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Alliance Networking: It's Not Just Name-Dropping

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 6/7/2013

The Q2 issue of Strategic Alliance Magazine is in mailboxes now, and as always we like to provide a few “extras” or “outtakes”—bits of interviews and other content that didn’t make it into the magazine. This one comes from the “Your Career” feature in the current issue, “At the Heart of Every Alliance Is a Great Networker,” which discusses the ways and means of networking and making connections and their importance for alliance professionals.

“People say to me, ‘Of course you’re a good networker—you’re gregarious, and you’re not afraid of people,’” said Michael W. Young, vice president of alliance management and business development at Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD). But Young referenced a recent book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain (Crown, 2012; rpt. Broadway, 2013), about the hurdles and misunderstandings faced by introverted people out in the world, to show that even the more inward-focused among us can succeed at networking—a key skill for alliance professionals.

“[Introverts] have the ability to be very good networkers. They don’t have to be the guy who hands out business cards to people he doesn’t know,” Young said. “A couple of the best alliance people I’ve managed over my career I would say are people who are highly analytical and have backgrounds that don’t suggest they should be in a sales or marketing role.

“Often I think there’s a presumption that to be a good networker you have to be outgoing and gregarious. But networking is a lot more than just knowing people. My belief is that networking is an organized, disciplined way of going about and organizing or directing your relationship building. What’s behind this? You’ve heard the concept of the ‘Renaissance man’: the 14th-century guy who knew a little bit about everything. In Renaissance times, that was an individual who had a vast library and owned most of the books in print at that time, a scholar. One simplistic way to look at that is these individuals were thought to know everything. In this new millennium, the 21st century, we are absolutely information rich, or data rich, and application poor. We have tons of information available to us, but it’s not very well organized.

“The people we know and the networks we know are the same situation. There are tons of people we interact with every day, but they’re not organized. In the new millennium, the Renaissance man doesn’t need to know everything, but they need to know somebody who knows what they need to know. It really comes down to having access to people and sources of information, like Google. Your network is a gigantic personal Wikipedia—you’re adding people to your network Wikipedia. It’s having the discipline and foresight, as you’re meeting people, to assess how they might be valuable to you or others in the future.”

But Young cautioned that networking is not about merely name-dropping. “There’s a T-shirt I have that says, ‘It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you,’” he observed. “What I take from that is that networked people are known, and really well-networked people are referenced and sought after. Whether you’re wanting to increase market awareness for your product or your personal brand (i.e., job hunting), being well networked ultimately comes down to who knows you.”

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