An interview with Dr. Bill Saleebey about networking and what inspired him to write this book.

Q: Can you briefly describe your book.

A: My book is called Connecting: Beyond the Name Tag.  It’s a book about networking and the psychological aspects of networking, and it teaches the readers about how to make connections and to literally get beyond the “name tag” that you sometimes see people wear at networking events. To get to know people and learn about them to build relationships and then to refer business, ideas, information and advice to enhance their lives and careers.

Q: Can you give me a little background about yourself that will explain why you are an expert in the field of networking?

A: Well I will start with my education. I have a BA degree in Psychology, a Masters degree in counseling and a Ph.D. in educational psychology with a specialization in counseling. So you can see I have a very strong background in psychology, counseling and social psychology. Couple that with 25+ years in sales and business development in commercial relocation where I built my business based primarily upon networking. You have the networking experience, the educational background and finally with interviews and observations of power networkers,…very successful power networkers; you bring all three of those elements together and it creates a lot of credibility for the ideas, observation, and research that I have conducted which gives people the best principles about how to be successful in networking.

Q: What motivated you to write the book?

A: I have been doing networking for a long time and I realized that I had something to say about it and that what I could say about it could help people to be successful. I was working with my son and after I had expressed these ideas…he said “Dad you ought to write a book.”  So I thought about it and thought why not.   I have already written two other books based upon experience and observation and since networking was such a big part of what I was doing it was an ideal subject for me to write a book about.

Q: How long did it take for you to write it?

A: It actually took about a year and a half. Writing is an interesting process because there will be periods of time where you get a lot done, where you get just a number of pages written in a period of time. Then there will be periods where you do nothing, where you just let the book sit for a while as you reorganize it and add new ideas. There actually is a lot that has happened in the past two years. I actually started at the beginning of 2008. There has been a lot happening particularly in the area of social media so I had to continually update because social media has just exploded in the past two years.  I have gained a lot from the interviews I conducted with people which was part of my research for the book.

Q: What was the overall experience like for you writing this book?

A: It was a great experience because it allowed me to really get all these ideas out.  I was able to apply all of the things I have learned about group process, personality and individual differences to networking.  Much of what I already knew easily applied to networking plus I met some wonderful people throughout the process.  I was given entre to a number of people who I interviewed which actually served to be a good networking experience because I got to know them while finding out how they network.

Q: It sounds like the writing process definitely had an impact on you. Can you tell me a little about what the impact has been.  How has it changed your life?

A: It has changed my life because it given me an a clear view of what networking is and how networking can be a very positive experience because of the relationships you build. So in that sense I have built so many new relationships and they have enhanced my life because many of them have become friendships, they have become personal relationships and that actually is one of the ideas that I have elaborated on in great detail the book is the difference between business networking which is all about business and exchanging referrals and leads and business, and the personal relationships where you actually learn about people and you find out if they have children, where their children went to school, if they have animals, what their hobbies are. You get to know people and build relationships and it has been a tremendous enhancement in my life. I have gotten business out of the process of writing the book from some of the people I met. It has been a wonderful networking experience. It has been positive because I have gotten such a positive response from people.

A: Do you think people view you differently because you have written this book?

Q: I have already written two books and I have been a college professor since 1973. I have had the experience of being the teacher, the expert and the person up on stage.  It redefines the idea that you are the expert and you get credibility and you get respect from people. That is a very positive thing because I have been in a profession, commercial relocation, that is not considered a glamour profession, or a high status profession. Here is this guy, a mover, a commercial mover who all of a sudden is Dr. Saleebey, the expert on networking, who has written the book. People want to know about this stuff…these ideas are really important. The other thing that has happened that has been very significant over the past two years is the economy crash, which has made people need to network. The ideas that I have are valuable and relevant because they are really recession proof.  This is something people need to do more now than ever.

Q: I see you have been doing a lot of speaking.  I saw on your website you have been talking a lot about networking. Did the speaking inspire the book or vice versa? What topics do you cover?

A: I think the book inspired the speaking. I started writing the book and as I was writing I would get speaking engagements. It started with networking groups and then it went to service club networking groups for churches and synagogues, and chambers of commerce. It has expanded to all types of groups, companies and organizations. I cover different things depending on the amount of time I am allotted. If I am given 20 minutes I will just cover the highlights.  I will cover the basics of networking, how to make a connection, the importance of follow up, giving rather than receiving and I will contrast the personal relationships with the business relationships.  If I have more time then I will cover more I will give more specific examples. I will give more specific techniques that people can use.  If I know something about the audience in advance, for example: if I am speaking to commercial real estate brokers I kind of know what they have to do so I will tailor the presentation for the population that I am speaking to. Whether it be people that are looking for work, or people who are in a sales position, or people that are part of a particular company where business develops. It always comes back to business development.  That is the core of it and that is why people network.

