How To Become A Key Person Of Influence In Your Field
This week’s column is going to be a little bit different than my usual pieces. Instead of focusing on business/customer relationships, I want to talk a little bit about the ways that you relate to other companies and individuals in your field.
Specifically, I want to talk about the people who shape the landscape of your niche . . . and how you become one of them.
What Does It Mean To Be A “Key Person Of Influence?”
There are two groups of people: those who shape events, and those who are shaped by them.
Most people are in the second group, and they’re going to spend their entire lives there. And that’s enough for just about everyone.
But if you’re an entrepreneur, investor, or business owner, then you understand that you cant’ merely wander through life, blown to and fro by the metaphorical winds of history. You need to have some leverage to effect change and protect your businesses.
You need to be in that first category. That’s what I mean by a “key person of influence.” They call the shots. They make it happen. They’re playing the game, not getting played by it.
People of influence get more business referred to them than they know what to do with because everyone in their industry knows that they call the shots. They get paid big bucks for their expertise, and they’re always working because they’re worth it.
But how do you become a person of influence?
There’s A Common Thread . . .
Here’s the thing about the people who call the shots:
Each and every one of them bring something unique to the table. They’ve spent years developing a unique way of creating value . . . and then they market the hell out of it.
Donald Trump, Sir Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford—each and every one of them are instantly recognizable not only for the ideas they represent, but they way they’ve presented them.
Influence doesn’t even have to be built on particularly new ideas! Henry Ford didn’t invent the car or the assembly line; he became a key person of influence by spearheading their merger and creating a culture out of it. Donald Trump isn’t the only real estate investor in the world, but he’s famous for showmanship and ruthlessness. Heck, I didn’t invent television or sales—but telemarketing was my big break, and it’s what I’m known for. The key people of influence throughout history haven’t always had new ideas, but they’ve always had good ones.
And once they had their ideas realized, they turned around and made them into products.
Ideas Aren’t Enough—You Need More To Have Influence
Each and every person of influence has figured out a way to take their idea, story, or image and turn it into a product. This step is vital. Why?
Because until you’ve turned it into a product, you have to keep showing up to make your money. It doesn’t scale; you are the product, and you can only be in one place at a time.
Turn it into a product, though, and you can begin to be in more than one place at once. The product begins to make money for you, instead of the other way around. This is the kind of formation that real influence is built on, which is why I stress this step so much.
So What About You?
The imitators, the visionless, and the race-to-the-bottom crowd are always the first ones to feel the squeeze when times get tough. That’s because they aren’t actually creating anything of value; they’re just piggybacking on the work of the influential.
It’s okay to imitate someone’s business model; it’s a great way to learn, especially when you’re just starting out. But if you’re aiming higher and you want to actually build some influence, you’re going to have to find something more. You’re going to have to take a risk and build something yourself, whether it’s a brand, a widget, an image, or a reputation.
And then you’re going to have to figure out how to turn it into a product and market it.
Your product should say: “this is me!” It should clearly explain what you’re all about and how that can benefit the people you’re trying to influence. In some cases it will be a physical widget—the Ford automobile, for example—while other times it will be a reputation or a way of doing things.
But whatever it is, it’s got to work for you. It’s got to let your image, idea, or essence be in more than one place at once.
That’s how you build influence. Find what sets you apart, build a product on it, and market it.
Manage to do all that, and you’ll wake up one day realizing that all of a sudden people are calling you, not the other way around. And that, my friend, is influence.