Submitted by: Rip Tilden, Partner, Makarios Consulting, LLC

Put follow-ups in your right pocket.

That’s one suggestion I offer to audience members during business development networking workshops. The level of detail might be surprising. Many think of networking as an exercise in shaking hands and making small talk – an excuse to call happy hour “work” or a chance for extroverts to pave the way for their next job. But with the right strategy, practice and attention-to-detail, business development networking – the process of building relationships you can support and who will support you and contribute to the growth of your business – can be an important and fruitful tool.

That idea of building a network you can support – by keeping what I call a 180-degree perspective – is the first key. In short, forget your needs. Focus first on the needs of others.

I’m privileged to serve as Chairman and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Senior Executive Group (GPSEG), which is among the region’s largest networking and professional development organizations. GPSEG’s 1,400-plus members – senior level executives, business owners and non-profit directors, among others – join to give something, not get something. Our first goal as business leaders is to make our networks and wealth of experience work for our fellow members.

Yes, business development networking can establish or enhance your company’s brand. It can help you differentiate your business in a crowded and competitive market. But at a more basic level, it should also be viewed as a tool for strengthening relationships and establishing yourself as a trusted advisor to a growing band of people.