John Corcoran

How To Network: 10 Steps To Becoming A Business Networking Superhero

Today we share the 10 Steps to Mastering The Art Of Networking.

Find out how to turn your “business connections” into sincere and beneficial relationships… no matter who you are or what niche you’re in!

Networking Secrets & Episode Highlights

  • How to become a networking rockstar
  • How to NOT be a networking dirtbag
  • How to easily find ways to help market leaders and strengthen your relationships with them
  • How to use online tools to easily keep in touch with your connections and turn your network into your biggest engine of growth
  • How to easily make conversation with anyone in the room when you attend conferences or events
  • Great templates for streamlining your networking!

Meet John Corcoran, Networking Super Hero

Of all the people I’ve met in different events, meet ups, expos, and conferences – John Corcoran stands out. When it comes to business networking and to creating lasting, sincere business relationships – the man has superpowers!

To prove my point, let me show you this:

John Corcoran and President Clinton

And this:

Barak Obama and John Corcoran

See my point? How many of us have selfies taken with two US Presidents?!

At 23 years old, just out of college (and not the fancy one), his relationship-building skills landed him a job as a writer for the Clinton administration.

His next stop was writing for the almost governor of the state of California (until some dude named Schwarzenegger showed up).

Today, those skills are the secret sauce behind The Corcoran Law Firm, specializing in serving entrepreneurs and business owners.

BUT HERE’S THE THING: There are many people that are great at networking. Only a handful of them actually know how to teach it. And John is one of those rare few.

Corcoran has managed to break down the process that comes so naturally to him into something anyone can all follow and take action on. So if you are ready to start multiplying the worth of your network and your connections – hold tight, because here we go!

An illustration of a network of people

Becoming A Networking Super-Hero In 10 Repeatable Steps

The following guide is based on my interview with John that you can listen to at the top of this page.

When building your network, you will typically go through two phases:

  1. Phase 1: Making the initial connections and introductions
  2. Phase 2: Growing those weak connections into long-lasting and sincere relationships

Out of today’s interview, I’ve extracted the only 10 steps you’ll need to build yourself an amazing network of colleagues, mentors, customers and friends.

The first 7 steps will cover phase 1 (planting the seeds) and the last 3 steps are all you need to rinse-and-repeat in order to grow those initial connections into meaningful life-long relationships, one step at at time.

Hand planting a seed

How To Network, Phase 1: Plant The Seeds

In nature, you can only nurture a pumpkin once you plant the seeds. It’s quite easy to see that the same thing applies to networking and business relationships.

You need to plant the seeds (i.e. make the initial connections) before you can nurture them. So let us review what it takes to master the art of creating connections at events, conferences, meet ups, and other gatherings:

Change your mindset

Step 1: Mindset

When it comes to networking and creating new business connections, the biggest mistake people make, according to Corcoran, is arriving at the event with the wrong mindset.

“Walking around the room thinking, ‘gee, how can I turn this conversation into more business for myself?’ isn’t going to work. Your mindset must be focused on connecting with others, not on making business. Making business can only come later.

“If you’re just trying to talk to as many people as possible about your own business – it shows. In fact, it’s that kind of behavior that gave networking its bad rep to begin with”, explains Corcoran.

Instead, you should be thinking about networking to same way you would think about your personal relationships.

Focus on the other person in the conversation. Make them feel important. Show interest in their business, their personal story, and their needs.

Come with a mindset of meeting and truly connecting with people, not with a mindset of “I have 700 business cards that I want to give away”.

Set your goals

Step 2: Goal Setting

Since time is your most limited resource, you want to make sure it’s well spent.

You want to be connecting with the right kind of people, instead of wasting your time on the wrong kind, right?

Good.

But here’s the problem: It is impossible to know if a connection will someone will lead to a mutually beneficial relationship when you meet someone for the first time.

So what can you do about it?

You can stack the odds in your favor!

While it’s impossible to know which specific person you should be talking to when you enter a room at an event, it IS very possible to know way ahead of time which rooms you should avoid all together!

Think about it – if your boss at your old 9-5 job sent you to an industry trade show, and you already knew you want to leave that job – 99% of the people there won’t do any good to your future business goals.

But as entrepreneurs, many of us keep wasting time (and money!) attending events that we already know are packed with the “wrong kind of crowd”.

Your time is valuable. Define your goals clearly.

Are you going to this event to:

  • Represent a company you work for?
  • Meet new vendors?
  • Find potential customers?
  • Connect with professional colleagues?
  • Build a new network for your entrepreneurial career?
  • Meet like-minded people who can help you grow?

Or maybe you are looking for a mentor? Or something else entirely?

Whatever your goals are, recognize them. This will help you tune in to the right king of people to to strike a conversation with, and to the right kind of events.

