“It’s all about who you know.”
It may be the most shopworn piece of career and life advice of all time, but there’s good reason why this little aphorism gets tossed around so frequently and with such confidence. If you want to succeed in life in any capacity, you need to make the right connections.
See, for example, the fact that roughly 80 percent of jobs are landed through networking – which should come as a surprise to no one.
The same can be said to hold true for companies themselves: to succeed, companies need to make the right connections. They need to hire the right people. They need to earn the business of the right clients. They need to meet the right investors.
So why is it, then, that we often think of networking as an individual activity? A lone salesperson heads to a conference to find some leads; a single recruiter scours LinkedIn to surface new candidates. But what about the company overall? Why isn’t the company itself doing some networking?
Taking this atomized approach to networking is a critical mistake, according to Mallory Walsh, a senior account executive at Relationship Science, a company that aims to help organizations leverage the collective networks of their employees.
“What we’ve learned from working with a number of institutions across industries is that a lot of these organizations have employees that have spent their whole careers amassing really deep rolodexes,” Walsh says. “But rather than leveraging those aggregated rolodexes as an organization to drive the business, the individual employees are using them. Therefore, companies are missing out on opportunities to collaborate as an institution.”
This is why Walsh and the folks at Relationship Science say that “relationships are the most underutilized assets that businesses have.” The networks are in place — the employees are bringing hundreds, maybe thousands, of relationships with them to work every day — but companies are failing to take advantage of this fact.
Building a Centralized Network of Company Contacts
In order to help companies get the most out of their cumulative networks, Relationship Science builds centralized systems of contacts. The platform, which was launched in 2013, works like so: every employee of the company loads their contacts into Relationship Science. Then, individual employees can log into the platform to see not only who their contacts can introduce them to, but also who their colleagues’ contacts can introduce them to.
Relationship Science’s platform also actively collects data on a company’s contacts, which means that individual employees don’t have to spend time maintaining their own rolodexes.
“We try to deliver the most up-to-date information about our contacts,” Walsh says. “As soon as a person moves positions or joins a new company, I have that information. I’m not looking at stale, outdated contacts.”
Furthermore, Relationship Science uses a series of algorithms to map out connections between contacts. By analyzing information like where contacts have worked, the investments they’ve made, and the deals they’ve done, Relationship Science paints a picture of how the various contacts in a company’s network overlap.
The aim here, Walsh explains, is to give users “an idea bout which of their contacts have strong relationships.” That way, companies can reach the people they need to reach through the contacts who can make those introductions.
Looking for Business Development Opportunities? Trying to Fill a Position? Leverage the Network
According to Walsh, centralized networks of company contacts allow organizations to make better use of their often underutilized professional networks.
For example, a salesperson may be looking to get in touch with a specific organization to pitch the company’s product. That salesperson may not have any contacts who can introduce them to the organization — but someone in HR might have a contact who can.
Similarly, corporate and third-party recruiters can use centralized networks to make better placements.
“If we have a shortlist of candidates we want to place, we can use this platform to see which of those candidates already have some level of connection to the company,” Walsh explains.
Those candidates who are already connected are likely to be better fits than those who are not. As we already know, referred candidates tend to outperform non-referred candidates.
When it comes to talent or business development — as with everything else in life — it’s always all about who you know.