For networking to be effective you need to identify systematically those people you know in various facets of your life who will form the foundation of your networking efforts (e.g., the foundation of your network sales force.) By leveraging meetings with the help of your friends initially, you will always be speaking with someone you know or someone who has been a referral from a friend or colleague. There are a number of categories of a potential network sales force, but those most valuable to business people are:
- Personal friends.
- Present or former classmates (high school, college, graduate school.)
- Colleagues from present and past companies (in every function, division and location.)
- Industry professionals (consultants, auditors, bankers, etc.)
- Friends from vocations or interests.
A key is to list them (you’d be amazed at how many important names you forget), and then categorize them by assessing how much help the person might be able to add. Define as highly helpful, somewhat helpful, and possibly helpful (a basic A, B, C or 1, 2, 3 system).
The system is imperfect in that some of the A’s will be less helpful than some of your B’s, although they are better connected. The written list, however, gives you an important starting point.