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Let’s settle the debate once and for all. Which is more important? What you know or who you know? Well, as it turns out, it’s a trick question. The answer: Both.

Progressing in your career or in growing a business is never easy without the right relationships. But, when you finally do get to meet the kind of people who have the power to put you on the fast track to success, you’d better have something to contribute.

By the time we finish college, we’ve spent years and years developing what we know. This knowledge and competence is added upon as we gain on-the-job experience. But, there’s a good chance that you haven’t given nearly as much thought to developing the other side of the equation. Many of us don’t invest sufficient effort to expand who we know. Often, this pattern of behavior persists throughout a person’s entire career.

Don’t Be Random, Be Strategic

We have a tendency to view education very methodically. We plan it out years in advance. Seeing as how that’s only half the battle, shouldn’t we also create a plan to methodically build our network?

Throughout his impressive career, networking expert Keith Ferrazzi has created a method that could change the way you think about developing and nurturing business relationships.

In his bestselling book, Never Eat Alone, Ferrazzi writes: ”The tool I use is something I call the Relationship Action Plan. The most simple version of the plan is separated into three distinct parts: The first part is devoted to the development of the goals that will help you fulfill your mission. The second part is devoted to connecting those goals to the people, places, and things that will help you get the job done. And the third part helps you determine the best way to reach out to the people who will help you to accomplish your goals. This means choosing a medium to connect, but, more important, it means finding a way to lead with generosity.”

For many of us, networking refers to an activity during which we:

  • Congregate in large groups of people (many of whom may be unemployed)
  • Spend a few hours engaging in friendly small talk with strangers
  • Exchanging business cards, followed by never speaking to each other again

There are multiple flaws in this method, not the least of which being that it’s far too random. For the most part, you likely have no idea who’s going to be at the next networking event that you plan to attend. You don’t know if the people that you talk to will be in a position to help you achieve your goals.

“Personal relationships are always the key to good business. You can buy networking; you can’t buy friendships.” – Lindsay Fox

Is Research Creepy?

Take time to plan ahead. Do your best to determine which people have the greatest potential to assist you in accomplishing your professional objectives. Research these people and try to learn how you can meet, connect and build ongoing relationships with them.

As you do so, be sure to keep in mind what Ferrazzi says about “finding a way to lead with generosity”. When reaching out to these people, your first concern should be how to add meaningful value to their lives so that you can establish a positive relationship.

There are those who would probably consider this type of behavior to be borderline stalking. After all, the plan is to diligently study a group of people, some of whom are probably strangers. You want to learn about their likes, dislikes, habits, hobbies, family, friends, etc.

When you think about it this way, it is admittedly a little bit weird. That said, keep in mind that your goal is to create a mutually beneficial relationship by leading with generosity and value. In other words, you’re studying these people in order to learn how to best help them.

Obviously, there are boundaries that you don’t want to cross. Be tactful and respect privacy. Luckily, these days, you can often learn plenty with things like Google, social media and company websites. For the most part, this is information that the person has chosen to publicly share with the world.

In the end, this type of planning may still make you a little uncomfortable. But, honestly, those who refuse to leave their comfort zones tend to have a low propensity for success. If it makes you feel any better, think of yourself as a spy gathering vital intel that will help you accomplish your mission to do good and fight for justice.

What Do You Want Out Of Life?

In your efforts to create and execute your own “Relationship Action Plan” (RAP), remember that this is about achieving your goals… which means you need to have goals. Those goals need to be specific, well thought out and realistic. They also need to have deadlines. (Otherwise they’re just dreams.) 

“I list what I’d like to accomplish three years from today. I then work backward in both one-year and three-month increments to develop mid-and short-term goals that will help me reach my mission.” – Keith Ferrazzi

Where Do You See Yourself In 3 Years?

Imagine what you could accomplish after three years of executing a well thought out Relationship Action Plan!

You probably spent somewhere between one and two decades in school developing and increasing what you know. Now you can add to that knowledge by expanding who you know, so you can achieve the kind of success that we all want.

What do you think is most important: what you know or who you know? Let us know by commenting below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

4 COMMENTS

  1. Hey there, I really enjoyed this post and the rest of the website. I can’t wait to come back and explore and find all the gems that will help me achieve my goals. A week or so ago I wrote down my goals for the next two years, and now I want to make them actionable.

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