to as a powerful “circle of influence.” They have the ability to get answers, connect with the right person or simply get considered for opportunities they might not have otherwise.

Unfortunately, most people don’t fall into that category. Most people don’t even consider the power of their relationships (or lack of) until it is too late—like when they are looking for a job.

So let me ask you, how deep is your circle of influence? Are you in a position that you can instantly change the game by picking up the phone? If you wanted to host a gathering of people who spanned a wide range of levels (from junior to C-Suite), backgrounds, occupations and nationalities, could you? Or, would you find that most of the attendees were pretty much just like you?

One of the biggest secrets to building a successful personal brand is building a powerful personal network. However, this isn’t something that “just happens.” No, you also need:

1.     Time: Powerful networks aren’t built overnight. They take a while—a long while.

2.     Intention: You must be very strategic in your outreach and very consistent.

3.     Guts: You must get comfortable being uncomfortable. You are going to be reaching out and the truth is not everyone is going to be receptive. That’s ok. Do it anyway.

A few years ago, I read an incredible book by Keith Ferrazzi called Never Eat Alone (NY Times Bestseller).  What I loved about this book (besides the practical advice) is they everyday stories that reiterated the importance of building your personal network. I highly recommend picking it up and adding to your Success Library (I know you have one, right?).

One of the strategies discussed in the book is to leverage dinner parties or lunches to build your inner circle. However, Keith turns the idea of the traditional dinner party upside down simply by expanding the notion of who is on the invite list.

Keith believes what most people do when they are having a dinner or lunch is invite all of their friends, very seldom expanding beyond their small little circle. When in fact, that is the polar opposite of what you should be doing. He believes the more strategic way to approach the dinner party (or luncheon) is to invite people you would like to develop deeper relationships with or get to know better. If you want to have your friends connect with someone there, have them drop by after for dessert.

Sound like an interesting idea? Why not give it a try? Pick four to five people you believe would add value to your network (and you can add value to theirs), invite them to dinner or lunch. If a budget is an issue, do lunch and find a great restaurant that offers pre-fixed menus. Depending on the restaurant you could probably invite four or five people to lunch for around $150 with a pre-fixed lunch around $30 each (give or take a few dollars and one person).

Or, if that is still more than you would like to spend. You can do what Keith did while in college. Open up a card table. Grab a rotisserie chicken and a bottle of wine and start there. The goal isn’t the backdrop, it’s the company. Your job is to connect. Have lively conversation. Find out more about them. Ask lots of questions. See if you can help them  in any way. Offer value.  Make an impact.

Do this often and watch as your Rolodex and circle begins to expand.

Find out more from the attached Power Point.  JHU Blog PP Ransaw Smith

Jennifer Ransaw Smith is the CEO of Brand id|Strategic Partners, a full-service Personal Elevation Agency. They specialize in helping entrepreneurs and executives leverage their skills and talents to become break out stars in their industry. Http://www.brandidsp.com.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Who’s Got Your Back? How to Expand Your Circle of Influence

  1. Dear Jennifer: I’ve seen your presentations and admire your networking skills very much. Most of us, including me, are sometimes very hesitant to contact people who are influencers and appear to be very busy. Can you give us some tips on contacting people by email or letter? The MD governor’s press secretary told our PRSA group that he prefers letters and that communication staff track these letters very carefully. What do you think? Susan

  2. Hi Susan,
    Great question. Something stood out immediately when I read it. The fact that you said “most of us” are hesitant. There is so much TRUTH to that. Most people are indeed hesitant and that alone gives you advantage. Like Nike says, just do it. All contacts won’t land successfully, but some will. It’s not personal…continue to reach out. Now concerning your question about the best way, there is no magic formula…some people prefer email, some letters and some calls to them of their assistant. Mix it up. I can see how the government might prefer a “paper trail” and that is probably true for other government agencies…

    Good luck!

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