In What Kind of Shape Is Your Network?

In What Kind of Shape Is Your Network?

{7:00 minutes to read} In a previous blog, I discussed the process wherein we move our networking relationships through the three phases — Know You, Like You, Trust You — before they can bear fruit in the form of referrals. Relationships in each phase have a particular quality to them. And moving someone from one phase creates a “state change” in that relationship. (To review the blog article on these 3 phases, click here.)

When taking inventory of one’s social capital, the question begs to be asked:

1. How many of your first-degree relationships are in the Know You stage, where a person may recognize you out of context (e.g., at the grocery store) but there isn’t a lot of familiarity?

2. How many are in the Like You stage, where you are seen as reliable and perhaps even called upon to sit on a panel, yet no referrals emerge from this stage of relationship?

3. How many of our first-degree relationships have we moved — i.e., courted — into the Trust You phase, where that Referral Partner is willing to put their reputation on the line for us, give us a referral, and thereby entrust that person who’s precious to them into our care? 

When mapping out the 3-phase progression of referrals, a funnel may come to mind. But the true shape of this relationship progression map varies for each of my clients, as it’s based on the result of their social capital inventory process. Discovering the shape of one’s relationship funnel will tell the whole story as to why referrals look the way they do and what is needed in terms of a game plan to unlock the flow.

Determining What Kind of Shape Are You In:

Out of the one or two thousand people we might know on our LinkedIn first degree, let’s say there are 300 quality networking relationships. In my blog article called Three Degrees of Rita, I explore the far-reaching impact of learning to access the quality contacts in the 2nd and 3rd degree of our social capital. For now, we’ll keep our inventory exercise focused on those 300 in our 1st degree. 

Flared Champagne Flute:

If 200 out of our 300 people are located in the Know You stage, 80 in the Like You stage, and the remaining 20 in the Trust You stage, that distribution “map” is akin to a Flared Champagne Flute shape — wide at the top then slimming down as it reaches the stem. This might be considered more an ideal than a reality, but for clients whose network falls into this shape, my favorite game plan is to focus their deposit strategy on 2 things:

1. Amping up the “deposit strategy” with the 20 Trust You stage relationships (in particular, creating a custom cultivation strategy to keep ourselves top of mind in such a way that is based on each contact’s unique personalities, interests, and objectives. Tune in using the PACETM tool HERE and find out what is meaningful and important to them!)

2. Educating these 20 referral partners on the nuanced work we do within our specific client niches so they can think of who they know who actually needs us right now. (Mastering the “Client Story” is a game-changer here, discussed in my previous 2 blogs STOP YOU-ING PEOPLE and BROTHER IN LAW as a powerful tool for training our existing referral sources to double and triple their yield).

Margarita Glass:

Some of my clients have, in a fun and playful way, realized they suffer from what I like to call the “Margarita Glass Syndrome.” This is when their relationship funnel is mostly concentrated in the Know You stage (the kind of glass where the top portion is a shallow but really wide bowl sitting atop a long narrow stem). This usually occurs with my clients who go to lots of events, collect lots of cards, and every time they walk in the door, everyone knows them.

But that’s the problem: it’s all about the Know You stage — with a tiny percentage of their contacts in the Like You stage and only a few, possibly even zero, dwelling in the Trust You stage. The challenge with this shape funnel is that no dividends, no referrals, of any substance or predictability are happening here.

The game plan for my Margarita Glass clients is multi-pronged: concentrate their event participation to a few key organizations, select a dozen or two contacts and designate them VIP’s, and then launch an all-out deposit strategy with those VIPs. It is usually the same amount of time spent weekly, but the key is re-distributing the time and focusing it on the top 10-20 Influencers — those with high fruit-bearing potential. 

Brandy Snifter:

Clients in this category are my favorite to work with because it usually only takes a snowflake or two of invested time and focused depositing to unleash an avalanche of referrals. Brandy Snifters are those who have 500 to 2000 contacts in the deep part of the Like You stage. In stemware terms, the wide bowl of the glass happens in the middle stage of the funnel, with a skinny stem below that means very little of their network maps onto the Trust You stage. Brandy Snifters are adored in their community, considered reliable and trustworthy, invited onto the most influential non-profit boards and nominated for leadership roles in their various communities. Here’s the challenge with their social capital distribution taking this shape: while the relationships feel really good (“Deep Like”), they fall short in terms of yielding the substantial dividends that my clients know should be happening.

Let me illustrate this with an example I learned from one of my mentors, Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of BNI and author of many books. If you have two cups of water sitting before you and one cup has 211-degree water while the other cup has 212-degree water, what is happening with the 212-degree water? 

The answer is that it’s boiling and emits steam. The more profound question is this: What can you do with this 212-degree water on a grand scale? You can power a city. If you ask the same question of the 211-degree water, while you can make a lot of tea, it doesn’t have the same impact on a grand scale. 

In terms of powering a business, 211-degree water is a major problem. 

Here’s the Punchline to the Brandy Snifter Story: 

If I had the capacity to withstand the heat, and I put my finger in each cup of water, would I be able to tell the difference between the 211-degree water and the 212-degree water? No. Have you ever been in a jacuzzi? 102 and 103 degrees feels about the same. In networking, the “Deep Like” stage of a relationship is 211 degrees, while early Trust You stage relationships are 212 degrees. To suffer from the “Brandy Snifter Syndrome” is a painful scenario in which valuable relationships that feel good are not monetizing or driving your business in any way, shape, or form. 

The game plans for Brandy Snifters are my favorite ones to help my clients design when they find themselves in this kind of shape. They have done so much of the work for the years before I work with them. They have been making social capital deposits and have been rewarded with a reputation of being a community leader with integrity and excellence as key traits. However, Snifters are usually stuck in the “5-Trick Pony” mode: they use the same half a dozen deposits with everyone. That would be akin to a farmer taking the same fertilizer strategy used for growing lentils and expecting it to work just as well to garner a high yield from the soy or any other crop in her farm. Masterfully placed deposits (over 30 that I teach my clients!) is what has a few snowflakes tip that relationship into the Trust You stage and unleash an avalanche of referrals — in a surprisingly short period of time!

Take inventory of your social capital, map it into the 3 stages, and find out what kind of networking shape you’re in! 

Cynthia GreenawaltCynthia Greenawalt


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