February 27, 2017
Did you see the title and scratch your head wondering what the heck a sphere of influence is...and if you have one? That's okay, you're certainly not alone and yes you definitely have one, even if you don't realize it! If we're going by the definition below (that's the second bulleted one) then you can think of your sphere of influence as the folks in your network with whom your opinion holds some weight. This can be anyone from your peers, friends, co-workers and beyond, and once you identify this layer of your network, you can begin to improve your communication with them and engage in a more meaningful way with them.
Don't think you've got a sphere or not sure why you should prioritize them? Think again, they might be hiding right in plain sight in your network and you'll want to keep them top of mind because these are the people who are your biggest supporters, advocates and can often provide a boost to your business. We'll help you to run through your network and better identify the very important SOI so you can best nurture them.
Where do you start? We suggest going ahead and taking stock of your network on social media. No mean feat, we know, but a little work upfront will be worth it when you've identified those key folks in your network. So go ahead, get on social media and start scrolling through your friends, followers, and connections. If your first inclination is to check on LinkedIn, you may want to think again. Assess what channel you utilize the most to communicate with your network and start there.
Start with social media and pretty much take an inventory of who's there. Whether it's easier for you to keep a spreadsheet or write it all down with good ol' paper and pen, take stock of who's in your network whether it be personal or professional. Organize them by how important they are to you and your business - think big referral partners, clients or investors - or simply separate them by function or what 'category' they fall under in your life.
While the task may seem a bit daunting, you want to be able to really see and understand all of the folks in your network, because we know that people do fall through the cracks every once and a while especially if you have an expansive network.
Now that you have an idea of who's in your network, it's important to distinguish your network from your sphere of influence, because there's certainly a difference between the two. If we're going with the above definition (or something along those lines), you can think of your SOI as the group of people with whom your opinion holds weight.
Think about it as the people who would see a movie, read a book, or try a new restaurant because you recommended it. More often than not, they're folks you talk to on a regular basis; friends or professionals you do regular business with.
Keep our loose definition in mind as you scroll through your network and take a look at your recent texts, Facebook messages, and emails. But then also keep in mind what your goal is in identifying your sphere of influence. Are you looking to improve your business connections and outreach? Then it may not make the most sense to include your mom in your 'official' SOI but if she's been a great resource for client referrals in the past, you may want to reconsider.
Unfortunately, it's pretty much impossible for your entire network to be in your sphere of influence - unless of course you're a celebrity or major influencer. But since most of us here are normal folks, we're going to want to narrow down our network and our sphere of influence down to a manageable and realistic group. According to Dunbar's number, humans can really only cognitively maintain social relationships with around 150 people...and if you ask us, that's a lot of people! So if you think of your true network as those 150 people, it's probably fair to say that your SOI will be far less than 150.
If you were struggling with deciding if folks fit into the category of your sphere of influence before, here's your chance to really be scrupulous in who you pick. Understand how many folks you really can keep in touch with at a time and be honest with yourself as you make those choices. If you're going to be putting forth a special effort in keeping in touch with your sphere of influence, then you don't want to set yourself up for failure by choosing an overwhelming amount of people.
Just because they aren't in your sphere of influence now...doesn't mean they won't be eventually. Your SOI doesn't have to be stagnant, instead treat it as an active aspect of your network that changes, morphs and grows as your business needs change and grow too!
Set yourself up with a CRM or another tool that will remind you to keep in touch with the rest of your network. While they may not be in your direct sphere of influence, there's always that chance your priorities will change or your relationship shifts with those other people and you'll need to stay top of mind with them.
We recommend regularly reassessing your network and who you're nurturing in your network for your sphere of influence and determining if there are some changes that need to be made. But don't forget your Dunbar cap and don't overload your SOI simply because you think you need to add more.
For every person you add, is there someone you can take out and add to your regular nurture flow? Once you get into the pattern of assessing and maintaining your network, you'll have no trouble in having a consistent understanding of who's in your sphere of influence and how you can best leverage your relationships with them on a regular basis.