Let’s say last night you were able to give your business card to five people. It’s been a week and no one called back. You wonder, what did you do wrong? Networking is just about who can collect the most business cards at the end of the day. Believe it or not, there’s more to it especially when it goes digital. Join your host, Ben Baker, and his guest, networking guru, Dr. Bill Saleebey. Bill is the Regional Manager, Corporate Relocations for Mover Services, Inc. He is the author of Networking in the Virtual Age. He also happens to be the father of Billy Samoa Saleebey, host of For the Love of Podcast, who has joined Ben on the show before. Listen in to have a deeper understanding of relationship building. Learn how to make a good first impression, how multitasking is counter-intuitive, and how networking has changed because of the pandemic.
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Networking In The Digital Age: The Art Of Building Beautifully Beneficial Relationships Over Time With Dr. Bill Saleebey
Thank you, my wonderful audience, for joining us yet again. Thank you for your emails, your comments and your suggestions on LinkedIn and Facebook. I love the fact that you guys commit with me and that we have a great conversation every week. In this episode, I have the second half of the dynamic duo. In February 2021, we had Billy Samoa Saleebey on. Now, I’ve got his better-looking and more talented father on the show. We’re going to be talking about networking in a virtual age. Bill, thanks for being a guest. I’m looking forward to this.
Ben, thank you for having me. We are going to not only have fun but we’re going to have a blast. We’re going to uncover some things that nobody has ever thought of before.
You and I had a great conversation talking about networking and how it’s changed, where it’s been, where it is, and where it’s going. I want to dive into all of those things because the world has changed over the past years and it will change again. We need to be aware of this. Before we get into that, let’s get the audience to get a little bit more up to speed on you, who you are, what brought you to this point in time, and what you’re passionate about, and then let’s get into networking.Networking is building beautifully beneficial relationships over time. Click To Tweet
How did I get into networking? I didn’t go to school and didn’t get a degree in Networking. My goal was to become a college professor, which I did and have done for many years. I realized that the tenure track position wasn’t coming my way. I had worked as a mover in high school and college. Back in ‘82 I said, “Why don’t I get a job as a salesman for a moving company?” I did. I said, “I’ll do this for a while.” I was doing it for a while and my sales manager said, “Bill, you have to network.” I said, “What is that? I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He said, “What you do is you find people in related professions and you meet with them and you exchange leads.” I realized over time that wasn’t networking. That was a lead exchange.
There were some networking organizations so I wanted to join one of them. I tried to join this networking organization and they said, “We can’t accept you because you’re a vendor. You are not a high enough caliber to join our group.” I said, “Okay.” There were some people that were lobbying for me. Finally, there was somebody who I met and he said, “It’s not the profession, it’s the person. You seem like a great guy. You can join our group.” Fast forward, I have written three books on networking. I have been in several networking organizations. I’ve been the president of a networking organization. I lead two networking groups. That’s the capsule view of Dr. Bill Saleeby’s journey in networking.
You said something interesting and I want to punch down on this. What do you define networking as not and what do you define it as? A lot of people have a misconception about what true networking is. That’s a great place to start the conversation.
I’ll give you my definition of networking. Networking is building mutually beneficial relationships over time. There’s a lot in that definition, one is the relationships you build. They are beneficial to everybody involved. I joined networking groups to get referrals, and what I found was the giving part that was the important dimension. That doesn’t happen immediately. Anytime somebody joins a networking organization or a networking group, they sometimes think, “I’m going to get referrals right away.” You’re not going to get referrals right away.
There’s a paradigm of networking that I’ve modified and what it is, is know, like, connect, trust and refer. You’ve got to know somebody, know what they do, like them, and make some connection, something that connects you to them. They’ve got to trust you, you’ve got to trust them, and then the referral might occur or the introduction might occur. It’s a process. The big misconception is that you succeed in networking by getting referrals and it’s the opposite. The more you give, the better. Maybe the biggest networking organization in the world is Business Network International or better known as BNI. It was founded by a gentleman named Dr. Ivan Misner.
We had Ivan on the show.
