After selecting friends and colleagues who will form the foundation for your network sales force, you need to identify a number of companies in the industry and the targeted geographical areas that could be of interest to you. It is not critical that you have the “best” companies initially, because your networking eventually will produce the appropriate list for you.
This data will give you credibility when you go to meet with a busy executive who asks, “Which companies have you identified as targets?” As a matter of fact, when busy executives are asked under what circumstances they will network with someone, they almost always answer, “When it is a referral from a friend, when the person is clearly focused on specific companies within my industry, or when I can learn some industry intelligence.”
The focus for networking is not companies, per se, but the executives within those companies who potentially could become your next boss. Experience teaches that 25-30 executives in selected companies are about the most you can manage and that those companies can be, at a maximum, in two or three industries. Often, those two or three industries are closely aligned, such as a professional looking at a position involving creative and content in a company may also be looking at a creative position within an advertising agency, or a designer of apparel may also be looking at accessories or home furnishings.
It is imperative to note that when you go on a networking interview, focus only on the industry and function where the interviewer is an expert. Do not mention that you may be interested in other industries as well.
At this point you have identified a kick-off point (your friends and colleagues who form the foundation of your networking efforts) and an end point (the up to 25-30 potential bosses you need to meet.) The next steps are introductions from your network sales force to individuals who know the potential bosses or can connect you to them. Your behavior in the networking interview drives the process forward.