Developing relationships is key to success

It's not only who you know, but also what kind of relationship you have with that person. Mark Amtower talks about how relationships can be a key to your success if you bring something to the table as well.

Join Mark Amtower ​Aug 12, 8:00 am – noon for the program: .

I am not a fan of the phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” For me, that is an incomplete formula.

“This market, any market, is all about relationships.” That was the first line of my first book, Government Marketing Best Practices (2005). In Selling to the Government (2011), I devote an entire chapter to relationships. Without a doubt, this is a relationship-driven market. Who you know and how they know you can expedite introductions, meetings, sub-contacting roles and much more.

So what kind of relationships are there?

  • C-level and managers to employees
  • Company rep to government client
  • Manufacturer to channel partner
  • Prime to sub/sub to prime
  • Teaming partners to one another
  • Company to media
  • Government to media
  • Peer to peer

And more.

Traditional venues for starting relationships include your office setting, professional associations, briefings and networking events, trade shows and other events and social networks like LinkedIn.

If you are consciously developing a career path, relationships are key. But these have to be two-way relationships – you have to bring something to the party. I was fortunate earlier in my career by the mentors I had and the relationships I developed with some very key people in the government market.

Federal Sources, the leading provider of contract intelligence from the mid-1980s through the late 1990s, launched in 1984, one year before I started Amtower & Company. I got to know the CEO, Tom Hewitt, a few years later and we would talk frequently. Throughout the 1990s, Hewitt was my LinkedIn – he knew just about everyone, and he let me tap into his network. My quid pro quo was tactical marketing advice and once each year we’d sit down for two hours or more in the morning and review his marketing plan for the coming year.

My relationship with Tom and a few others, like Dendy Young and Lynn Bateman, provided me with an inner circle with massive connections and market intelligence. Each was a wealth of information and connections, and each added to my knowledge base and my network.

Each of these people are part of my LinkedIn community and I still hear from each with some regularity. LinkedIn is how I stay in touch with most of those I have worked with over the past thirty-plus years, as well as those who have seen me speak, read my books or articles, listen to my radio show or are simply part of the government contractor community we all share.

My activity on LinkedIn allows those connected with me to see immediately what I am up to, be it interviewing the Alliant team on my show, posting news and opinions on my profile, or sharing someone else’s post or article. I get calls, InMails and emails frequently from those in my network because of my online activity. It also allows me to see what they are up to and reach out when I think I can help or support them in some way, or just to comment on what they are doing. I don’t like to see my connections unemployed and will help them find positions when I can.

The relationships you develop will be key to your success.  However, remember that these have to be two-way relationships – you have to bring something to the party. You need to add value to the relationship however you can.

My first mentor in the market, Lynn Bateman, taught me by example what has remained my biggest lesson: Honesty, integrity and the ability to deliver what you promise are the biggest things you can have going for you.

Once you are known for these, you will start building deeper, longer lasting relationships and you’ll end up with a network your competitors will envy.

It’s not simply who you know, but what you bring to the party. That is the full-circle formula.


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