What is a well-constructed network of business associates?

I’m sure that we have all noticed this strange phenomenon of ‘networking’ that has been rapidly expanding, particularly over the past 10 years or so.

Without doubt, networking has great value and can be a real source of business, but only when it is done correctly, having said that, I believe that many are missing the most productive way of networking. I see so many people trying to build up this vast network of contacts – some two or three hundred, and occasionally even more than that. There is a wrong perception among many that this is what you need to do to be successful. In my experience, this is totally the wrong approach.

You may have 200+ in your network list but are they active? Are they the right people who can genuinely influence others and pass on credible referrals? Are they of the calibre where you would be confident to reciprocate and introduce them to your clients? If not, then they are of little or no value as ‘network contacts’. Additionally, how on earth could you ever offer reciprocal referrals to such a vast network?

My advice

If you cultivate a maximum of 10 – 12 good network associates, who fit a certain category, then you will achieve real commercial benefit, let’s call them ‘referral partners’. These would need to be people who are highly active in business, well respected, well connected, are able to influence others, and most importantly, you would be equally happy to reciprocate by confidently referring them to your clients. This is where the real benefit of networking begins!

This small number of key referral partners should jointly commit to work hard for one another. With this approach you will get both more, and better qualified referrals. There will be a substantially improved commercial benefit from the committed few than from a 200+ network of distant people, who are mostly consumed with ‘self-interest’ rather than reciprocal arrangements.

It is impossible to develop close and meaningful business relationships with vast numbers of people, but it is very easy to engage closely with a few selected people who are of like mind and have matching business ethics.

When you network, look out for the ‘right people’ rather than just ‘people’ – quality not quantity! Work hard to cultivate a good relationship with the ‘right people’, and make sure you identify them before your competitors do.

My conclusion

Networking can open great opportunities – it’s all about achieving mutual commercial gain through developing meaningful relationships with ‘the few’, rather than a distant relationship with ‘the many’.

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