Say you're at a networking event and get into a nice conversation with a new contact. Turns out, they have no use for what your business does. Are you wasting your time? Should you politely excuse yourself and move on?

According to sales master Ian Altman, networking is not just about doing business with the people in your immediate vicinity. Your focus should always be on building a network of contacts who will refer to your business.

"The reality is that the 100 people in the network have reach into thousands of potential clients," says Altman. When you think about it like that, it kind of changes everything, doesn't it?

Networking takes a special kind of talent and if it doesn't fall within your wheelhouse, it can induce major anxiety. So many people think that in order to be an effective networker, you have to be able to walk up to a total stranger, be absolutely charming, and then land their business five minutes later. That thought process will trip you up big time. It's not about walking away from an event with a heap of deals instantly done. Think of networking less like a microwave and more like a slow cooker: when you put the time in, it tastes better (and is better for you).

So the next time you're at a business event, don't be shortsighted. You're networking to your network's network. And to help you along, here are Mr. Altman's expert tips:

Add Value

Nobody likes to be "sold" to--especially at a party. If you're the guy or girl who is constantly peddling your wares in every conversation, people will avoid you at every turn. Instead, build advocates by finding ways to help your contacts (without selling yourself short by offering free work). You'll be amazed how much easier it is to sell when you're not trying to sell.


No one wants to help a selfish person--you wouldn't! Your goal should be to help members in your network by advocating for them. Instead of telling someone how great you are (yawn!)--introduce them to a new, relevant contact. Remember, always be genuine and truly believe in the people you refer--otherwise, it becomes a deceptive tactic.

Be Specific

You must clearly communicate to your advocates what defines your ideal client, how and where you can help others, and what you are looking for specifically. Even if your business does (or can do) many things, focus on your most unique areas and be as specific as possible. Being too broad will make it hard for others to pinpoint (and remember later) what you do.