I recently introduced what I would categorize as a new type of collaborative network to support extending sales to a broader market and to allow this new type of collaborative market to compete and win deals from larger companies.  This type of collaborative network is in addition to the functional and process support type of collaborative network.  This new sales and marketing type of collaborative network can be developed and exist in addition to the functional and process support type network and in fact your functional and process support network and also be a sales and marketing type of network.  These networks can coexist and you can even participate in multiple networks at the same time to support growth in both market reach and functional process improvements.

Remember, the collaborative network is a professional type of network that is comparative to a social network such as Facebook. As such the collaborative business network can grow and change to support the needs of the members.  From a sales and marketing perspective it is perfectly reasonable to participate in multiple networks based on your company's capabilities and fit to the opportunity.  The basis of this practice is a constant professional networking and search based on two things; needs of the network and opportunities in the marketplace.  These opportunities are a direct result of the maturity level of your collaboration practices.  The more mature and robust your collaboration network the greater the number of opportunities in both sales and process networking.  This is a natural growth result that you should monitor and not hesitate to explore because this is also how your own business grows and expands.

These two types of networks will converge in many places across your network which as I said is a natural aspect of the collaborative process.  These two types of networks also provide opportunities to expand and grow both your sales and process type of networks.  By the same token you may be a partner in multiple networks and the members of the network may not even cross over or participate in all of the networks in which you are a member.  This is another aspect that is directly relatable to personal social networks, LinkedIn is a great example.  I am a member of many groups in LinkedIn and many of the members of one group are also members of other groups in which I am a member.  However, all of the members of the members from one group are not necessary members of the same groups.  For instance, I am a member of an international supply chain group and the leader of that group is a member of many of the same groups as I but we are not member of all of the same groups.

The key to reaping benefits from your networks is to continuously review the networks for growth and sales opportunities and also remain open to participating in new network groups. 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?