Sunday, July 30, 2006

It's not about Selling

I was given a gift recently: a spot in a 3-day sales seminar. I was both grateful and apprehensive about this gift. I knew I had to learn more about sales - after all I own my own business and without increasing sales my business will fail. But I was dreading it. I hate classrooms and lectures and I really hate SELLING!

And so many of us feel that networking is about selling ourselves.

Selling to me was about being pushy; about hype; about forcing yourself and your services on people who would much rather be doing anything else than listening to your sales pitch.

What I found out was both extremely valuable and reassuring. There are all kinds of selling techniques and styles and I can use - skills I already have. The seminar was not only helpful, it was enjoyable. The interactive process created community and helped us experience the lessons by doing in a safe environment.

In fact, almost immediately I was able to put in place things I learned: how to frame the information, how to communicate value, how to listen better, how to respond calmly and knowledgeably to objectives, and how to use stories and dreams effectively.

Rather than putting on a suit I knew would be uncomfortable, I found out I simply need to be myself to be a better sales person.

This lesson can easily be applied to networking as well. Be yourself. Listen, find out what's important to the person you're talking to. Be honest and candid and if you can help, offer it.

No one really wants to be sold - on anything. No one wants to sit through your sales pitch - in their office or at a networking event. Find common ground. Give something of yourself away as well. And listen.

Look into the Dale Carnegie seminars to see if they offer one that might be helpful to you (classes in San Francisco.)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Deepening connections with those you might take for granted

My friend Vinnie is always including me in family events and gatherings. She lives in Oakland and I live in San Francisco. So close and yet at times so far apart.

Last Saturday, her daughter, who has just graduated from UC Berkeley, invited me to an afternoon celebration. It was a perfect day. It was a lovely party. I know these people so well I can actually relax and know I don’t have to smile and be “nice” every single minute. I’ve been fighting a cold (or maybe allergies) and part of me wasn’t sure I had the energy to get to Orinda where the party was being held.

But, I went. I took BART and Vinnie came and picked me up. The party was being held at her brother’s home, which was their family home growing up. And just so you can understand how complex all our lives really are when we look closely, I’ll go deeper into the existing relationships. Her mother and my mother were sorority sisters at Berkeley in the ‘30s. I found out this weekend that she believes my mother was her mother’s “Big Sister” at Alpha Delta Pi. They were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. Her mother was my godmother.

And now, Vinnie and I are friends, more than friends, almost family. With all our parents now gone, our connections and our extended families are more important than ever. I am deeply honored (and flattered) her daughter would continue this tradition and invite me to this party.

Over the years I had met other members of this extended family. Vinnie, to my eyes, is a person who builds community every day - with phone calls, parties, emails. With making the time to spend time with those she cares about. As we would sit on her deck and chat lazily on a Sunday afternoon, we’d talk about everything and anything -- she kept me abreast of their lives – albeit at some distance.

So, I go to this party, expecting to have an okay time, spend little bits of time with “the family,” and do some small talking (which I am not good at,) and leave at a reasonable hour. Essentially I expected to make my appearance, acknowledge her daughter’s graduation, share a few hugs, and go home.

Instead, I connected personally with others, artists, in ways I had not done before. Vinnie has been attracted to artists, as was her mother. I think she includes me in her artist friend category, as did her mother (which is another story entirely.) She has introduced me to her other artist friends over the years, but it never seemed to click, to get personal. Yesterday it all clicked.

So, what does this have to do with networking? I think it has to do with being authentic, with taking baby steps, and letting things happen. One of the artists said, “You know, the more you show who you really are, the lonelier you think you’re going to be. And it’s so not that way. By being authentic, you attract others… in droves.” Later, she offered to drive me to BART when I was ready to leave so we could chat some more.

And this wasn’t the only deeper connection made. One introduced me to her daughter who was struggling to be a writer. Another invited me to come visit and see where she lives and her small spaces. And from a third, I was told about a book he was reading that he thought I’d be interested in because of the typography. I was asked several times for my email address or my phone number. That had not happened before. We had always been cordial and friendly, but somehow distant.

