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As I’ve spoken to hundreds, or maybe thousands, of people throughout the course of the last four years in my business, it’s become clear that there’s a range of relationship quality. Surely that comes as no surprise. But what is it? What’s the spectrum?

I’ve been pondering that very question quite a bit lately. It’s a tough one, too, because there are lots and lots of different circumstances that lead to new relationships. But infinite possibility just isn’t helpful when looking at a model, so some assumptions and simplifications need to be made. Here’s what I believe, in order of lowest to highest quality relationship:

  1. Don’t know me at all – the person doesn’t know anything about me
  2. Discovered me on their own – in an active or passive search for information, they found me and were exposed to my content (writing, podcasts, webinars, etc.)
  3. Were referred by a trusted advisor – for whatever reason, someone said “if you’re looking for that, then you gotta check out Liston”
  4. Have spoken to me – there’s nothing like a good ol’ human connection to strengthen a relationship
  5. Are a friend, family member, colleague, or client – this person has a strong connection to me, so trust is already built
  6. Has spoken to me and agrees with my world view – this is the ultimate relationship, because we share a perspective about how the world works, we know each other, and have built trust; this is where the best clients sit

It’s our job as a service provider to share our world view to establish trust and deepen the relationships with the folks we can help the most. It’s how the most important work gets done.