Obviously, there are no guarantees that every connection you’ll make will be beneficial. That’s just the way life goes. But by being mindful about your goals, you can drastically improve the chances of successfully creating connections and relationships that will move you forward.

So once you know your goals, choosing the right events to attend is the next step.

undecided young business man

Step 3: Choosing The Right Events To Attend

In the interview, Corcoran explains that when people can’t seem to “find themselves” in events, it’s usually not because they are introverts, or because they are “simply bad at networking”.

Instead, it’s usually a sign of them being in the wrong room or with the wrong crowd.

This usually happens for one of two reasons:

  1. You’re attending an event that doesn’t align with your goals (see previous step)
  2. You’re attending an event where social cliques have already formed, and you’re an outsider

It’s very common for cliques to form in events that repeat themselves often and have the same crowd of people every time. Examples for such events include: Chamber of Commerce, forum meetings, and business networking groups.

Instead of attending those events, John recommends you to target events that happen more rarely (annual events, for instance) or one-time events.

So if you’re constantly feeling uneasy in the events you attend, perhaps it’s not about you. Maybe you’re just attending the wrong events!

Passionate guitarist playing solo

Step 4: Flying Solo

This might come as a surprise for many people, but John recommends you attend your next event alone.

While some of us introverts might cringe from the thought, attending a conference alone actually has quite a few benefits:

When you go to an event with a friend or colleague, 9 out of 10 times you end up spending the majority of your time with that person. It’s both a comfort zone issue (we don’t want to be left alone), as well as common courtesy (we don’t want to leave our friend alone). And it’s stupid!

Remember that mindset we talked about? Of meeting and connecting with new people? Of planting the seeds? If you’re spending all of your time with your homey, then you’re not spending your time connecting with new people!

On the other hand, if you attend alone – you have no choice but make new connections and meet new people!

From my own experience, It’s also easier to fire up a conversation with someone new when you approach him alone.

Little dog listening

Step 5: Break The Ice, Then LISTEN!

If you ever found yourself struggling to find something to talk about with new people in conferences or events, you are not alone. I used to hate that, too!

So how do you work the room once you’re there? Well, you’d be happy to know that Corcoran has laid out some of his favorites (and dead-easy) icebreakers!

Remember, it’s all about getting the ball rolling as your first step. You don’t need to talk with people about van Gogh or philosophy (unless you want to).

Instead, here are just a few things you could talk about to kickstart a conversation with ANYONE in any event you will ever attend:

  • The architecture of the room
  • The food that is being served
  • Plans for the night
  • The speakers in the event so far
  • The sessions that are about to start
  • The session they enjoyed the most so far
  • Where they traveled from? How was their trip?

Once the conversation is on its way, you can dig deeper with questions like:

  • Why are they attending this event?
  • How are they enjoying it so far?
  • What are they working on?
  • Who did they come with? (Another opportunity to meet someone!)
  • What is one thing that they have learned and are planning to implement in their business?

Remember: the most important thing is not to indulge in a monologue about yourself and your business.

While people are generally polite, and will listen to you while you ramble on, trust me – they’re not enjoying it.

Instead, let them indulge in talking about themselves!

Feeling that you are listened to, that you are accepted, and that you are important, are among our deepest needs human beings have. Be the person that generously and openly provides such gifts to other people.

In five years time they might not remember what you two spoke about, but they will still remember how you made them feel!.

dog on welcome home mat

Step 6: Being Personal

At the end of the day you’re not going to create an everlasting relationships just from a single icebreaking conversation. I hope you know that 🙂

All you want to do here is to put a foot in the door. To plant the seed – so you can follow up and nurture this relationship once you get home.

Talking about traveling, business, and food is great… But talking about what matters most to themis so much more powerful! Their family, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, genius raccoon, or beautiful dog are often the things that make them happiest.

Let them share that with you! In fact, look for those opportunities to get more personal with them!

Here is an example that John shared in the episode:

“Let’s say I’m talking to someone and he says, ‘I’m really enjoying this event, but unfortunately I’ll have to head back home tonight because my daughter has an important volleyball game tomorrow’.

“This is an amazing opportunity for you to dig deeper! Clearly, it’s important to him. Otherwise he wouldn’t go home early. So you should follow up with questions like:

‘Well, that’s interesting! Where does she play volleyball? High school? College? How old is she?’, etc.”

See? It’s pretty easy. Just follow the breadcrumbs that the other person is leaving you.

blank notebook sheet and apple.

Step 7: Doing Your Homework

All the above tips can truly transform the results that you have been getting from events so far.

Still, if you’re willing to put some work ahead of time, you can improve those results even further! I’m talking about figuring out the most important people for you to target at your next event BEFORE you get there. How? By doing your homework!

If you’re going to an event that has an open list of attendees that you can scout, spend a few hours looking through the other speakers and attendees.

