The other day I spoke at a local chamber of commerce luncheon. My topic was Effective Networking. After the event, a woman came up to me and told me about a man she had heard speak once. I'll call him Bill (an alias to protect him). According to Bill, there are a handful of questions you should ask in the first few minutes when you meet someone. Depending on the answers to those questions, you can quickly determine whether they are a potential client or not. If the answer is no, he believes you should quickly move on.
In other words, you should only look for people who are potential clients. My problem with this method is that you completely disregard all the people those people know. When you are meeting people, you are not just meeting them. You are meeting everyone they know. If we operate on the premise that people do business with people they know, like and trust, and we add into it the belief that they also do business with people their friends and associates know, like and trust, then it's all the more important to network effectively.
In my estimation, when you attend 'networking' events, you should go with a plan. Your plan should include meeting 1-2 people and learning as much as you can about them. The best way to start the process is to go equipped with open ended questions. Then follow the flow of the conversation. After the event, follow up with a handwritten note. Call to schedule another meeting - maybe over coffee.
Remember - you aren't just getting to know them. They are getting to know you; the kind of person you are. You never know who they know and what those people may need.
Bill's process is for the quick hit - not the long term. It's your choice. Choose wisely. Your sales success depends on your decision.