Far too often, people view networking (and especially networking events) as a means to close sales. In fact, they measure the relative success of networking based on how many direct sales opportunities they generate. This is certainly misguided.
Networking is not about generating sales, at least not in the short term. Certainly, we all hope that benefits come to us from networking (often times that translates into sales). The reality is, however, that we cannot expect that those benefits come to us at any particular event or with any individual encounter.
Think of it in these terms … ultimately generating a sale is analogous to picking a ripened fruit off a tree. Each networking activity, however, is the mere planting of the seed that will lead to this tree. Many of these seeds will never even germinate. Others will, but that promise will fade somewhere along the way. Still others will germinate and grow, but may never yield fruit. Nevertheless, eventually our networking efforts result in something for us to harvest.
As there are long odds that any particular seed with sprout, grow and provide fruit, we need to diligently plant seeds at every opportunity. We must continually meet new people. We should remain in contact with those we know. And we must devote ourselves to help others find their fruit (or at least plant their seeds). If we do these things (and many others), one day we will have a fruitful harvest.
Whether it is today, tomorrow or next week, as we embark on networking of any kind we need to remember that we are just there to plant some seeds and not look to pick fruit.