It’s No Longer WHO You Know, but WHAT You Know — The Knowledge Network

The old adage, “It’s now what you know, but who you know.” doesn’t quite hold the weight it once used to. What you know is quickly becoming the way you meet the who.

Our networks used to live in our Rolodex’s. You could then find them in our DayPlanners, after that they moved to our PalmPilots and today they live in our phones. Our “networks” are the lifeblood sales and as sales people, that is good sales people, we have meticulously built them overtime. Our networks consist of past co-workers, friends, friends of friends, customers, former customers, past bosses, the guys we played softball with, the women in our book club, the parents of our kids friends and more.

We built these networks over-time based on physical connections and relationship oriented ties. We met people at one time or another and enough of a connection was created that we were able to leverage these connections for future use.

Networks are the cornerstone of all successful sales people. Successful sales people know how to use them to get meetings with prospective clients or how to help close a deal. Networks are a key tool in the tool belt of sales people but . . . things are changing.

The physical connections and relationship once critical to selling are no longer enough to compete. You can’t win if you are relying on networks built on offline, loose connections. It’s not enough anymore.

A new type of network as arrived on the scene and it’s quickly becoming a requirement to compete. This new network isn’t based on who you know, but rather WHAT you know and this network is far more powerful than our physical or old school network connections. I call this new network the knowledge network.

The knowledge network is built on your knowledge, on what you know. It’s the people we are connected to because of what we know and what  we’ve taught them. Knowledge network connections are established through knowledge, learning and teaching.

Connections in a knowledge network require a lot more than loose ties, camaraderie, and being a “nice guy.” They are created when you provide valuable insight. It’s when you teach a client, prospect, reader, etc something they didn’t already know. It’s when people around you learn something from, your blog, a question you answered on LinkedIn or Quora or a link you put on Twitter. Knowledge networks are created through the relevant information and expertise you provide.

Just as in the old days, networks are critical to sales. Whats different is the type of network that matters. To compete in sales today, it’s becoming increasing critical to be a unique, robust, source of insight, information, and thought leadership.

Building your knowledge network starts with gaining knowledge. To gain the knowledge required to develop a strong and broad knowledge network, you need to start with deliberate learning. Deliberately commit to learning as much as you can about a specific area in your space, it can be industry trends, it can be product use cases, it can be business problems or challenges, etc. Start by being deliberate in your learning. Know as much as you can about the space you operate in.

Once you’ve attained the knowledge, you need to spread it and the best place to do this is the web. Yes, I mean social media. Join Twitter, LinkedIn groups, Quora, start a blog and more. Build as many places where you can share and engage on the topics in which you are most knowledgeable.  Look for ways to dole out what you know. The goal in sharing is to help people. Create blog posts that tackle industry known challenges with unique perspectives and insight. Share targeted industry links that shed new insights and information with your followers on Twitter. Look for questions on LinkedIn and Quora where you can answer and provide a different perspective and add additional value. Engage the users asking the questions and provide information they can use. Remember, they asked the question for a reason, if you can help them, you are beginning to build your knowledge network.

Who we know isn’t going away. But, what we know is becoming more and more important. The web and social media are making it increasingly easier for potential customers, prospects, and hiring managers to build relationships on more than just loose ties. They now have powerful networks based on expertise and knowledge and these networks are providing tremendous value in helping them get their job done. The key is to be a part of these networks.


How big is your knowledge network?

What is bigger, your who you know network or your what you know network?

What are you doing to build your knowledge network today?

How much knowledge value do you bring to your constituencies?


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