Do you actually know the state of the relationships in your network? At the simplest level, a good way to assess the effectiveness of the relationship you hold with these people is to ask yourself this one simple question. Would they take your call if you called them right now?
Now close the door and take some time to think who you know personally and professionally. Jot them down and mind map them and then collate them in to a system, from a spreadsheet to a Customer Contact Management system, they will all work. As you think about each relationship, try to categorise them and understand the importance of the relationship between them all.
Here is a system in which you can categorise the state of your relationships:
Level 1 – Known:
This is a contact you know – you have met them out and about, their face is familiar, their name came up in conversation, they have commented on social networks or they were at an event you attended.
Level 2 – Connected:
You have either physically or virtually met this contact, and started a one or two way conversation, i.e. you have connected via social networks or have spoken to them at a face to face networking event, or exchanged dialogue within an online forum.
Level 3 – Engaged:
Now you have taken a conscious decision to strengthen the relationship, and move beyond the boundaries of small talk. You have moved up a level and started a professional dialogue, you have had a face to face meeting with them, or even a dialogue on the phone.
Level 4 – Working:
The trust has now been built within the relationship to the point where you have agreed to help each other or are even working together, passing referrals and making introductions and actively looking for ways to work together.
Level 5: Client / Confidant:
The relationship is now at the stage where you have worked together and regularly recommend each other’s services. There is a strong bond, a mutual respect and your relationship has moved from a purely professional relationship into a personal friendship.
Remember before you begin this process you will want to employ your classification system to filter the Prospects from Suspects. Once you have completed this you may also like to think about adding additional relevant fields; such as occupation / position / who they are connected to, and so forth. This will complete the circle.
Once you have completed your audit and employed your classification filter, you will need to identify your next steps:
1. Who should I be speaking to more.
2. Who should I be speaking to less.
3. Which A List contacts need more time investment?
4. What actions need to be taken to move some of the Level 3’s to Level 4 and 5.
Think about people in your network who you consider to be your A List contacts. Is your relationship a Level 3 or more? If not, then what state is your relationship with them and what needs to be done to improve that? It’s all food for thought, networking does not happen by accident - it requires thought, strategy and planning.
Remember, a failure to plan is a plan for failure.