People are basically divided into two groups: those who divide people into two groups and those who do not.
Despite these stark differences, there is something that unites the two halves: a large proportion of both groups do not like or know what networking is.
Chatting up strangers to talk about what they're selling seems pushy rather than effective to them, and telling friends how they can help them sell it seems like a waste of friendship.
Well basically they are right. Fortunately, there is another way, because people basically fall into two groups: those who already do networking well and those who don't yet.
A business meeting from a meeting with friends should be about as different as business coffee from Irish coffee. If it's going to lead you to your ideal client, you don't want to go there with a few blood alcohol levels and a song on your lips.
On the other hand, if a meeting with friends is to produce anything worth remembering (and spending time on), you're unlikely to talk about what clients you have, what you'd like to have and what you like to do in your spare time.
A business meeting doesn't have to be relaxed (although, of course, a nice atmosphere is… nice), it doesn't have to be long ("less is more"), but it should lead to another point on the map in your mind that you can connect with other points and create added value.
Perhaps this point will be: "here I will sell" or "thanks to this person I will reach a customer". - great, it's important to spend our working time developing our business, but the points: "aha, I can help him this way and her that way" are probably even more important.
Yes, what you can do for others in business is often better for you. And I don't write this because I believe that people basically fall into two groups: happy altruists and pathetic egoists. When we help others, we form weak bonds - weak because it's impossible to form a very deep relationship in one or even a few meetings.
And it is weak relationships that are most effective business-wise: by getting to know people we hardly or never know at all, we can reach out to their friends (whom we don't know even more).
Familiarity in business is a very important component of success. Usually the quality of the product, customer service, price and a whole bunch of factors are important, but whether customers buy from you or someone else is greatly influenced by what customers think of you and what they think of someone else. Or whether they know anything about you at all.
Networking is not about compulsively printing and handing out business cards, shoving your shoe in the door and using advanced manipulation techniques in a race to make a sales pitch. Rather, it is quite a long-term building of knowledge about the people in the market you operate in and building knowledge about you among them.
But the effect is that instead of smiling from billboards and getting annoyed from Youtube clips you simply come to someone's mind at the right moment.