Level 0:You somehow got my address and decided, since I am breathing, you should pitch me. Or, you happened across me on Twitter and thought that since I returned your “follow” I want to buy something from you. We have no real connection of any kind, and you have no clue what I do for a living, or whether or not I am a member of your target demographic. You are as annoying as the recorded calls about diabetes medicine that I get even though no one in my house is diabetic.
Level 1: You researched my company online, and you think I might need your services. When we talk, you tell me exactly why you’re calling or emailing, and by the end of the conversation, I will probably know enough about you and your company to decide if we will ever talk again. In other words, at Level 1 we don’t really know each other at all. We just know what’s been presented to the world. We know each others’ masks.
Level 2: A friend suggested we talk. There’s someone who thinks we have something in common, or could learn something from each other. The fact that we both know the person who suggested we meet gives us, at the very least, something to talk about. We still don’t know each other, not really, but we have a starting point and are probably more inclined to trust each other than not – depending on our mutual acquaintance, and their level of trustworthiness.
Level 3: We are connected through social media, and have had several conversations. We haven’t met, but we feel like we know each other a little. Maybe we were outraged by the same thing, share a profession, participate in the same virtual circles, or read the same sorts of books. I may receive your newsletters, or read your blog, and I don’t mind hearing about what your business is doing.
Level 4: We’ve met, at least once, and had a conversation, and then connected on social media, so know one another a little better. We are happy to hear from each other, and look forward to the possibility of meeting again. I’m curious about your work, and send you referrals when the opportunity arises.
Level 5: We see each other regularly at networking or community events. I may have even met your spouse. I am familiar with your work and respect it. I’ve sent you a couple of referrals, and you sometimes leave comments on my blog. We might have traded LinkedIn recommendations, or one of us may have even hired the other to do some work.
Level 6: We are friends. We go to lunch or dinner together once in awhile. We share a mutual professional respect, and do what we can to enhance each other’s business. I trust you to proofread important posts before I click “publish.” We may have even worked on a project together.
After attending more networking events than I ever imagined would happen in a lifetime, I’ve found that that Level 4 is pretty comfortable, but Level 5 is where the real referrals come from. It takes time to develop a Level 5 relationship, and if we are at Level 1 and you behave like we are at Level 5, you have blown it.
Obviously, these are just my (introverted) observations. Yours may be different. Did I leave out a level? Would it be better to go into every situation as if the people there were all Level 4 relationships?