Tired of building superficial relationships at networking events? I was too. Networking is not only for sales and marketing professionals, it is imperative for professionals in any industry. The more people you meet, the more people you can educate about your products and services and build relationships with. What’s challenging is building meaningful relationships – not just collecting names and business cards.

Simply put, quality is always better than quantity. But, in order to determine quality connections, you need to sort through a lot of people. Below I share a few of my favorite tips for putting your time and energy to good use when making new friends on the networking floor.

Identify What You’re Looking For

Don’t end up in a “it’s not you, it’s me” predicament. Know what you want from the start. Are you trying to find new customers? Do you have an open position you want to fill? Are you planning on advancing your career? Many people don’t think about this question, but it’s an important one. By knowing what your goals are through networking, you can identify the people who will help you reach them.

Look for Real Connections – Not Job Titles

Too often, people stay connected to certain individuals because of their job title or role within a company. While it might sound great to have “Rob, the CEO of X-Company” as a LinkedIn contact, there’s no point in staying in touch if you don’t have a strong connection. Instead, focus on building relationships with those you feel in tune with. Even if they don’t turn out to be a client, they can introduce you to a new network of potential customers.

Set Specific Goals for Each Event

When attending a networking event, set goals for yourself, such as meeting three interesting people or talking with specific individuals. Having goals keeps you motivated as you engage in small talk and exchange contact information. If you have a conversation that you’re just not into, you don’t have to force it. Start another conversation and continue to look for the most interesting people.

Have a Reliable Follow Up Schedule

All too often, people return home after a networking event and don’t follow up with their new contacts. Even if they do take the initial step to say hello, they often complain that their email or phone call was not returned. Sadly, building relationships isn’t easy to do. People are busy and put new connections on the back burner. You’ll need to be proactive and authentic in your efforts. The best way to do this is by having a digital method for storing contact information. This way, you can write down a few notes about each contact and connect with them in the right moment.

As you shift your focus from networking to relationship building, you’ll see that better connections are formed. In fact, over time, you can cut out a networking event and use this time to invest in your contacts instead!