Ivan’s concept and catchphrase is Givers Gain, and that’s the whole principle. He’s a great guy. I interviewed him as part of the research I did for my book. He gave me some insights and how BNI was developed and is now one of many networking organizations.
Dr. Misner and I had a great conversation, both on-air and off-air. One of the things that we talked about off-air is the fact that I’ve been part of 2 or 3 different BNI chapters over 20 or 25 years. I have been a member for over 8 or 10 years. What I found is there are good chapters, bad chapters, and there are awful chapters. I find that the awful chapters are the ones that become buying groups. They buy from each other. You’ve got somebody who owns a restaurant, a grocery store, a meat shop, and they all buy from each other. They call that networking. They’re quite happy to call that networking.
There are the groups that sit there and they know, like and trust each other. They’re willing to sit there and say, “I know somebody that could use the services that you provide. I know that you can add value to these people. I trust you enough to refer you to my friends, to my business associates, to whomever because I know you’re going to take care of them.” Those are two completely different groups. A lot of it comes down to the culture within the BNI chapter, the networking association or whatever. What are the expectations of the people within the group? I’d love to know about the expectations of networking because that’s essential to being either part of a great networking group or being a great networker.
A couple of reasons why people join networking organizations, the most common one is they want to get referrals for themselves. They want referrals to come to them. The other reason that people sometimes join networking groups is they are looking for people to refer to. Some people say, “I’ve got plenty of business.” I’m a lawyer and I do patent law. I get people calling me because I’m a lawyer but I don’t do personal injury and I don’t do employment law. I want to get into a networking group where there are a lot of attorneys. I spoke to a networking group that is strictly attorneys and they’re all different specializations and they refer to each other.
The intention is either probably to get referrals, give referrals, get introductions or give introductions. What happens, as a consequence of that, is you develop relationships and you need to develop friendships. The way I put it is I did not join networking groups to get friendships. I had plenty of friends. I found wonderful people that have become friends. The relationships have transcended the organization. The other interesting issue is some people who join a networking organization such as BNI, ProVisors or any alumni association, they’re loyal to the organization and the organization is primary. What I found is that it’s not the organization, it’s the people. Even if I stopped being a member of a particular networking organization, those relationships can continue.
Years ago, somebody said to me, “Bill, you don’t have to do this anymore because everybody knows you’re the moving guy or you’re the networking guy. You don’t need to do that.” I said, “That’s not true. When you stop going, attending or hanging out with the people, they’re going to forget about you.” One of the principles of networking is consistency and longevity. If you stop doing it and going or you go inconsistently, you’re not going to have the results as if when you attend consistently and give. Find ways to become valuable to people. When I first started, the way I put it with my lawyer friends, I didn’t know the difference between a PI attorney and an IP attorney. I soon found out that if somebody said, “Can you refer me to a personal injury attorney?” I’ve met so many of them and I’d say, “What kind do you want? Do you want one that’s going to settle your case or do you want one that wants to go to court?”
It’s interesting because when we take a look at networking, it’s networking with a purpose and a culture in mind. You have to have the right mindset when you’re looking to network. Everybody comes into a networking situation with a different mindset. Some people are there to grab as many business cards as they can, run away and hope that there’s a business that comes out of it. Other people are there for the long haul.The networking paradigm: know, like connect, trust, and refer. Click To Tweet
Let’s talk about the young or the new networker, somebody that’s straight out of college, in college, or new to an organization that has been told, “You need to get involved in some of these networking situations.” You walk into a room for the first time and there are 30, 50, 100 or 500 people in the room and you’re overwhelmed. Where do you start? For most people, the big challenge is you walk into this room, you don’t know anybody, and you sit there and go, “How am I going to meet people? How am I going to make myself relevant in this room or at least be able to have a conversation to find out if there’s even reason for me to come back?”
You hit on something that’s a starting point. Some people think that you go to these events, which when we have them and we will have them again, and you collect as many business cards as you can. They think that’s what networking is. The way I used to do it is I would have all of my business cards in my left-hand jacket pocket. At the end of the evening, my goal was to give all of my cards away. In my right-hand pocket, I would have all the business cards that I had collected. That’s a starting point. With that, you have a conversation, “Ben, what do you do? Bill, what do you do?” You’re able to say, in a sentence or two, what your business is, “I sell health insurance,” or whatever it is you do.
