There is this unassuming little word you often find in the biographies of famous people. The word is met. William R. Hewlett met David Packard. Dean Martin met Jerry Lewis. Sid met Nancy. Siegfried met Roy.

Meeting people is one of the fundamental steps to building relationships, in business as in life. But it is not the only step.

There is a big difference between meeting someone and building a lasting relationship with them. There is a long way from "met" to "net" (as in networking), and because people misjudge this distance, the term "networking" has gotten a bum rap.

I consistently ask professionals to share with me what they think of when they hear the word networking. Far too often, they say it conjures up images of manipulative, self-serving, insincere and predatory individuals who are on the prowl for someone they can pounce on, try to sell something to, or solicit an unearned favor from.

I wish I could say this style of networking wasn't out there, but it is, and it is a waste of time for ineffective networkers and the unfortunate people they corner. True networking is not about arm-twisting or trying to get someone to do something that does not make sense for them.

How do you build priceless business relationships through networking? This is an important question to consider because, to a large degree, who you know and associate with determines who you become in life. The most successful, well-rounded and happy people are often the ones who are best connected to other successful, well-rounded and happy people. When these people need support or information, they know who to call.

How well-connected you are determines your access to those with the most money, the best contacts, the real power and influence (not to mention the best seats at sporting events). Being connected to the right people opens up opportunities for you and your business. Here are a few ways to get you started on the right path.

Becoming a Progress Agent

To build great relationships, you need to help others be successful. You need to help them progress. Everyone connects with others with the goal of progressing in some way.

Everything we do, consciously or subconsciously, we do because we believe the perceived consequences of those actions will bring us what I call the Six P's of Progress: Pleasure, Peace of Mind, Profit, Prestige, Pain Avoidance and Power.

This applies to eating, shopping, exercising, hugging, crying, working, going to the movies—whatever. Each of us makes decisions as to what to read, whom to talk to, what to buy, where to eat, what to eat, whom to take phone calls from and whom to help, based on whether we think these acts will bring us the Six P's of Progress.

The people we meet must view being around us as progress, not simply change. It is natural to resist change, but we embrace progress. Building a relationship with us must be viewed as progress if we hope others will choose to alter their lives to include us.

It helps to think of networking as a creative process: You are creating ways to serve and to help people progress. You progress when you help others progress. To build priceless business relationships and become a truly effective networker, you constantly need to search out ways to help others progress. You must position yourself in their minds as a catalyst or agent in their progress.

Cracking the CODE

A nurturing, giving attitude is the cornerstone to Cracking the Networking CODE. The four letters that make up the word CODE stand for the four steps consistently taken by the most effective networkers to build truly priceless business relationships and be progress-effective networkers.

C: Create Personal Curb Appeal

Effective networkers feel successful and display a genuine desire to help others progress. They are Progress Agents. They look and act the part of someone you would want to have in your corner. They don't go to networking events looking for success; they take success with them to the events.

O: Open Face-to-Face Relationships

Effective networkers connect with new people everywhere they go. They also research the various networking event options and commit to a networking strategy. They get out and about and reach out. They proactively open relationships. Be aware that it's possible to go to a networking event and not have any "networking moments." It is not just about showering and showing up. It's about connecting with people and finding ways to help them progress.

D: Deliver Solid First Impressions

Effective networkers know their first impression sets the foundation for all future impressions, and they make sure it's progress-based. Effective networkers strive to stand out in a positive way in the minds of people with whom they want future contact. Effective networkers focus on being interested, rather than interesting. They turn people on to them by tuning in to others.

E: Earn Trust

My definition of trust is the promise of progress. Effective networkers follow up and keep in touch. They get to know and stay involved with the people they meet and earn their trust through a series of progress-based impressions. They continually find ways to help—to be progress for those in their network. This is where most ineffective networkers drop the ball.

Networking is more than just chance meetings. Even if your BlackBerry is bursting with names, numbers and email addresses, it will not do you a bit of good unless you build the relationships. People do business with, as well as help, share information with, brainstorm with and give referrals to, those people they trust and value. They trust and value people who genuinely care about them and offer the promise of progress.