By Bob Salvas
In his book The Referral of a Lifetime, author Tim Templeton talks about the three levels of communication. As a
networker, you need to understand when each level is appropriate and why the third level is the place to be if you want
to get the most of out of your business relationships.
Level 1 is SUPERFICIAL
This level is commonly referred to as ‘small talk’. It is polite and appropriate conversation, often about the
surroundings. It takes place with those you don’t know at all or those that you might know only in passing (possibly a
neighbor or co-worker). For example, if you are waiting in line at the grocery store, you might say something to the
person next to you about the weather or the latest successes or failures of the local sports team. You keep it light and
non-offensive. You don’t REALLY know this person, so you keep it as casual and friendly as you can. This is essentially
the level we start at when we meet someone for the first time. At a networking event, we might say, “The cheese
appetizers are good” or “Have you been to this particular event before?” or “What brings you out to this event today?”
Level 2 is BUSINESS
At this level we move on from ‘small talk’ and get down to business. At networking events, this sometimes happens too
quickly, in my opinion. A little small talk before the inevitable “What do you do for a living?” can be nice. The business
level conversations focus on what the person does for business and how various businesses might interact with each
other. From this level, referrals or direct sales can take place, depending on the opportunity. We see a lot of this type
of communication when networking, but we also see it happen in many owner-vendor relationships. There are certainly
times when this is all that is needed. This type of communication can be transactional in nature. Price and quality are
often topics of conversation. While lots of business takes place at this level, there is not necessarily a lot of loyalty in
this space. A competitor with a better price or service could undermine that relationship. If one is going to build a loyal
customer base and get lots of referrals from that base, something more is needed.
Level 3 is AUTHENTIC
This is where we become honest and transparent. This is about being human. And if we are true to ourselves and admit
to our mistakes, own our preferences, and demonstrate our unique abilities, then people will be drawn to us because
they can relate to us. This is how we act with long-time friends or close family members. We are human, warts and all.
When other humans see that, they can empathize because, well, they are human too! If you develop this authentic kind
of relationship with a business associate, client, or vendor, the benefits to your business (and your life) can be without
limit. But you MUST be authentic as Tim Templeton points out in the book:
“If we don’t embrace our own uniqueness and continually try to imitate others, it can lead to something similar to
‘imposter syndrome’…a feeling that you are trying to be something you are not…”
The bottom line is that if you are not authentic and you are putting on a facade, people will see through it. You may have
experienced that negative ‘gut feeling’ about someone in the past- it is very likely that person was not being authentic.
This feeling can lead to a lack of trust. And trust is the NUMBER ONE reason why people choose to do business (or not
do business) with a person or company. Make it an authentic day!