spring-training-image21. Make a Plan. Successful networking programs and fitness programs both require a structured plan, with strategies and exercises designed to achieve your specific goals. You also need regular practice, encouragement, a cute outfit, and appropriate hydration. (water, wine, whatever…)

2. Play with the A-Team. Work and play with other great networkers and you’ll land more introductions, invitations and opportunities. Surround yourself with physically active people and you’ll get more business while getting in shape on the tennis court, golf course, or dance floor.  Surround yourself with couch potatoes and you’ll end up home alone watching ‘Survivor’ re-runs.

3. Cross-Train. Vary your training grounds, activities and equipment to keep your networking and fitness programs both interesting and effective. Get involved with a variety of organizations and attend different types of events. Connect regularly with old friends and new contacts to build maximum business strength and flexibility.

4. Play to Your Strengths. When networking or working out, you’ll get better results in activities and venues that suit your talents and personality.  Compensate for your weaknesses, and don’t let insecurities or injuries keep you out of the game. If you’re too short to play basketball, join the cheerleading squad.

5. Go the Distance. Networking is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Meaningful relationships and results develop over time. You have to stay the course if you want to cross the finish line and earn your medal. If you stop halfway and take the subway home, you won’t be invited to the victory party.

6. Get Sponsorship. Just as you’ll ask your network to sponsor you for a charity race, you also need to ask them to support your own cause – your business. Pester your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues for advice, introductions to their contacts, and invitations to their clubs.

7. Hire a Coach. A professional networking coach will help you develop the best plan for your business, improve your style, challenge you to push the limits, and build your confidence every rep of the way. After all,  wouldn’t you perform better with Yogi Berra at your side? Or  Sue Sylvester cheering, “Go for the burn, baby, you can do it!”

Author’s Note: this post is an expanded version of our article which originally appeared in the New York Real Estate Journal on April 26, 2011. Thank you NYREJ, for letting us flex our writing muscles.