I said out loud what I do and how right it is for me – book publishing services; what I am interested in – typography, writing, book design, small spaces, labyrinths. I took steps; got myself out there; spoke out loud. I let it all flow at its own pace. I didn’t push anything. But I didn’t hem and haw either. I’m looking around at what I already think I know and seeing new possibilities.

I was delighted, quietly content. Do I know where this will lead? No, of course not. Do I feel that I’ve taken steps to build my own artistic community? Definitely. Was this a day when I was in alignment? Yes. And all of this was possible because of friendship: mine; Vinnie’s; our mothers’. Thanks Vinnie.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Need: Social Networking software

I am venting today. I have broken down again and bought a "real" database app -- FileMaker Pro 8. I used ACT but it doesn't work on my Mac. I use Address Book and it has this great section where I can identify relationships -- children, sisters, who referred whom, etc. And groups.

This information is really important to me and increasingly important to all of us.

But, i can't get this information easily into FileMaker from Address Book or from ACT. I have investigated online to find scripts written by individuals from Address Book Manipulator to AB2FM.... and they do okay for basic fields like addresses and company names. And then they IGNORE people relationships.

I do not understand this. I have spent many hours trying to find software that will bridge this gap (for less than $100)... and I have found nothing.

I can't believe that Address Book will not export to anything but a vCard. What is going on? Aren't human relationships acknowledged by software makers as important?

If you know of any software that solves this problem, please let me know and I'll post it here.

This kind of narrow thinking makes me angry. Help.

Friday, April 28, 2006

City Wide Drill as Networking Opportunity

I participated in the City Wide Drill on April 22nd. The City Wide Drill is a disaster preparedness drill sponsored by the Fire Department and utilizing the NERT squads. NERT stands for Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams and we NERTs are trained by the Fire Department.

We all know that when disaster strikes, the Fire Department will be overwhelmed and we are going to have to help ourselves. We live in earthquake country. It's a question of when, how soon, not if.

I like these drills. I always learn something and I always meet interesting people. And we have self-sorted. We are all interested in helping ourselves and our community. We believe in being prepared. We are willing to commit a certain amount of time and energy to learning and participating in activities that contribute to the greater good.

I ran into two people I hadn't seen in a while. One is a woman I see when I facilitate labyrinth walks at Grace Cathedral. And one is someone I met at a previous drill. And I met some folks I did not know.

I'm going to get more involved. I want to learn how to use a Ham radio -- you know that a lot of the language of the Internet, with handles and codes, comes from the Ham radio world. I want to learn more about setting up the command centers. So, I have a new node in my network and I'm going to pursue this connection. And what makes this so powerful is that it isn't about me, it's not about selling, it's about something other than myself.

My suggestion to you is: "Get out there. Do something. Participate in some community activity." It's up to you what that will be and what you can commit to. But it's fun, it's an opportunity to move in different worlds, and it's good for more than just the individual. Find your City Wide Drills and your NERT groups. Join them.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Selling your books: Making it personal

I have just posted an article on my blog, Cinnabar Books about how one author is successfully selling his book through his personal networking efforts. Check it out.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Networking + Fear. One of the reasons people attend my workshop and one of the reasons I personally find networking so difficult, so draining, is fear.

Fear that I won't succeed. Fear that no one will talk to me, or want to talk to me. Fear that even if I say "Hello," somehow I will be ignored or sent home. Fear that even as old as I am I'll be a "wallflower."

My tongue will get tied. My mouth will dry up. I'll be shot on the spot (or at least shot down) for having the temerity (the courage) to show up and participate. How dare I?

What is it that is so very fearful? Why are we afraid even when we know better and have positive experiences to balance out the negative ones?

I went to a networking event in San Francisco one night. It was called First Thursdays and I had agreed to meet an architect there. We have been introduced by a mutual acquaintance and this seemed liked a good place to meet. No long lunches, but an opportunity to use the time to say hello, gather some non-verbal information, see if there is anything to pursue that might be mutually beneficial.

The venue was easy for me to get to -- so I wasn't worried about spending a lot of time getting someplace and getting home. I'd been giving my workshops on networking for a couple of years and I knew a lot of tips and tricks about how to handle uncomfortable situations. So, I went. No worries, right?

