The Slippery Slope of the Who vs the What

Many of us contend on a daily basis of winning or losing based on “who they know” over “what we know”.  It is at the very least, tacit acknowledgement that relationships matter, and at the worst, that relationships trump knowledge.

There is a dichotomy of training this behavior in college, and even before that, the selection process of professional direction. Many engineers might see the image of Mr. Spock as the culmination of all that is good:

  • That facts and knowledge win
  • That emotions are best minimized
  • That Dr. McCoy really should have been a plumber
  • That truly the best job is one that sees only black and white in this multi-colored world.




The other side of the spectrum is a social approach to support.   Marketing and Sales take the perspective of drawing a prospect in based on relationship and connection.   The cold call is the bane of the salesman since it lacks the rapport of an association.   The client sees only:

  • That the clutter of messages they receive do not add clarity of the offering
  • That the facts of the deal seldom guarantee a sale
  • That the constraints to start a new relationship often overcome the details of a good offering
  • That they already have enough friends … and few salesmen are truly their friends





The best strategy of approach is the combination of:

  • The Ego and the Id
  • Of the science and the religion
  • Of fact and fantasy


The successful offering will not win by fact alone or respond by gratitude and appreciation. The successful business combines the rapport with the accomplishment, and the offering with the indebtedness.  It is walking the line between pounding the engineering hammer and wearing the business hat.

Few sales are won without substance, and few projects succeed without communication.   It is this combination of business and engineering skills that truly allow a project to start, and ultimately allow a project to succeed.  And it is training the engineering staff to look up … and the business staff to follow the details … that wins the day.


Paraphrasing the Latin “Cui Bono? Forest fortuna adiuvat”.


Who benefits? Fortune favors the brave.












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