The networking funnel

Networking mastery expert Gil Petersil outlines how a "Networking Funnel" can help you keep track of contacts and progress the important ones

Being in the HR profession allows you to meet some of the best talent in the business. It also brings you average candidates, and unqualified individuals. When you combine all of these, you end up with hundreds or even thousands of contacts in your database.

Those contacts are valuable in more ways than one. You may already have a dynamic pool of talent sitting in your contact list waiting to be tapped. But if you’re having a hard time sorting through them then maybe it’s time you create a “networking funnel”, similar to this one I invented as part of my Networking Mastery coaching.

What is a networking funnel?

A networking funnel turns strangers or acquaintances into future partners, clients, mentors, investors, and yes, even good friends. It categorises your contacts in order of importance.

So why do you need one? First, you need it to organise your current and future contacts. Second, it helps you determine the actions you need to take for the people in each level of your networking funnel. Some contacts need to be reached out to every now and then, while others can remain dormant. Third, it helps you prioritise your most important relationships.

What does a networking funnel look like?

The basic thing you need to know about a networking funnel is that you need to grow it continuously. You need to add new people on a regular basis. A networking funnel basically looks like this:

Networking funnelLevel 1 – Strangers

Level 2 – Contacts

Level 3 – Connections

Level 4 – Relationships

Level 5 – Partners (business partners, clients, and suppliers)

Level 6 – Friends and Relatives

Your goal is not only to grow your funnel but also to help move people from one level to another. For your networking funnel to be successful, you need to have action plans for each tier of contacts.

Developing your networking funnel

Level 1 – Strangers

Strangers are not merely the people you bump into in the subway or on the streets. They also include the people you are looking for. These include applicants, venue owners (for team building), suppliers (for corporate giveaways), and more. Your goal is to add these people to your funnel and move them from strangers to contacts.

Create a list of goals in different strategic areas. These include both business and personal needs. An example of a business goal would be to look for exciting venues for team building. Then, list down the kinds of people you will need to achieve each goal. Following our example, that would be venue owners.

Now, make a list of places where you can meet these people. Include online locations, too, such as social media groups and online forums. Do not forget “live” events, such as at a travel expo. Pay regular visits to these places—both offline and online—to meet new people and grow your networking funnel.

Level 2 – Contacts

Meeting someone is different from knowing someone. Take time to find out more about your new contact. If you’re scouting for potential speakers for your HR training, you need to spend time knowing as much as you can about the person because they will be speaking to your employees.

Connect with them on social media, ask about their hobbies or exchange stories about family life. That way, you’ll be able to know the person beyond their business profession. Make sure you arrange for a personal meeting or Skype call to find out more about them.

Level 3 – Connections

Connections are not simply the people you have exchanged your business cards with. At this point, you are already linked. Thus, you should regularly keep in touch and try to be useful for this person, even in small matters.

For example, you have found an article online that may be interesting to your new connection. Send them the link. If you’ve promised to introduce this person to a friend of yours, do it. Send them birthday and holiday greetings too!

If you are interested in maintaining this connection, check in at least every six months. You may then decide to keep this person at this level of the networking funnel, or move them to the next level.

Level 4 – Relationships

At this stage, you both have already invested much in your connection and created a strong bond. You have learned a lot about each other’s professional and personal lives. Both of you are always ready to provide mutual help and assistance. You are genuinely interested in how this person has spent their vacation or how their children are doing.

Invest more time in developing your relationship. Keep in touch at least once a month (online or offline). Don’t talk about business only. Ask them about family matters and other issues that are important for them. Celebrate their success and new achievements. Help them grow their network funnel, too, and introduce them to new people. Have lunch or dinner together at least once a year.

Level 5 – Partners

When your relationships are built on trust and mutual understanding, they become a basis for the most reliable business partnerships. One of you may become a mentor to the other. You may even want to start a joint business. This level of the funnel is perfect for all your partners, clients, and suppliers.

If you see a business potential in your relationship, tell your partner about it in a sincere and professional way. Offer a specific business plan and prepare a written legal document to formalise the deal. Hold regular meetings and discussions to maintain healthy business relations. The success of your project will be determined by how much time, energy, and money each of you are ready to invest in your joint business.

Level 6 – Friends and relatives

This level of the networking funnel is limited to a very exclusive circle. These are the people that you spend weekends, holidays, and free time with. They are the people who know everything about you and are not afraid to tell you the truth. These people are the ones you can rely on to give you sound advice when it comes to making crucial decisions. They are with you, through thick and thin.

Value these people. These relationships are the most important in your life. Make it your priority to talk to them on a regular basis and always make time for them. If they live far from you, schedule video calls and create family group chats so you can communicate regularly. If they are not into technology, write letters to them, send postcards, and photos. Inspire, support, and motivate each other.

About the author:

Gil Petersil is a communication and strategic networking expert with over 20 years of business experience as a serial entrepreneur and a business coach for more than 200 companies spanning across diverse industries.

Connect with him at


Next Steps

Review your list of professional and personal contacts. Assess which people belong to each level of your funnel. Ask yourself, are you satisfied with the place they are in, or do you want to move them to the next level?

You definitely would want to see some people progress to the next tier. Dedicate more time and attention to them. Nurture your relationships like a seed until they grow into strong, healthy trees. Doing so, will not only benefit your professional life but also make your personal life more fulfilling.

Your HR contact database is brimming with potential! It’s just a matter of leveraging what you have and being a good steward of your network. Build genuine relationships and provide value to other people.

What goes around, comes around.










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