WILKES BARRE, Pa., (April 30, 2014) -- As recruiters, we deal with VIPs (very important person) and COIs (centers of influence).VIPs are those members of the community who help us with opening doors, finding locations for meetings and events and link us with educators in the community. COIs on the other hand, provide referrals.Our goal at Wilke Barre, Pa., Recruiting Company is to develop VIPs into COIs. The Stroudsburg recruiting team has done just that. A VIP at North Hampton Community College, Laura Shamburger, who now, is also a COI, has referred 12 enlistments, countless leads, incorporated March 2 Success into the curriculum, and recently gained approval to administer the SASVAB at the college.Our goal is to have COIs who provides referrals every week, COIs who rival our best recruiters. This is the goal every member of USAREC should strive to achieve.The question is, when does a VIP become a COI and how do we, as recruiters, develop this relationship? Over the past year the Wilkes Barre Company has developed an answer to that question.The first thing to keep in mind is that developing VIPs into COIs takes time. I look at the development process in four distinct phases, which are the Introduction, relationship building, education, and contract producing asset phases. INTRODUCTION PHASE:In December 2012 Sgt. Kara Wilson and Staff Sgt. Matthew Gendron, Stroudsburg Recruiting Center, performed initial introductions with Mrs. Shamburger who is the Military Veterans Service Members Liaison for the college. The recruiters educated themselves on what her role was at the college and what goals and milestones she was striving to achieve related to her job. The recruiters learned Mrs. Shamburger works with the student service support staff advising students on the process of obtaining financial aid and planning their time at the college.At this point, Mrs. Shamburger was simply considered a VIP as she allowed the recruiters entry into the college - in the past that getting access to this college had been difficult. She was an absolutely fantastic VIP who was instrumental in opening doors at the college. The recruiters determined that because of Mrs. Shamburger's position at the college and her goals for the students, she had the potential to be a successful COI, so they pursued developing a COI relationship.RELATIONSHIP BUILDING PHASE:During this phase Mrs. Shamburger was instrumental in linking Sgt. Wilson and Staff Sgt. Gendron to multiple military driven programs within the college. She also allowed them to give countless classroom presentations and interact with students through the first six months of the VIP/recruiter relationship.It took time to accomplish these objectives, which were the stepping stone to the next phase. Being allowed entry into a school is a great accomplishment; however, this is not the point in the COI developing process that Soldiers should stagnate. Once success has been achieved, the Soldier should continue to build the relationship on a weekly basis. Do not stop at the first sign of success; keep pushing to further develop the COI.The recruiters nurtured their relationship with Mrs. Shamburger for six months before introducing her to the educational briefs. It is important to determine the right time to approach a potential COI about briefing them on the educational benefits of joining the Army. COIs need to have a certain level of trust in order to listen to an educational brief and buy-in to our mission.The recruiters also accepted all of Mrs. Shamburger's invitations to take part in career fairs and give classroom presentation. It is essential to follow through with requests such as this, because no matter how many good things you have done for a COI, it will only take one action to destroy a relationship. EDUCATION PHASE:This is when the change from VIP to COI occurred for Mrs. Shamburger. After multiple educational briefs, she became aware of why it was beneficial for students to join the United States Army. There was nothing special about the briefs that the Stroudsburg team performed; however, Mrs. Shamburger had a level of trust with the recruiters that facilitated her desire to refer prospects.This phase may take anywhere from two weeks to six months. It depends on the COI and the environment in which the COI works. Mrs. Shamburger's office is right outside the financial aid office, which allowed her to interact with students who needed money for college. This is a prime example of how the environment can affect how much a COI can offer.The COI/recruiter relationship was formed through daily interactions over a six month period and was solidified once Mrs. Shamburger came to her own conclusion that the Army was only interested in what was best for the students. This happened once she understood the benefits of the United States Army and Army Reserves.CONTRACT PRODUCING ASSET PHASE:Armed with this information, Mrs. Shamburger made her first referral to Sgt. Wilson hoping her student would join the Army Reserves. After learning the student had been turned down for financial aid, Mrs. Shamburger made a point to brief him about the financial benefits of joining the Army, basically conducting an appointment like any recruiter would.To date, Mrs. Shamburger has made countless referrals, 12 of whom have signed contracts. All of her referrals were committed to signing, however some were later determined to be unqualified.Developing a COI takes time and knowledge. It takes time to build a relationship as successful as the one Sgt. Wilson and Staff Sgt. Gendron developed with Mrs. Shamburger. Recruiters must also continuously follow-up with their COIs. If follow-ups and continuous engagements do not occur, the COI will slip back into the education phase and even the relationship development phase.The Stroudsburg Center contacts Mrs. Shamburger weekly and continues to develop her as a COI. It is a never-ending process that must be constantly monitored in order to receive the highest return on investment (ROI).When used properly, a COI can be a contract producing asset for the company. It simply takes time and knowledge to successfully develop a COI who not only opens doors, but refers applicants.