Although we know that the goal of networking is to discover new business opportunities, it's more than a "paint by the numbers" process. It takes time, patience, and creativity to cultivate people into our lives. The key is to make networking become a natural part of everyday life.

When I first started consulting businesspeople, networking was starting to get a bad reputation. People saw trade shows, business seminars, and community events as "targets" to pass out and collect as many business cards as possible. Ultimately, people networked when they needed something from someone. I agree that type of attitude can be detrimental to our sales success.

To make positive networking become a part of your everyday life, start with a strategy and...