Your Networking Funnel

Published: June 15, 2015

Some connections are more meaningful than others. Basic socialization has plenty of value but the best networking leads to mutual growth. Imagine a funnel fed at the top by every single human with whom you have either a first, second, or third degree connection. Consider a narrow exit point where the flow of connections is defined by only the most impactful relationships. By what criteria might your priorities be determined?

Who do you know? Begin with a master list of friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, teachers, coaches, and mentors.

Prune the list. Who are the mavens and connectors? Apply the “KLT” filter (know, like, and trust).

Consider business develpment criteria. What are the market challenges? Is there an ease of access? Does my connection’s pain match up with my solution or visa versa?

Adhere to a strength/purpose matrix. The most fruitful connections share a philosophical culture fit and love meaningful work where teams of collaborators can thrive.

Execute selective and personalized coordination of conversations. Customize your contact method. Some partners prefer a phone call to an e-mail. Choose your venue carefully. Perhaps a coffee, a meal, or an outing would be preferable to a conference call.

Networking 101: The primary reason to connect is to learn. This is best done by listening not talking. That’s where networking connections discover mutual benefit. Follow-up etiquette grows the relationship.

Building a team is a macro-level project. Beyond your inner circle lies a wealth of perspective and resources that are only an invitation away. Send the message. Make the call. Knock on the door. Who might exit the narrow end of your networking funnel?

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.