The key is that you’re building a relationship and that’s the starting point. Collecting those business cards is not going to get you business. It’s the follow-up, the follow-through. You tell somebody something you’re going to do when you do it. The way I put it is you get involved so you join that organization and they say, “We need somebody on our social committee.” You raise your hand and you say, “I’ll be on the social committee.”
Here’s the key. When you join that social committee, you do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Whatever you do in that organization as a way of giving and getting involved is a work sample. Somebody says, “I was impressed with that Ben Baker guy. He joined the organization. He volunteered for this committee. He was a hard worker. He always did what he said he was going to do and he did it in a timely manner. If he does his podcast the way he was in this organization, I want to hire him because I’m impressed with the way he works.”
The starting point is intimidating, going into that room of 100 people. You take it one person at a time and you have that conversation. You’re not in a hurry. There’s something that happens in networking groups that’s interesting. We all have our little name tags on and we walk from people to people. Let’s say I’m talking to you, and in my moving business, the best possible referral source is a commercial real estate broker. If I’m at a networking meeting and I meet a commercial real estate broker, the last thing I want to do when I’m talking to that person is to be in a hurry and say, “I’ve got to mingle.” Why do I have to mingle? I hit the potential motherload, the best possible referral source. Why do I want to be in a hurry?
People think, “I’ve got to talk to as many people as I can.” That gets us to the point of wide versus deep. You could go to a networking meeting and talk to five people and have five wonderful conversations and collect five wonderful business cards, and that’s all you need. You don’t need to collect 25 that you never follow up on. It’s the quality of the conversations and the quality of the relationships that are important rather than the quantity of the relationships. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions for the newbie, the person that has no idea where to start.
When I walk into a networking situation, I don’t care if there are 50 or 500 people in the room. My goal is to meet three people. If I can meet three people and have three meaningful conversations that either lead to something or don’t lead to something, I walk out of there knowing a little bit more about them, I know what they’re doing, what their challenges are, what they’re working on, their expectations, my life is good because maybe I know somebody that maybe it’s not me that can help them, maybe I can find somebody that I know that can help them out. That is a way to endear me to these people.
It’s interesting that you talk about wide versus deep because many people go into a networking situation and they try to go wide, “I need to meet everybody.” If you have 50 people in a room and you have an hour or a 90-minute networking session, you’re spending between 1 minute and 1.5 minutes with every single person. How much can you know, like and trust somebody if you only have 60 to 90 seconds to get to know them?
You can’t, and that’s the point. The other dimension to it and this is more for people, not new people but people who go into a room where they know people, they have a choice of whether to say, “I want to hang out with the people I already know and deepen those relationships. It would be my choice at this stage in my career rather than finding five new people.” If you’re new to a group, you want to meet as many people as possible. It depends upon the stage you are in your career. In all cases, it’s important to be both a good listener and a good talker. Being a good listener will allow you to be in touch to find out what that other person does and how you might be able to help them. When they say, “What about you?” You’re able to clearly and concisely, and in an interesting way, tell them what you do. The way I put it is it’s good to be interested and interesting. Have a high level of being interested and a high level of being interested, and not bored and boring.
Looking at your watch and looking at your phone going, “Something is going on LinkedIn. I’m going to start spending my time on LinkedIn in the corner while I’ve got 50 people in front of me that are potential customers.”
The problem is a lot of people do way too much multitasking. I found this especially true in Zoom meetings, specifically in Zoom networking meetings. People have a hard time staying 100% focused on the conversation they’re in. When you look at your watch, people are going, “Am I boring you? Why can’t you stay focused?” That’s an especially big problem today. More among younger people, but all people, feel like they can’t do one thing. The more you can stay 100% focused on the person you’re talking to, the more you’re going to be able to build that strong relationship.You do what you say you're going to do when you say you're going to do it. Click To Tweet
The other thing that I found, and ideas keep emerging as I study this topic, is the notion of being versatile in your communication skills. Some people are good communicators but they’re limited communicators. They always talk about sports or they only talk about sports. They only talk about movies. If you want to have a wide and diverse network, you’ve got to be diverse in your communication skills and not talk about the same thing with everybody and not tell the same jokes or the same stories. If you’re good at communicating with one group of people, that’s great. If you want to go to another group, then you need to learn about that group.
