Few things are as important to a working professional as a network of contacts. But if there is one area of weakness in most people’s persuasion arsenal, it exists in their professional network. We know it’s important to create and cultivate relationships, but we don’t necessarily put in the energy and effort.
Your persuasion priority may require you to establish new relationships or refresh existing ones. During the course of your efforts, you also may need and want to seek out subject matter experts, mentors, historians, prognosticators and contrarians.
If your persuasion priority is to bring a new product to market, making the case for it requires an analysis of product liability risks — an area that might be outside your expertise. You’ll need to find a subject matter expert, and you’ll need to make a solid first impression while establishing a positive relationship and expanding your professional network.
Additionally, you may want to seek out someone to teach you a new skill or provide guidance. Whether you refer to that individual as a teacher, a mentor or a coach — and there are distinctions between those terms — doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you’re reaching out.
Say you’re creating a point-of-purchase marketing support initiative and you need help determining the best way to communicate with your retailers. Find someone who has done the same thing before and ask for guidance. You’ll not only get new information, but establish a new relationship, too.
Perhaps you’ll need a historian, someone who possesses the history critical to your persuasion priority. Maybe you’re pitching a new idea to an existing client, but you’ve never worked with this client directly. You’ll need someone who knows existing relationships, past experiences involving the client and your organization, and where minefields might be lurking. To get started, reach out to a colleague.
In other situations, you may seek out what are sometimes referred to as prognosticators. They are usually found in market research areas and can evaluate current indicators and make educated predictions about what’s going to develop in the coming years and quarters. Perhaps the product line is maturing and therefore will be subject to competitors, or the client base is aging and there will be natural attrition, or the markets will align and there will be an opportunity for new offerings.
Finally, if you’re confident and adventurous, you can seek out contrarians. Those people have the ability to powerfully argue the opposite and tell you why your ideas aren’t as good as you think. You’re free to disagree, of course. But in the end, you’ll have another opinion — and maybe even some new ideas you hadn’t previously considered — to strengthen your approach.
Relationships can be as powerful as splitting the atom in terms of creating your credibility and influence. So think about your persuasion priority in terms of a clean slate, an opportunity to reinvigorate your networking efforts.