Today we welcome back regular guestblogger Dave Baldwin who shares his book review of Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi with us at Write from the Inside Out. As always in his blog posts, Dave provides you with valuable insights from his own hard-won experiences. Read on and we’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

I’ve been wrestling with a big challenge since I came to Raleigh and started out as a freelance writer. The million-dollar question: how can I develop a selling formula that’s effective and works naturally for people who fall on the introverted side of the Myers-Briggs personality scale?

A big part of my answer came recently when I picked up a copy of Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. I wish I had read this book a lot sooner. I think that every high school student should read this book before going to college. Ferrazzi does a great job explaining the concept of networking in a way that’s not only friendly to introverts, but highly practical. Networking is one of those skills that’s not taught in schools, but should be, and I think Ferrazzi would agree with that statement.

Ferrazzi recalls a story about a time when he offered some advice to a young man who was considering starting his own public relations firm. Ferrazzi asked his mentee if he’d spoken to any prospective clients yet. The would-be entrepreneur replied that no, he didn’t see any reason to do that. His plan was to save up money for a few years, quit his job, incorporate, rent an office, and then start looking for clientele. His rationale: he couldn’t expect to have any credibility with clients unless he had an office. Ferrazzi advised the future business owner to start immediately contacting the kinds of people who might become his clients in the future—and offering them his services free of charge.

Ferrazzi’s advice was based on a number of different factors. For one, offering pro bono services would build trust, goodwill, solid relationships, and a professional reputation. Also, it would help the budding PR expert to learn about the nature of the business and craft a great service offering—without having to work under the pressure of being expected to deliver. Finally, Ferrazzi notes that no matter how good anyone is at what they do, no one can expect to meet a new prospective client and be hired by that person the next day. It takes time to build relationships, and people hire professional services on their own timelines.

When I read this story, I was excited and outraged at the same time. How could I have failed to think of something so simple? At the same time, an uplifting question occurred to me. What if everyone made a practice of giving away their services free of charge each month? I realized that Ferrazzi’s approach was doable for introverted business owners. Contacting someone to offer them a pro bono service with no expectations is a relatively easy thing to do—especially when compared to making sales calls.

In the early days when I first made the decision to go off on my own, I did exactly the kinds of things Ferrazzi advised his student not to do (though I didn’t rent office space). For example, during my brief venture as a distributor with Herbalife, I spent $200 on a pack of fliers made to hang on doorknobs. I got up at 3:00AM to sneak around a neighborhood and hang them for people to find in the morning. I walked into local stores and asked for people’s names and phone numbers. I called my friends and family members and asked them if they’d be interested in free “wellness evaluations” (sales pitches for health supplements). My mentors also advised me to put fliers under people’s windshield wipers at the rate of 1,000 per day. (I had neither the stomach nor the patience for that.)

My early training in sales came from boisterous, outgoing people. Extraversion dominated the culture of selling. In 2002, when I sold Cutco knives, a large portion of our training focused on simply being loud. Sales trainings were conducted to the tune of dance music at a rapid beat. Cheering and applause were mandatory. (You would literally be asked to leave the room and not come back if your body language or facial expression appeared to be less than enthusiastic). There was little talk of building relationships during these training sessions, except as an afterthought. We were encouraged to build rapport, but only as a tactic for closing the sale.

Approaches like Ferrazzi’s haven’t gotten much attention until recently. I used to think that I would never be able to sell—because sales required a different kind of personality. I came to realize that conventional selling, for the most part, had been designed for and by extroverts. I realized in 2007 that it was equally feasible to develop a sales method that would suit introverts equally well. Never Eat Alone, I think, covers this territory exceptionally well. The ideas I got from this book inspired me so much that I decided to start a new networking group.

If you struggle with networking or with your business in general, this book is definitely worth a read. You’ll find something in it for you. If you are looking for ways to pay it forward and help others, Never Eat Alone will provide even more value. Check it out!

Dave Baldwin is a copywriter who lives and works in Raleigh, North Carolina. He facilitates a networking group in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

Your Turn:

Entrepreneurs: we want to hear from you. Pro bono services yes or no? Has offering pro bono services made a difference for your business?