Contrary to many people I encounter on a daily basis, the end goal of networking is not to make a sale. The sale is ancillary to the end goal of networking. Those who have the highest reward from networking seek out something entirely different in their daily pursuits.
The end goal of networking is to build relationships. To do this, all you need do is be yourself (assuming yourself doesn’t automatically drive people away), and genuinely desire to get to know interesting people. The best networker is not the person with the most connections on LinkedIn; the best networker is the person with the most strong connections in real life.
A connection has two variables: strength and attention. Strength refers to how deep the connection is or how well the two of you know each other. Attention means how recently have you had contact with that connection. You need both of these, as only with both will you have a meaningful and useful connection.
Think of a close family member or friend. This connection is both strong because you know each other very well and attentive because you’ve kept up the relationship. Now, compare that to a loose business connection. Perhaps you could spend more time strengthening that connection or reaching back out to keep the attention strong.
All in all, networking is about being genuine. If you genuinely want to build relationships with other people, the business from it will come naturally. Always remember that the end goal is to build the relationship.
Once you have a strong and attentive connection, the referrals are natural and natural referrals and much better than forced ones. Anyone can create dozens of quid pro quo relationships, but the happier networker with better long-term relationships is the one who builds up natural relationships that are strong and attentive.