I’ve often said that good networkers have to be strategic. With only a limited amount of time to network, you have to put your time and energy where it will do the most good. That being said, not all networking connections are equal. You will need to focus more of your effort on your “inner circle” than one those who are more peripheral to your networking practice.

If you think about it, this is definitely true in your personal life. How many close, personal friends do you have? How much time do you spend with them as opposed to how much time you spend with that guy you met at the party last week? Now, that guy might be a perfectly decent human being and you might even associate with him on a casual basis, but you aren’t likely to spend more time with him than with your friends whom you’ve known for years.

In networking terms, your inner circle are likely to be those with whom you’ve shared many a coffee or lunch. You each know a lot about the other — so much that you’ve already been able to pass referrals to each other. Oh, and those referrals? They’re not just “You should talk with Bob Smith”. They’re more along the lines of “I was speaking with Bob Smith the other day and he really needs your services. Would it be OK if I set up a meeting for the three of us so I can introduce you to him?”

Your networking inner circle is always looking out for you and you should always be looking out for them, too. You need to know who they are, what they do, and why. You need to know their challenges, their achievements and their goals. You should also know who or what they are seeking, whether it’s their perfect client, a connection they want to make, or an opportunity they would like to take advantage of.

Remember, your networking inner circle is only going to have a few people — probably less than ten. These will be the best networkers you know and those most likely to be able to help you. When you discover them do everything you can to value them.

Because they are the ones who will help you succeed beyond your expectations.

Photo credit: Svilen Milev