Many people say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Others say it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. Regardless of what perspective you prescribe to, what cannot be denied is that relationships are important. Having the right relationships can lead to new customers, give you access to valuable management knowledge and access to capital sources. However, there isn’t much guidance out there on how to leverage your relationships to achieve your goals. With this in mind, I'll share two relationship leveraging methods that I use to achieve my goals.
I define utility leverage as using relationships to get things done. Earlier this year, I organized a large conference and needed presenters. However, I did not have a speaker budget. To remedy this issue, I used utility leverage and asked other business professionals with whom I had great relationships with to volunteer as speakers and moderators for the conference. Using this approach I was able to secure 50 presenters, and a person on my team secured an additional 20 speakers by using utility leverage in her professional network! Utility leverage can be used in personal and professional relationships to gain knowledge, get introductions to potential mentors and clients, and to get free or subsidized services and support. Think about your goals and things you’d like to accomplish, and then identify people in your network who you can help you bring them to reality.
I define value leverage as using relationships to increase your value in the eyes of others. Partnerships, previous and current clients, and other types of relationships can be used to increase your value to potential customers, media and other stakeholders. For example, having a Fortune 500 company on your client list will make you much more attractive to other Fortune 500 companies. Or having a celebrity wear or use your product on social media will make their followers want to purchase it as well. Receiving an industry award or being covered by a major media outlet are other examples of value leverage. Utilizing value leverage is one of the most powerful ways to achieve your goals. If you’re a new business, you can do pro bono work for a high-profile client or brand, provide them with value and then leverage that transaction into paid opportunities with comparable firms. As you build relationships, be cognizant of how each relationship impacts others’ perception of your business or brand. Then, work to develop relationships that put your business, product or service in a more positive light.
Developing Your Relationship Utilization Strategy
Your network is one of your most valuable resources if used correctly. Here’s an outline of how to create a Relationship Utilization plan using the two methods mentioned above:
1. Identify your business goals.
2. Identify current relationships with which you can use utility or value leverage to achieve your business goals. Then, for each relationship, develop a utilization strategy for how you plan to use utility or value leverage to achieve your goal. Think about ways you’ll be able to benefit the relationships on your list as well.
3. Identify individuals, companies and brands that you currently don’t have a relationship with. Develop a strategy for how you plan to establish the relationship.
4. Once each new relationship is established, repeat step two.
By using these two techniques, you can greatly increase the value of your network and the likelihood of you achieving your goals.