Personal Development,

From acquaintance to partnership

6 Levels of the Networking Funnel

In this digital era we are used to have friends in social networks and chat in instant messengers. You may think that 3000 Facebook contacts are your real friends. Actually most of them are strangers to you.

If you need not just contacts but partners, helpers and friends, you should work on your relations, develop them. It is easier if you see all people that come into your life as a so-called “networking funnel”. It looks like this:

Level 1 — Strangers

Level 2 — Contacts

Level 3 — Connections

Level 4 — Relationships

Level 5 – Strategic partners (business partners, clients, suppliers etc.)

Level 6 – Friends and relatives

Can you turn yesterday’s strangers into future partners, mentors, clients, investors and good friends? You certainly can.

You need to:

  • constantly add new people to your networking funnel
  • maintain connections and develop relationships at all levels of the funnel
  • decide at which level of the funnel you would like to see a certain person
  • help people move from one level to another

Let’s review all 6 levels of the networking funnel and your action plan for each of them.

Level 1 — Strangers

It includes not only people you occasionally meet in the street, in the subway or supermarket. Strangers are also those people you seek for. For example, you need a lawyer, a dentist, an IT specialist or an owner of a private cheese factory. Your objective is to add these people to your funnel and move them from strangers to contacts.

What to do:

  1. Create a list of goals in your strategic areas. These can include business, health-related tasks or education for your children — anything that is important for you.
  2. Write down a list of people that you will need to achieve each goal. For example, “multi-sport coach” or “equipment supplier”.
  3. Make a list of places where you can meet these people. Include “live” events, as well as relevant social media groups, online forums etc.
  4. Pay regular visits to these places, both offline and online, meet new people to reinforce your networking funnel.

Level 2 — Contacts

So, you have met someone online or at an event but still know little about each other. Don’t request this person’s assistance immediately if you don’t want to be politely declined.

Better do the following:

  1. Try to learn more about this person: what school did he or she attend? What are their hobbies? What social media groups are they in? Do they have a family?
  2. Try to find something in common between you two: for example, you have attended the same college. Or you have mutual friends. Or you have visited the same event last week.
  3. Muster up and ask for a personal meeting or at least a Skype conversation. Sending an invitation, you can mention mutual friends or shared interests.

Level 3 — Connections

Connections are not simply people you have exchanged your business cards with. Now you have a certain link. At this stage you should regularly keep in touch and try to be useful for this person, even in minor issues.

For example, you have found an article online that may be interesting for your new connection. Send him or her the link to this article. Or you have promised to introduce this person to a friend of yours. So do it. It would also be great if you send them greeting for Christmas or birthday.

If you are interested in maintaining this connection, check in at least every 6 month. You may decide to have this person at this level of the networking funnel. Or you may want to move him or her to the next level.

Level 4 — Relationships

At this stage you both have already invested much in your connection and created a strong bond. You have learned a lot about each other’s professional and personal life. You are always ready to provide mutual help and assistance. You are really interested in how this person has spent his vacation or how her children are doing.

What to do at this stage:

  1. Invest more time in developing your relationship.
  2. Keep in touch at least once a month (online or offline).
  3. Don’t speak with your friends only about business; ask them about family matters and other issues that are important for them.
  4. Send birthday cards.
  5. Praise their success and congratulate with new achievements.
  6. Help them reach their goals – for example, introduce them to new people.
  7. At least once a year have dinner or lunch together.

Tony Robbins       Brian Tracy       Robert Cialdini Isaac Pintosevich       Allan Pease

Radislav Gandapas        Keith Ferrazzi           Bob Dorf               Michael Roach

Level 5 – Strategic Partners

When your relationships are built on trust and mutual sympathy, they become a basis for most reliable business partnerships. One of you may become a mentor for the other. You may even want to start a joint business. This level of the funnel is perfect for all your partners, clients and suppliers.

How to turn your relationship into a business companionship:

  1. If you see business potential in your relationship, tell your partner about it in the most sincere words.
  2. Offer him a specific plan of joint activities, confirm it legally and in a written form.
  3. Hold regular meetings and discussions – a necessary part of healthy business relations.

The success of your project will be defined by how much time, energy and money each of you is ready to invest in your joint project.

Level 6 – Friends and Relatives

This level of the networking funnel is for a very limited circle. These are the people that you spend weekends, holidays and free time with. These people know everything about you, they are not afraid to tell you the truth and will come to help in the most outstanding situations.

What to do with your close circle:

  1. Value these people. These relationships are the most important in your life.
  2. Make it your priority to talk to them on a regular basis and always find time for them.
  3. If they live far from you, write letters to them, send postcards and photos.
  4. Inspire, support and motivate each other!

Next steps with your networking funnel

Review your list of professional and personal contacts. Ask yourself, what people belong to which level of your funnel. Are you satisfied with the place they are taking or you would like to move your relationships to the next level?

You will definitely want to see someone on the next level. So dedicate more time and attention to them. Nurture your relationships like a sprout in the soil. That will not only deliver benefits to your professional life, it will make you a happier person too.

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