I walked off the elevator into the ante room and the buzz, the noise level, was high. There was a lot of energy in the main room, lots of talking. I could feel it and hear it. I looked into this big salon area and I was immediately afraid. Straight into fear mode. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Fear. Wall of noise. Visually what I saw was groups of people standing around talking. It seemed to me that everyone was occupied, that all these groups were closed, that no one would appreciate me interrupting them. I was in panic mode. I could not do this.

I also realized I didn't have a clue what this architect looked like. Slim, heavy. Beard, balding. Nada. I had forgotten to ask him to wear a red carnation.

My mouth went dry. Thoughts ran rabidly through my head: I have to go. I can't do this. No one will talk to me. Everyone else knows someone. Everyone else is already engaged. The cliques are formed and closed. My gosh, it was just like grammar school.

I told myself, "You can do this. You can do this. You teach a class about this for gosh sakes."

So, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes slowly and opened them slowly. I decided to find a place to drop my coat and briefcase and to find the bar, the ladies room, and the food. I figured the easiest thing to do was to simply scope out the physical environment. Look at the room, which was lovely. The event was being held in The University Club, an old, elegant building on Nob Hill.

So, I walked into the bar, a more quiet place, got a tall glass of water, and moved again into the main salon. I then walked around the edges of the crowd, found a place to put my coat. By this time I had spoken to 1 person, the bartender. Yay.

I found the buffet table, and I picked up some celery (nothing creamy or messy to spill on my clothes)... and wandered again around the edge of the crowd. I finally relaxed enough to finally see that some other folks were also standing by themselves. I stood close to one and turned and said "Hello."

From that point on, I was in conversation. I talked to one person, then moved on and talked to someone else. I even got up my courage to stand near a small group (3 people) and "lurk," listen in, and eventually participate. One time, I lurked and then wandered off. No one had paid attention to me, so I moved on.

So, why did I tell that story? Well, it's about fear. And it's about fear showing up even when you know, really know, you can handle things. Even when you look comfortable, competent. Inside you may be feeling something very different.

That fear, that sense that everyone in the room knows someone, that no one will talk to me, that the cliques are formed and closed and I'm outside, that it is simply too hard -- can hit us all. At any time -- it can surprise us.

And it's about slowing down. It's about taking stock. It's about doing what you can and taking baby steps. It's about saying "Hello." Do something you are comfortable with.

I feel stronger when I have more information -- when I know where things are, where the exits, the escape routes, and where the ladies rooms are. I am also comfortable with bars and bartenders. I am comfortable asking for water.

Walk around the edges. Take stock of what is really going on. Look for what's happening on the edges -- where others might be standing or sitting alone. Where someone might be getting food.

Say "Hello." Break the ice. Listen. If they turn and glare at you, move away. Chances are they won't shoot you. Chances are there is at least one more person there equally scared, equally paralyzed. Say "Hello" to someone else. Give them that gift.

I didn't meet up with the architect. He wasn't able to get away. As a matter of fact, I never met up with that architect. I guess it wasn't meant to happen.

I general, I tend to shy away from events like this one -- large, un-purposed mixers. I am too uncomfortable. And I hate small talk. But it's important to get out there and deal with our fears. Just say "Hello."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Bea and Ethel in conversation

I love this picture of my mother, Beatrice, and her best friend, Ethel. I took this picture sometime in the 1960s or 1970s at our dining room table in Sacramento. That's my dad's hand in the foreground. My mother and Ethel were both school teachers and they were always talking about education, politics, and the system. It is such a great picture -- of two people talking and listening and sharing. It is the essence of human connection. I'd much rather do this than network, wouldn't you?


I give a popular workshop called "I Hate Networking!" in the San Francisco Bay Area. To get the blog started, I'm going to list some of my resources that others find helpful.

The first of these are some online communities you might like to check out: LinkedIN, which I belong to; Bay Area Link Up, which I also belong to; Ryze; Friendster; Tribe; My Space.

Networking, when done well and done right, is about developing relationships. It's about connecting and listening, and helping out. It's about exchanging value. I'll talk more about these ideas as the blog develops, but for now, think of networking as listening and paying attention -- not as selling and spewing your 30 second elevator speech.