Skip to content

Networking Refresher–The “Soft Sell”

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

See also Networking–What is it, really?

I worked in the advertising industry for thirteen years before moving over into the publishing world. When I first started in advertising, if I’d been asked to define or describe networking, it would have been what I saw the sales reps I worked with doing—being pushy, forcing people who didn’t really want to talk to them to do so, and above all, closing the sale. Networking and sales to my uninformed mind were the same thing—seven nos means a yes. In other words, keep going back, keep pushing, keep putting on the pressure for the person to say yes.

I now know this is not networking. This is sales.

Networking is a much gentler, more refined skill. Networking is building relationships. Networking is more listening and less talking. Networking is not pushing someone else to do something for you or give you something; networking is creating a positive image of yourself by learning when not to push.

Case in point:

Randy Ingermanson identifies writers’ skill levels by using the terms Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior. He suggests that when Freshmen and Sophomore writers (and even some early Juniors) set editor/agent appointments, it may be a better idea for them to not pitch anything. But instead, they should go in and ask questions about the industry, about the particular publishing house/agency. By doing this, the amateur/beginner writer is creating a more positive image by showing the editor or agent that you’re interested in growing, in learning more about the industry. (To see more about this, visit Gina’s blog, Writer…Interrupted.)

In the sales industry, there are two types of selling: the hard sell and the soft sell. The hard sell can be summed up by the statment, “He could sell ice to an Eskimo.” This is the P.T. Barnum method—the in your face, my product is the best in the world, let me show you the demographics and statistics, pressure-pressure-pressure sell. These are the sales reps who make the big bucks, but who also lose a lot of clients because of their abrasive methods. You always know they’re trying to sell you something. This is not the impression we want to give off.

The soft sell is word of mouth, brand-image sales. It’s a new restaurant that opens its doors to bloggers first and gives them a free sample meal in hopes of receiving tons of positive reviews. It’s me telling a friend at work that I just recently bought a certain type of hair product, and I absolutely adore it. It’s every time I mention Stein on Writing on this blog (have you bought your copy yet?). It’s creating an image that generates brand-loyalty. Why do millions of people buy John Grisham’s new novel without even knowing what it’s really about? Because they’re loyal to his image, to the brand he’s created as a writer. This is much closer to what networking is all about.

So how can you start networking if you can’t afford to attend conferences or don’t yet have the gumption to break out of your shell and talk to strangers?

Become an avid blog reader and commenter. Visit blogs of your favorite authors and start leaving comments—not just random comments, but thoughtful insights and responses to what the person has written. But not in such a way that you’re trying to pull the attention away from the blogger’s post and onto yourself. Be respectful and humble.

Become a blogger. Make sure your blog has a focus. Do you write about characters who are gardeners? Make your blog gardening related. Blogs that have a focused topic (like writing or gardening) tend to be better read than those that read more like a personal diary.

Participate in online author/editor/agent chats. These are usually hosted through a writing organization like ACFW or RWA. Again, don’t just post randomly or try to pull the attention away from the guest and onto yourself.

Become actively involved in organizations. Even if it’s just an online group that never meets face to face. It’s almost a must for writers who really want to succeed to join a writing group—whether it’s ACFW or ACW, RWA or MWA, or even a local or regional general writing group. Get involved and start communicating with other writers.

What are some other ways you’ve found to start networking without having to do it face to face?

  1. Wednesday, September 5, 2007 10:17 am

    This post is so helpful as I try to hone my goals for the upcoming ACFW conference.

    And yes, I bought my copy of Stein. 🙂


  2. Wednesday, September 5, 2007 11:10 am

    I’m definitely a soft sell kind of girl–unlike my husband, LOL. And yet his customers love him 🙂 Anyhoo, I know I’ve said this before, but ShoutLife is an awesome place to meet /network with other Christians. It’s huge, and everyone is totally friendly and open to the point where it goes beyond “networking” (although it’s that too) to getting to know people. I’m serious, you should think about it. (Was that a soft sell, or a hard sell? LOL!)


  3. Wednesday, September 5, 2007 8:39 pm

    I learned I’m a “soft sell” kind of gal when I was involved in Campus Crusade way back in college. Part of our “discipleship” training was to go with our mentor to people who’d signed a clipboard at registration at the beginning of the semester to “evangelize” them. It was then I learned I’m much more comfortable with the Andrew-style—make friends and then invite them to come with me to church. (Yes, I have proof this actually works.)

    I guess that’s why my approach to an editor/agent appointment is to make it a conversation, not a sales-pitch.


  4. Thursday, September 6, 2007 8:13 am

    Speaking of being involved in an organization–

    Do you think it’s beneficial (for example) for me to renew my SCBWI membership even though I don’t regularly go to the meetings?

    Should going be more of a priority just so I look more “involved”?

    With the three little kids I have a hard time feeling two hours sitting and talking (or listening), at least half of it not writing-related, is justified.

    Twice now when my dh said “I’ll watch them all, you go,” I’ve just shut myself in my room instead, to write distraction free.


  5. Thursday, September 6, 2007 8:50 am

    If you can’t be actively involved (whether for time, financial, family obligation or whatever reason) in a group, is it really worthwhile to maintain your membership?

    My answer would have to be no. Even though it looks good on your resume (or your writer’s bio), there does come a time when you have to set priorities. There are a lot of people I’ve met through ACFW who had to make the choice to let their membership in the national group lapse–one because she’s trying to adopt and has no time for writing, another because she’s having to care for an elderly parent as well as her own family. But they still stay plugged in to our local group here in Nashville by being on the e-mail list and doing the writing-thing vicariously.

    Does SCBWI have an online e-mail list that’s active? If so, it might be worth it to keep your membership up-to-date for that, just to stay plugged in so that when you’re ready to be actively involved again, you’re there already. If they don’t, or if you don’t ever read any of the e-mails, I would say it’s not worth it to keep up an organization membership that isn’t of any benefit to you.

    Because you already have a well-read blog, and because you spend time reading and commenting on other blogs, you have already started building a network. And from what you describe, it sounds like you’re deriving more benefit networking that way than you are by being a member of SCBWI.



  1. Networking Refresher–Building Name Recognition «
  2. Conference Prep–A Quick Review Part 1 «
  3. Conference Prep–Neworking on the Fly «
  4. I’m Thinking about Networking Today «
  5. Conference Prep & Question Time «

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: