I recently witnessed two very different views on network building offered by high ranking partners in well-known accounting firms. Each of these partners – one group in New York and the other in Texas — is interested in connecting with attorneys in need of forensic accounting services in the areas of white collar crime and anti-corruption.

As part of our info gathering prior to research, we asked if they wanted to connect with former Department of Justice or Assistant District Attorneys. Both said yes, but that’s where the similarities ended.

Our client in New York wanted to connect with former government attorneys only if they were partners or senior partners who had been in private practice long enough to have established themselves with an exceptionally strong client base.

Meanwhile in Texas, our client there specifically asked us to include those who are just coming in to private practice. The reason? Because they haven’t established relationships with his competitors yet.

The Texans are on to something — and it’s not just beating the competition to a new source of business.

Andrew Sobel, author of eight bestsellers on the topic of building business relationships, believes it’s a mistake to ignore those people who are still working their way up. In his latest book, Power Relationships, he gives us an opportunity to look at it from the viewpoint of someone who has been there.

Catherine, he says, is now a senior partner in a large international law firm. She was formerly general counsel for one of the world’s largest companies. Before being promoted to general counsel, she was deputy general counsel, a position which was virtually ignored by outside law firms who wanted only to talk to her boss.

On the day Catherine was promoted to GC, her office was flooded with calls from big law firms across the country. Here’s what she told them: “where were you five years ago?”

The point of that story is that no matter where you are in your career, it never hurts to get to know the up-and-comers. Andrew suggests that we build relationships with “smart, motivated, interesting and ambitious people”, even if they’re not in the top job right now. By the time they reach positions where they can give you tons of business, you’ll already have established a strong relationship.

I’m not suggesting you spend all of your time grooming relationships for the somewhat distant future, but it certainly should be part of your networking strategy.

What you can do this week

Take a look at your definition of ideal clients or customers. What does their career path look like? What job or title did they hold before they became perfect for you? LinkedIn makes it incredibly easy to do this. Just go look at the profiles of your best clients.

While you’re on LinkedIn, take a look at the companies or firms you’d like to do business with. You can use a simple title or keyword search to find people in those secondary positions. Reach out to them to get connected. That could be the start of a beautiful relationship!

Read more about your networks

Why Your LinkedIn Network Requires a Strategy. Have you ever really stopped to think about who you are – or should be – connected to on LinkedIn and why? Based on discussions in LinkedIn sales groups and questions I get from new clients, the size of your LinkedIn network is a hot topic. Is bigger always better – or is it more about how you use it? continue reading.

Why Your LinkedIn Network is Not as Valuable as You Think. Feeling pretty good about yourself now that you’ve gathered 500+ LinkedIn connections? Don’t. The number itself is meaningless. continue reading.

Assess the Value of Your LinkedIn Network with Personas.   I like to think of my LinkedIn network as being a lot like a vegetable garden. My garden, and probably yours as well, has a lot of variety that includes a number of very healthy plants. Sometimes weeds work their way in and then there are also times when I find myself growing a vegetable only to find out that it is not to my liking. Dandelions and Brussels sprouts have got to go! continue reading.