Networking works. Or should I say that networking can work. We all know that it is time-consuming, often expensive and, occasionally, not at all productive.

Here are a few things that you should do in order to make your networking efforts more successful:

Have a goal. How many times have you attended a networking event and wandered around the room only to engage in just a few conversations before heading out the door. Or attended an event only to wind up spending the entire time talking to people that you already knew and walking away with nary a new contact or connection.

How can you ensure that this doesn’t happen? Before going to any event or meeting, take the time to investigate the group and the (potential) attendees. Is this the right place for you to go? Will it be worth your time? How many people would you like to meet? Do you expect to meet potential clients or referral sources? The more time you spend checking it out, the more beneficial your experience. If it doesn’t seem like it is the right place for you to network, don’t go. There are many other places to network.

You know this sorry story: You have scads of contacts, cards galore and all sorts of names in Outlook. Now, what to do with them? The truth is that if you don’t stay on the radar screen of your networking contacts, you will soon be “out of sight, out of mind.” Touch-point management is the key to getting a return on your networking time. How to stay on the grid?

Why, the 3 Is, of course: value-added information and email (links to articles and web sites of interest), cyber-introductions to other people that your contacts might find valuable and invitations to events and meetings, (snail mail, newsletters and more). The most important thing is to stay visible and relevant, and that means being seen as a resource and not a stalker.

Patience is a virtue. Isn’t that what our moms taught us? The fact is that in networking, patience is the only card to play. Networking takes time. While doors can be opened at events and meetings, relationships must be built before business can be earned. Relationship-building takes time. Beware of the networker who wants to get your business before earning your respect and trust.

Don’t get caught up in a favor-matching contest. Sure, you might find yourself giving more leads than you receive. Give it time and you should see something coming back to you. But don’t get me wrong: If after a reasonable amount of time, there is nothing coming your way, it is perfectly OK to reach out to your connections and, in a more direct manner, ask for their help in making introductions for you. What goes around comes around. It just might take some time.

So there you have it: helpful tips to get the most out of your networking efforts. Now go out there and open some doors.

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Adrian Miller is the founder of Adrian Miller Sales Training. To find out more or to visit her blog go to http://adrianmiller.wordpress.com.