Savvy business owners and professionals understand that networking requires time and patience in order to build a pipeline of promising contacts, leads, and referral sources. Networking, after all, is only as good as the energy and effort you take to make it work.

But what if we could hurry things along with the goal of getting a faster “return” from our networking endeavors? With a little added effort, it’s not too difficult to do.

Here are some suggestions for how to best leverage your networking efforts:

Be proactive, not reactive.

Many professionals are content to sit back and passively wait for introductions and referrals to come their way. These same individuals are happy to make introductions but only when someone has mentioned that they need a specific product or service. The problem is that requests for introductions may be far and few between. You never want to be the person waiting for an introduction or waiting to make one. Think about it: in your contact database there are people who should know each other because of potential mutual synergies, and you should be putting them together. These types of proactive introductions can put your networking into overdrive and prompt people to reciprocate in kind. Simply by being proactive, you will be a better networker for others as well as for yourself.

Ask for what you need.

Even highly trained and skilled salespeople often forget to ask for referrals or introductions. Still, this is one tactic that can almost guarantee a return on investment from your networking efforts. Asking your contacts for help when it is needed is the best way to ensure help will be given. People are busy; unless you make a specific request you can be almost certain of not having their attention.

Be strategic about how you spend your time.

You can network pretty much every day of the week, morning, noon and night, yet this hyperactivity will not necessarily correlate to increased leads and opportunities. It’s much more effective to be strategic with your time and energy. Evaluate the business potential inherent in each networking group and what are the most worthwhile to pursue. Before each networking event plan out how you will spend your time and who you will speak to. Having an idea of the probable benefits of a networking opportunity will help make the most of it.

Successful networkers know how to best leverage the time and energy they dedicate to networking with their goal being to reap the maximum results from their efforts. Are you satisfied with your networking results? If not it might be time to re-engineer how you network!