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My personal network numbers into the thousands. Indeed with over 5000 twitter followers I can genuinely claim a network of over 5000+ people. However, not everyone in my network is created equal – and we often fool into thinking that we have a strong network, when actually we have many contacts rather than genuine strong connections.

Here is a five level system, in which you can categorise the state of your relationship:

Level 1: “identify”

At this level, you have just become aware of this contact. Maybe, someone has mentioned them in conversation, perhaps you have seen a tweet of them. Or perhaps they are on an attendance list of an event you are attending.

Level 2: “connect”

At this point you have physically or virtually met a contact, and started a one or two way conversation, i.e. you have connected. For example, you may have talked to them at a face to face networking event, or exchanged some tweets or posts within an online forum.

Level 3: “engage”

At this point, you have taken a conscious decision to strengthen the relationship, and move beyond small talk. This means that you have taken the time to have a one to one meeting with them, whether in person, or by phone.

Level 4: “collaborate”

The trust has built within the relationship to the point where you have agreed to help each other, pass referrals, and potentially actively looking for ways to work together.

Level 5: “inner circle”

The relationship is now such that you have worked together, and regularly recommend each other’s services. There is a strong possibility that your relationship has moved from a purely professional relationship into a personal friendship.

Think about people in your network who you consider to be your A-listers or potential clients. Your relationship needs to be at least at level 3.  At what level is the state of your relationship with them?

Who do you need to spend more time with to increase the level of trust and collaboration in the relationship?

How do you categorise your relationship with someone?