My wife, Lisa, used to work for a small start-up company. Having few other employees, the powers that be of that firm assigned her tasks which ranged over a wide spectrum, from helping with the financials to running the lab. They even had her making (shudder) cold calls — fortunately, not for very long.

I still remember the day that she came home after an afternoon of “dialing for dollars”. Needless to say she was feeling a little bit of frustration — but not for the reasons you might think. The problem that she had with cold calling was that she couldn’t get them to get off the phone. On average her calls lasted between five and fifteen minutes (yes, that’s minutes not seconds) and several lasted much longer. Even when she tried to explain to them that the service she was selling couldn’t help them, they still wouldn’t leave her alone.

I can hear you scratching your head out there on this one. What was she doing?

Well, it turned out that she was calling academic research scientists to see if they were interested in her company’s service. Before she called, she would look up their name on the Web to see what papers they had written recently. Then when she called, she introduced herself as “Dr. Elizabeth Peters” (which she is allowed to do, having earned a PhD in molecular biology) which made her a peer. She then did something that most cold-callers don’t do.

She asked them what they were working on currently.

This is not something that scientists get asked often, just out of the blue, and they would go to town. They were the experts in their fields and had been given permission to talk about their true love — their research.

So, what does this have to do with networking?

The same steps that she took for cold calling are the steps we can take to strengthen our network. If we know with whom we’ll be speaking, then we can find out a little more about them.  Google them. Check out their public profiles on social media sites. Read their website and check out the most recent press releases. We can then present ourselves as peers — business owners, or at least well-connected networkers. Finally, we can just show interest in that other person and what they are doing.

Now, unlike cold-calling, we won’t just be hanging up the phone and moving on to the next person. We’ll be taking all of this information we’ve gained to forge a strong relationship, one where we aren’t asking for the sale, but rather looking for ways we can serve.

After that the sales will show up on their own.