One of the things that social media does, especially LinkedIn, is it allows us to learn about people before we meet them in person or meet them on a Zoom call. I do that habitually. I do that not only when I’m meeting people but if I’m speaking to a group, I will research them and find out. When I meet them, I say, “I see you went to Stanford undergrad and USC law school. That’s a good combination.” They go, “Wow.” You didn’t come to this meeting and say, “What do you do? Where did you go to school?” We have, at our fingertips, virtual tools that allow us to communicate, especially during that time when we couldn’t meet in person. One of the things I’ve studied over the past, especially over 2020, is the virtual dimension of communication and that it’s real. That’s part of the versatility. People say, “I don’t do social media.” That’s okay but you’re cutting out a large part of the potential to communicate with people.
Let’s get into live versus virtual. As we’re all getting vaccinated, we’re going to be moving back to a period of time in the near future, hopefully, where we’re going to have live events again. Virtual is not going to go away. There are a lot of advantages to the fact that it’s 7:00 AM, instead of having to get up at 5:30 AM, shower, shave, get dressed, get in your car, head to a 7:00 AM breakfast meeting, talk for an hour or hour and a half. You get off at 6:30, shower, shave, turn on the Zoom call, and away you go if it’s an effective meeting. It depends on how it’s being run. How has networking changed where we were all live, shaking hands, hugging and in the same room, to a virtual thing? What do you see are the advantages and disadvantages? How can we make it better?
It’s changed dramatically. I had been on maybe two Zoom calls before the pandemic. I’ve done Skype and all that stuff. We had to learn how to do that. The people that adapted and pivoted the quickest were more successful at it. They realized that they had to have enough bandwidth to stay on a call for an hour and a half or whatever that took. They have to have lighting, a good microphone and all that stuff. They had to learn how to come across properly and not to spend all their time complaining about how much they hated Zoom. Advantages, you mentioned them. The biggest one is you don’t have to go anywhere. I happen to live quite a ways away. I live in the City of Ventura, which is over an hour’s drive to Los Angeles where most of the activity is.
That’s about what, 10 miles?
No, it’s 60 miles. There was less traffic and all that during the pandemic. People had to learn how to stand out and how to make an impression virtually and to stay engaged. Some people don’t realize that if you turn your camera off or you’re spending all your time multitasking, you’re not going to make a good impression on people. You can be engaged via Zoom and other platforms. What’s happening with networking groups rather than business in general, is the rooms are going to be opening up and the networking groups are going to be making decisions about, “What do we do? Do we let fifteen people in the room and have a hybrid meeting, where you have ten people calling in via Zoom and you have Owl devices in the room that are going to record and video people?” Some people are going, “We don’t want to do that. We can’t do that.” Other people are going, “We’ve got to do it. Our networking organization is deciding that’s what we’re doing.”
One of the networking groups I’m in is able to go national. My UCLA alumni organization, which is called Bruin Professionals is going regional and national, which they couldn’t do before. The meetings are having more attendance now because people don’t have to drive and they can Zoom in the morning and go to meetings that are way out of their geographic areas. There’s still tremendous value in meeting in person. One of the things that’s interesting to me is we’re starting to open up and meet in person. In the middle of the pandemic, people are going, “People are never going to shake hands again. People are never going to hug again.” It’s not true. People are hungry to shake hands.
What I found is when you meet people, they’re shaking hands and hugging again. We’re assuming people that have been vaccinated. It answered the question of, “What’s going to happen when we start meeting in person?” As human beings, we want to connect. When we weren’t able to connect in person, we did what we could do but some people were saying, “I’ve got to get back into the room because that’s where my strength is.” Other people said, “I can do it virtually. I can connect with people through social media and Zoom.” Another thing that’s happened is when people want to have a conversation, they say, “Let’s set up a Zoom call.” My question is, do we need to do that? Can we talk on the phone? People are then making decisions about how they can connect with one another?
