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By Sterling Valentine


Turn Yourself into a Center of Influence in 30 Days

I recently suggested a marketing idea to a client who is reporting tremendous success with it.

Here's what I told him to do: start inviting people to lunch. It doesn't matter where or who. Pick three interesting people and invite them out on the same day. If you're broke, or closing in on it, tell them it's dutch. Don't classify them as potential prospects—just start inviting business people who you know to lunch, and then start talking with them about anything except what you do. No pitching! You are not there to sell something—you're there to HAVE LUNCH.

Find out about them. What are their interests? Where was their last vacation? Build your network. Find out what projects they're working on. Where are they stuck? What things would they like to do if they had more information or a contact on the inside? Find out what they want and do your best to give it to them. If you can't do anything for them, promise that you'll get back to them as soon as you can find something out, and then do it.

Here's what you do at the end of lunch: thank them and leave the restaurant. That's it. Have lunch. Get to know somebody, and try to help them. That's the whole idea.

We're so often caught up in meeting our quotas that we see people as "prospects" instead of people. Remember the cartoons where the one character was so hungry that when he looked at somebody, they would turn into a chicken leg or sausage links? Are you doing that?

A network is really just a bunch of folks who know you, feel good about you and would help you if you needed it. The way to strengthen that is to start putting deposits INTO the favor bank account before you need to take them out.

Go have lunch. If you really want to do it right, tell the manager or owner that you love the food and service so much that you have officially declared yourself his restaurant's resident rainmaker. You have personally committed yourself to letting everyone in the city know exactly how great the place is. Tell him you've picked a regular table that seats four, and each week you want his best, most savvy, friendly and funny server to wait on this table. You are a good tipper [right?] and you're going to be bringing the most influential business people into town each week to show off the restaurant.

Start at the first of the month. Invite three people you know [Persons A, B, and C], and tell them what you're doing. Give each one a follow-up date to bring two people who you don't know. Person A brings two new people week two, Person B brings two new people week three, Person C brings two new people week four, so there's always four at the table. At the beginning of the next month, start with three new people.

It's especially helpful for Person A to bring two people who Person A knows, but who don't know you or each other. That way, Person A gets to invite two people to lunch by telling them that they're each going to meet TWO other people who they really should get to know. You help make Person A look good, and they do all of the work. Just make sure they understand that your intention is to help them broaden their network with QUALITY contacts, and back that up by making sure that Persons B and C aren't complete slouches.

Everybody wants to know a power broker. What's the official definition of a power broker, anyway? Is there some governing body that hands out certificates? Nope. A Center of Influence is just somebody who decides that they're going to start helping people in their network to meet new people. That power broker can be you, and it should be. In fact, there's no good reason why you already aren't a center of influence. You simply have to give yourself permission.

So, enough theory. Remember my client, the power luncher? He's got a list of people waiting to get invited. They call him up and ask him when the next lunch is. He's booked SOLID. The last lunch I went to had 14 people at one long table. Unbelievable. I didn't even get to talk to him because we were too far away from each other. His lunches have become the hottest ticket in town, and the best part is... he gets somebody else to pay for it! The secret to THAT one is, however, another story for another time.

So give yourself permission, pick up the phone and invite 3 people to lunch RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND. You are a center of influence! A mighty power broker—yes, YOU!

Now, go do lunch, my powerful friend.

 . . . . .

Sterling Valentine is an award-winning marketing coach and trainer specializing in business development strategies for independent professionals and entrepreneurs. Visit his web site and subscribe to his free eZine at



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Last Updated 07/14/2004