For privacy reasons, I’ve substituted the names in the following post
Sitting in the back of a taxicab on a beautiful May morning in Madrid, I find myself on the way to a meeting with Javier Ramos, CEO of Telefoncia, a telecommunications giant and Spain’s largest company. While this will be my first time meeting Javier, I’ve been building my lateral influence in preparation for this meeting for nine months.
The first piece of the puzzle was connecting with an old colleague of mine who was from Spain. She connected me with a friend of her father’s, Jaime Vinacua, who happened to be friends with Jose Fuentes, Chairman of Telefonica. Jaime was extremely respected within the Spanish business community and had become quite an advocate of my organization after having participated in one of our events. He had an initial conversation with Jose Fuentes, who said he simply didn’t have the time to join our initiative, but he gave his blessing and mentioned that he’d like to see if Telefonica could participate. We then connected with some of the key advisors to the CEO to convince them of the merits of a potential partnership. Before my actual meeting with Javier, his boss, his advisors and Jaime Vinacua had all had previous discussions about the merits of our initiative. Thankfully, we were able to convince him to join us.
If my levels of social capital in Spain were at similar levels to those of Javier, all of this preparation would not have been necessary. In this case, they were not and so I needed to employ what I call “Lateral Influence.” But before we dive into lateral influence, I want to make sure everyone understands that social capital is the quality and quantity of connections we have along with our own position and level of respect within a network. Now back to Lateral Influence…
Essentially Lateral Influence is the process of leveraging second-degree connections surrounding a target in order to elevate an initiative above the noise. If I were to approach Javier Ramos from a place of inferior social capital, the likelihood of signing a deal would have been very small.
Here is how you implement Lateral Influence:
1) Identify Second Degree Connections – Who does the target respect? Who are personal friends with the target? Who does he or she look up to? Who advises the target inside or outside the company? Who would the target be intrigued to receive a letter or email from?
2) Identify Third Degree Connections – Who do you know who personally knows the target’s second degree connections?
3) Receive Intro from Third Degree Connections – Research the second degree targets and ask your third degree connections to make an introduction. Set up a meeting.
4) Convince the Second Degree Target – Convince the second degree target of the validity of your cause. If he or she does not believe in your cause or your genuineness, then an introduction or mention to the target will be off the table. People can spot fakeness a mile away so if you are not truly interested in the second degree target, then they won’t help you.
5) Confirm Second Degree Connection – It’s one thing for someone to say they will do something, it’s another for them to actually do it. Gentle persistence is required to confirm that a second degree connection follows up on what you’ve agreed upon. In some cases, you may want the individual to simply state that he/she met you and was intrigued by your proposal. This can happen by email, personalized letter, telephone call, mention in passing, etc. In other cases, you will need the individual to make an actual introduction to the target. Keep in mind that who introduces you is often times more important than the actual introduction.
6) Pitch the Target – Now that we’ve done our homework and successfully placed our initiative on the radar of the target, it’s time to go in for the official pitch. The more you know about the individual the better you can tailor your pitch accordingly.
In this day of hyper communication, we must elevate our cause above the noise so that the target genuinely considers our ask. By using lateral influence we can increase the likelihood of a positive response given that several people whom he or she respects are recommending for him or her to take a closer look at what we have to offer.
Photo Credit: Gideon Tsang