When you’re dealing with people, what’s the advice you’re giving to be able to network effectively? Networking is going to continue to evolve. When you’re creating a networking experience and when you’re entering in a network experience, what are the things that you need to be cognizant of to be able to make sure that you build that know, like and trust? Also, you enable people to like, trust and know you in a situation where you are virtual or hybrid events. For the time being, that’s reality.
The same basic skills that we have with in-person networking have to be there. You still have to be a good listener, a good talker, and not talk too much. You have to be clear in how you communicate. Your basic communication skills need to be good. You need to connect with people. You still need to connect with people. You need to be able to use and should use social media because you go, “We can’t meet in person but I want to continue to build the network.” I will then build the network more through social media.By cutting out social media, you're missing out on a large part of the potential to communicate with people. Click To Tweet
I use LinkedIn more to research people because I’m not spending as much time driving to meet those people. If I was driving an hour to meet somebody, I may not spend that fifteen minutes looking them up on LinkedIn and finding out who they are, where they work, what their specialty was, where they went to school and all that stuff. Some of the basic skills remain important. You still try and be of value to people. Make introductions and referrals. If they’re asking for this simple advice that you don’t need to charge for, you give that advice. The heart of it is connecting and making sure that when you are on a Zoom call, you are present on that call. That’s key.
One of the biggest problems is people are in their office so they’re going, “I’ve got my five screens and I’ve got my computer. The Zoom call is one of those little things.” It shouldn’t be one of those little things. It should be the center of your focus. If you do that, if you are being dynamic and connecting with people, it’s going to have value for you. Much has stayed the same and much has changed. The people that have simultaneously embraced the standard skills and added the new skills are the ones that are going to be successful.
It’s more about caring about people. It’s about giving attention to the people that you have in your room. I’m sitting here and talking to you, I’ve got two 24-inch monitors. The first thing I did was shut down everything in anything that wasn’t directly related to our conversation. It’s gone. It’s not minimized, it’s turned off. I don’t want email, social media and my website going. I want to be present with the people that are in the room. The same thing with my phone, my cell phone is on silent and it’s on the other side of the room where I can’t even touch it. I can’t tell you how many people that I know when I’m having conversations with them over Zoom, this isn’t reality. They’re looking at their other monitor. All of a sudden, they’re looking down and you know they’re looking at their phone. They’re not paying attention to you. They’re not caring about what you have to say.
As human beings, we need to get back to the point where we truly care about what the person is doing. What are you working on? What are the challenges that you’re facing? What are the things that are keeping you up at night? Those are more important questions than what do you do. “What do you do?” “I’m a lawyer.” “I hate lawyers. I’m going to go find somebody else.” If you ask somebody, “What are the challenges you’re facing? What are you working on?” You’re going to get far more insights into their soul and what’s important to them than if you ask them about what they do. I love what you were saying.
You hit the other one of my hot buttons, and that is the difference between business and personal conversations. That’s what you were talking about, “Ben, what do you do?” “I’m a podcaster.” “Bill, what do you do?” “I’m a mover and a networking expert.” I’m never going to build a relationship with Ben Baker if all I talk about is business. We have to learn about people, “What are you doing this weekend?” “I’m taking my son on a college tour in the Northwest.” “What’s your son’s name?” “My son’s name is Bobby.” Next time I meet them, I could do two things. I could say, “How did the college tour with Bobby go?” They go, “Bill paid attention.”
I could be an idiot and say, “Do you have kids?” “He didn’t pay attention. He asked me specifically what I was doing and I told him about my college tour. At the second time, ‘Do you have kids?’” People that can build on conversations and incorporate personal dimensions learn about what that person does and what’s important to them versus what they do. That’s the way you build relationships. A lot of people, when they’re in a business networking situation, stick 100% to the business. That’s okay and it’s expected to talk business but you’re never going to build relationships if that’s all you talk about.
