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I came across Never Eat Alone many years ago, but I ignored it. It had been recommended to me as a good book for salespeople, and I could clearly see how never eating alone would be helpful for salespeople… but I wasn’t a salesperson, and never would be, so why bother? (I’m pretty sure the recommendation came from Sales Dogs, which had just convinced me that everyone’s in sales, but what can I say? Sometimes I just don’t catch on very quickly.)
It’s not just for salespeople
Never Eat Alone will certainly be useful for salespeople (whether your business card says “sales” or not), but it is, as the cover says, “secrets to success, one relationship at a time”.
The fact is, success anywhere requires relationships. Any investor will tell you of the importance of building your team. Social intelligence is one of the three key tenants of being an iconoclast. More people get jobs through personal connections than through all other job-searching methods combined. Suppliers and assistants are more helpful, linchpin-y, and willing to bend the rules if they like you. Henry Ford famously demonstrated the benefits of having team members who are smarter than you. Jeffrey Gitomer sums it up: “All else being equal, people prefer to do business with their friends. All else being not quite so equal, people still prefer to do business with their friends.”
Having a strong, solid network can get you jobs you would never have heard of, get your business contracts, sales, or investors that you would never have a chance to meet, and warn you of investment opportunities before it’s too late to take advantage of them. No matter what your monetization plan, you need a network.
But I don’t want to be a sleaze-ball!
We have many pre-conceived notions of what it means to network, from the pit-bull salesperson who forces his business card into your hand to the boot-licking brown-noser who flatters her way into the corner office. I suspect that’s part of the reason Keith Ferrazzi avoids the verb “network”, preferring instead “connecting” “building relationships”, or similar, because of the negative connotations we associate with “networking”.
Rest assured, this book is not about being aggressive, dishonest, or sycophantic. In fact, there are entire chapters about how not to be the networking jerk.
This book is about honestly making genuine connections with people, and using those connections in a way that is kind, respectful, and helpful to both parties.
What could be improved
The margins are too narrow.
I traditionally start book reviews with the bad parts of the book, but there’s really nothing (apart from the lack of note-taking space) that I feel is sub-par. Oh, he recommends a lot of things that make me want to cry — I’m a shy introvert, and hosting a dinner party or cold-calling someone with a secretary is my idea of torture. But that’s my problem, not his.
The book starts with his explanation of why he thinks building a network of personal relationships is important — how it got him out of factory work and into CEO-level work, how it got him job promotions, sales, and opportunities, as well as making him lots of friends.
From there, each chapter focuses on a particular skill, concept, or attitude that he thinks is crucial for building, maintaining, and using a strong network. He tells a (frequently embarrassing) story about how he learned this skill or how he applies it, highlights the important steps or underlying ideas, and — in many cases — ends with a “Connector’s Hall of Fame Profile”, discussing someone who is particularly good at networking.
Recommendation: Buy It
I borrowed Never Eat Alone from my cousin, and it was well worth the time I put in to reading it. But the book is also a how-to manual of some depth, and you’re going to want to refer back to it fairly regularly. In the end, my cousin bought me a copy for my birthday so that I would give her copy back.