Q: What do you think sets Connecting apart from other books on the subject of networking?

A: I think several things. One, my background is psychology, counseling, communication and social psychology.  In addition, my years experience in networking. Also, in the book I have over 20 networking examples, which are unique to my book. It also covers up to the date information on how to network online using social media. Those are the main things that set it apart.

Q: Who is your book for?

A: My book is primarily for people who do networking and want to understand the process and be better at it.  It’s for advanced networkers who want to see if they are doing everything they need to be doing.  The third group it’s for are people that have been told by somebody “you’ve got to network” and they don’t know the first thing about it.  It’s ideal for that population.  They can be an attorney, an accountant, a salesperson and somebody’s telling them to get out there and network.  My book is perfect for them.

Q: If you were talking to somebody who was brand new to networking, didn’t know a thing about it, what would be the first thing you would tell them to get them started and what kind of advice would you give them?

A: I would tell them that it’s a long-term process and that networking is not just collecting business cards and shaking someone’s hand.  It’s about building a relationship.  It’s about building a connection over a period of time and you’ve got to follow up.  That’s it in a nutshell.

Q: In writing the book, what do you think is the biggest challenge or hurdle to overcome?

A: The real answer is that I didn’t write it from an outline.  I wrote it from the inside out.  I just wrote and wrote.  I wrote ideas that came to me, and then I organized it afterwards and that was probably the biggest challenge.  That’s just the way I did it, and that created some challenges, but ultimately the end result was good.

Q: What is your take on how the Internet has affected the way people network?

A: I think it’s had a dramatic effect on the potential and the options to use social media to network, so I think it has opened up a tremendous amount of possibilities.  With those possibilities, I think people rely on the Internet. I think for some people who are introverted, or very good with technology, or like social media, they don’t meet people face to face and they miss out on the possibility of really developing a relationship.  Truly successful networking, which is another aspect of my book that’s unique, is holistic.  It doesn’t just do social media, or it doesn’t just do face-to-face, or it doesn’t just involve one organization, but it’s a holistic approach.  It’s really a way of life.

Q: As far as the Internet goes, do you think to some degree it has changed the personal aspect of networking the way it used to be?

A: If you think about it, before they had social media, let’s say looking back 30 years, the only way you could really network was face-to-face or over the phone.  There weren’t cell phones, there wasn’t the Internet, so you didn’t have any of that stuff.  Now you can choose to get heavily in social media.  For example, I get people coming up to me constantly, not so much younger people under thirty or forty, but people in their forties, fifties, and even older that are a little bit new to this say to me all the time “I see you all over the place” and they say it mostly in a positive way because I use social media to announce all the things I’m doing and I use social media also in a personal sense to express my ideas and to use humor and for some people that’s a way that they get to know me better through social media than they would get to know me just face to face.

Q: Why do you think some people are good networkers while others maybe aren’t as good at networking?

A: I think some people are naturally outgoing. They’re gregarious, they’re likable, they’re friendly, they’re positive, they’re upbeat and they’re good networkers; they just have the right personality.  People like them are natural connectors.  They’re probably good listeners. It’s kind of like the ideal. They’re good listeners and they’re good talkers.  They kind of know that balance of really listening to somebody thoroughly and being genuinely interested in them, and yet when someone asks them about themselves they are able to express themselves in a way that is compelling and interesting.  People like being around them.  So I think there is that kind of natural skill, but there are other ways that we network.  For example an introvert may not be really good in a large setting, a larger mixer where people, a couple hundred people, are roaming around with name tags and shaking hands and saying “hello”, but if you get them one on one or you get them in a smaller group, they do better. I think some people are just naturally better at it and other people have to work at it.

Q: Can you give a story or anecdote of how networking has helped your own career?

A: I’ll give you a couple of examples. One example of social media, this was somebody who had actually been a student of mine years ago who found me on Facebook and asked to “friend” me.  I did my postings and she did her postings and we communicated a couple of emails back and forth. Then at some point she sent me an email that told me her company was moving and would I like to have an opportunity to do that relocation. I did, and I got the job.  By the same token, every single speaking engagement that I’ve gotten over the past two years has been based upon networking.  It’s been through people I’ve known, either they heard me speak or they knew I spoke on this topic and word got around and it’s created an audience for the things I am talking about.  So those are two examples of many.  Another example is when you’re in some kind of business environment with somebody and they make a referral to you for whatever reason, but you don’t know them that well. That’s a great opportunity to call them up or email them and ask them if they want to go out and have lunch or a cup of coffee, which you should buy if they are giving you the referrals, and then you further build the relationship. You get to know a little more about them, they get to know a little bit more about you, and you nurture the relationship.  That’s one of the real important aspects of successful networking.

Q: Has anyone ever told you you look like Billy Joel?

A: Actually probably over a thousand people have told me I look like Billy Joel, which can create interesting talking points because people have a positive image of him, a positive view of him.  In fact, I write about this in my book how sometimes when people meet us we may either look like a celebrity, or we may look like a relative or a friend of theirs.  It could have a positive connotation or it could have a negative connotation.  In this case, it’s had a very positive connotation.  I know some people actually perceive me differently because of that resemblance.

Q: Do you have any mentors or people that inspire you in their own networking that you’ve noticed?

A: Yeah, there are a number of people through my own networking groups that are very, very good at it.  In my book I have an example, I don’t use real names but the name I use in the book is Uncle Bucky, and this is a guy I actually know through networking that is extremely likeable and connects with people immediately.  Not only that, but he almost immediately wants to figure out a way that he can help you out.  He can either introduce you to somebody or make a referral to you. The managing directors of the organization Provisors, which I’m heavily involved in are also outstanding networkers.  A lot of it boils down to likability, but likability alone doesn’t make you a good networker. It’s what you do after that that allows relationships to really develop.

Q: Can you give a few of the key principles that are key to being a successful networker.

A: I think the first thing is to listen more than you speak.  Be quiet, listen, pay attention, be genuinely interested in what somebody has to say.  Find common ground with people.  If there is something they mention that they do or they like and you have a similar kind of thing, capitalize on that.  If they talk about being a fan of Jimmy Buffett, and you’re a big fan of Jimmy Buffett, don’t let that one go.  Pick up on that.  Ask them if they’ve been to any concerts or something like that.  Or maybe they play a particular game. I happen to play Scrabble.  If I meet somebody that plays Scrabble and they talk about it I’m naturally interested and want to find out how they play it, or when they play it, how much they play it, and even if we might have a game.  Introduce people.  If you are standing between two people and you know both of those people and they don’t know each other, make an introduction. Be proactive.  Make referrals.  The heart and soul of my method is give before you receive.  Always be giving. Even though you do want something out of it, approach networking with the attitude of what you can give.  Find a way to you can provide value to people that you can give them something that they don’t already have.  When you ask people questions, don’t ask yes/no questions because then you are going to have to keeping coming up with new questions.  “Tell me a little bit about”, is a good way to start a question.  “Describe”, “tell me about your vacation”, “describe that experience”, rather than yes/no answers.  Follow up is very important. A lot of people think that networking begins and ends with collecting business cards, and nothing could be further from the truth.  It’s what you do after you’ve met somebody that really establishes a relationship.  It could be simply some kind of follow up through social media.  Then you could at some point a couple months down the road call them up and say, “Do you want to have a cup of coffee” or “Do you want to have breakfast.” If you find out that someone is a baseball fan and you come across some professional baseball tickets, give those tickets away.  Anything you can do to build a relationship is going to be helpful. I talk a lot in the book about psychological principles and personality differences. The more you can understand who you are and maybe how other people perceive you; you may for example perceive yourself as being very confident, and you may find out that other people perceive you as being arrogant. You may perceive yourself as being organized and other people may perceive as being overly controlling.  So find out what other people think about you. It’s always important to be yourself, but if you are not agreeable, if you are not likable, you need to find that out.  Why are people responding to Bob but they are not responding to you.  It’s because Bob has a personality that people like.  You should be aware of that.  You should also be aware if you have certain kinds of skills that allow you to be successful in this area.

Q: Is there anyone that you would like to thank that helped you achieve your goal of writing this book?

A: First and foremost I would thank my son because he inspired me to write the book and was instrumental in the publication of the book, so he’s primary.  Also, I especially want to thank Gordon Gregory who is the Managing Director of Provisors who has served as a mentor on the project from the first time I mentioned it to him. Of course my parents, who were extremely influential in the way that I relate to people because of the way they did business and the way that they built relationships.  They were great networkers before the term networking was commonly used.

Q: What do you intend to do next, and is there another book in you?

A: There is another book in me. I don’t know what the book is going to be, but before I think about that I want to see what all of the opportunities and all of the avenues that Connecting: Beyond the Name Tag will lead me to cause I know there is going to be a lot of things. I’ll continue speaking on it a lot as well as training, teaching, coaching, mentoring on this topic for awhile and then when that’s done there will be something else, I don’t know what it will be.  I said to myself before I wrote this book, because the first two books I wrote were how-to books, I wrote a book called Study Skills for Success which was how to study then I wrote a book called Sell Yourself, which was how to sell, and after I wrote Sell Yourself I told myself I wasn’t going to write another how-to book.  Well, then Connecting came along, which really is a how-to book, but it’s not a how-to book in the sense that you’ve got to do exercises and all that kind of thing.  It does tell you how to network, but it also explains the process so you get an idea of what it’s all about.