You’re talking about researching people on LinkedIn. What university did you go to? Do you play golf? Are you a tennis player? What organizations do you volunteer with? Those are the things I’m far more interested in. What I do is I take all that information and I put it into my CRM. It all goes into my Contact Relationship Management Program. I can sit there and go, “I can remember what this person’s birthday is. I can remember their anniversary, their wives’ name, their kids’ name, and the fact that they went on a university tour.”
If I speak to 50 people a day, I’ll never remember that stuff. If I write it down in the management system and next time I talk to them, I review the notes before I have the conversation with them. It’s amazing the conversations that allow for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th conversations because you’re able to build on that information. That’s a part of networking that is lost for a whole bunch of people. How do you maintain that personal relationship and remember those little things that make people realize that you’re listening to them?
You write it down, which is valuable. Some people say, “I’m bad with names.” First of all, they’re telling themselves they’re bad with names. If you use the name Ben, as I talk to you, I’m going well, “I’m going to remember your name is Ben because I’m using it.” People who don’t call people by name or use names may not be good with names because they’re not paying attention. A simple but powerful part of connecting with people is remembering what their name is. We have name tags when we’re in a networking event. We can look at that and say, “Ben Baker. I see what that guy’s name is.” I remember well, I had a college professor, Father Carlin. He used to say, “Scripta manent, verba volant.” In Latin, it simply means if you write it down, it’s going to hold. If you don’t write it down, it’s going to fly away.
It’s a good thing Latin is still with me years later.
Do you remember that?
It’s all about building relationships, and every relationship is different. It gets back to that versatility. You don’t treat every relationship as the same. Each one is a little bit different and you nurture it. The more you do that, the better you build a powerful network where people are going, “I know what that person does. I gave them an opportunity for some business. They did a great job. They were grateful. ‘Thanks’ was an important part of everything they did. I’m going to give them more referrals because they’re doing a wonderful job.” The opposite is you don’t want to get near, “I gave that person a referral and they never followed up on it. I’m never going to give them a referral again.” To build these relationships, you’ve got to do a good job. That’s the key to the whole thing.
That’s a good place to finish. I want to make sure everybody knows about your book called Networking in the Virtual Age: Connected with No Limits. It’s a great book. You can pick it up on Amazon. People know how to get to you. I got one last question that I want to ask you before you go, and this is something that I ask everybody. When you leave a meeting and you get in your car and you drive away, what’s the one thing you want people to think about you when you’re not in the room?
“He’s a good, honorable guy, and he does a great job. I would like to hang out with him again.”
Next time I’m down in California, we’re going out for lunch or we’re going out for a beer or something because you are one of those people I want to get to know even better next time.
The feeling is mutual, Ben. We’ll do lunch and a beer. How does that sound?
It would be my pleasure. Bill, thank you for being such an amazing guest. Thank you for all your wisdom. You did not disappoint.
Thanks, Ben. I appreciate this opportunity. I hope your readers enjoy it. What keeps me going is to be able to share this information. Thank you. I’ll see you when you come to California or you’ll see me when I come to British Columbia.
I’ll see you soon.
Thank you. I appreciate it.
- Billy Samoa Saleebey – Past episode
- Dr. Bill Saleebey
- Dr. Ivan Misner – Past Episode
- Bruin Professionals
- LinkedIn – Dr. Bill Saleebey
- Networking in the Virtual Age: Connected with No Limits
- Amazon – Dr. Bill Saleebey
About Dr. William M. Saleebey
What happens when we can’t meet in person? Can we still make meaningful connections with others? The answer is a resounding YES! In this timely book, Dr. Saleebey draws upon psychological concepts, first-hand observations and expert opinions to explore how networking groups and professionals have quickly adapted and embraced virtual networking as a result of the social distancing caused by COVID-19. We can and should use all virtual channels to connect in creative and positive ways. Virtual networking is here to stay, and this book provides a clear blueprint for building meaningful relationships in the virtual age.
Dr. William M. Saleebey is a foremost expert on the psychological dimensions of business and personal networking. He serves as a consultant and trainer with businesses to infuse networking into business development practices. Dr. Saleebey is a keynote speaker and teaches leaders how to facilitate the group process. He is the author of Connecting: Beyond the Name Tag, Connecting: Key Networking Tips for Business and Life, and numerous articles on the topic.
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