List the most interesting people and speakers. Make notes of interesting things people are doing that you could refer to when talking to them. Maybe you can even help one of the speakers set up a meet-up for his fans at the event – that’s how my friend Jared Easley kickstarted his relationship with John Dumas!

Once you have a shortlist, reach out to people. Find them on social media. Hit them with a quick message saying:

“hey, I noticed we’re both going to [the event]. I had a look at your website and hope we can meet in person and chat some things up” – or something similar.

How does this help you?

  1. You go to the event more focused, and more confident.
  2. They will recognize you when you meet them in person at the event – since they saw your name and picture in Social Media
  3. There’s a good chance that your message made them go and check out your own website – in which case your conversation will flow with much greater ease!
  4. It will get you in the right mindset!

Nurturing a seed

How To Network, Phase 2: From Connections To Relationships

So you went to the right event, and planted some seeds. You made new connections, and every one of your new friends thinks you’re a great guy.

Great job!

By following the 7 steps outlined above, you have already set yourself apart from the pack. You gave people the greatest gift you have – your attention. And that is the best foundation for a lifelong relationship.

Now comes the part where even those that got so far usually drop the ball: Nurturing and growing these connections.

How do you maintain and grow these connections into deeper, meaningful and sincere relationships and friendships?

According to Corcoran, all you have to do is master a simple three-step process, and then repeat it – again, and again, and again. The steps are:

  • Staying in touch
  • Finding opportunities to help
  • Following up

Signs of social media networks

Step 8: Stay In Touch

The first thing you need to do when you come back home is to stay in touch with the connections you’ve made. And not just the market leaders!

Some of the people you’ve just met, who are currently “at your level”, will soon become the next market leaders. Don’t lose touch today just to find yourself trying to reconnect with them when they become successful! Maintain your relationship from this moment on, and make sure you become successful together!

First, connect with them on social media; Friend them on Facebook (or at least follow them), follow them on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, and any other platform that’s relevant to your industry.

Then email them. It doesn’t need to be anything big – just a quick email saying:

“Hey [name],

It was great meeting you at [the event] and speaking about [whatever you spoke about].

Looking forward to chatting some time soon, and let me know if you need any help with [some project they mentioned they are working on].

Best, [your name].”

“Staying in touch” by following on social media and sending the above email is only bridging the gap between your in-person meeting with this person, and the next time you will follow up with them – when you find an opportunity to help them out.

On its own, this email won’t do much to your relationships – unless it’s a part of a bigger strategy… Which is why you need to make sure you don’t stop here, and carry on reading!

Help needed

Step 9: Find Opportunities To Help

Clearly, the only way for you to turn these new connections you’ve made into sincere, beneficial, and lasting relationships is to be helpful. And I’m the first to admit that this is were I got stuck more times than I care to admit!

How often have you meet someone at an event, had some nice small talk, and once you get home you realize… there’s just nothing you can help them with! Especially if he is a market leader, we tend to struggle. But it needn’t to be so hard.

In order to find ways to be helpful to anyone, including the biggest who’s and who’s of your niche, you must first figure out what has been failing you so far. According to Corcoran, there are a few common themes:

Possible reason #1: You don’t know enough about them

This is why the previous step was all about following your new connections on social media and other channels. You need to get a better grasp of where they are and what they are up to.

Possible reason #2: You are aiming too high, trying to give them the moon…and missing the smaller opportunities!

Remind yourself that you are building a long-term relationship and consistency is all that matters. Being consistently helpful (even if it’s with small things) is way more powerful then waiting for that one big huge opportunity to play superman… that may or may not come.

Possible reason #3: You are focusing too hard on helping them through your main vocation.

It’s often much easier to find genuine ways to help people with things that aren’t related to your main business. For instance:

  • If you learned that they like Thai food – maybe you can recommend a great high restaurant in their city
  • If you learn that they are planning a vacation somewhere you have previously been, maybe you can recommend them a specific hotel, activity, or trip

Connecting people

Helping People By Making Introductions

Another option (and an all-time favorite) – is making introductions.

Inevitably, there’s someone you know who will benefit for meeting someone else that you know. Why not make a quick introduction that will benefit both of them?

This can skyrocket the value that people see in you and is the most unselfish thing you can do. Plus, it’s easy and very fun!

Some other things you can do, include:

  • Interview them for your podcast, website, local newspaper, company newsletter, etc.
  • Spread the word about their latest book, product, or even blog post
  • Create a two minute video testimonial about have them or one of their products, upload it to YouTube and email it to them.

Those are all easy ways for you to be helpful to anyone – whether they are market leaders, colleagues, or potential customers.

Calendar and a clock

Step 10: Follow Up

As I said, you don’t need to give people the moon. What you do need – is to be consistent. So you need to make sure you don’t let too much time pass before you follow up again, and find another opportunity to help.

Remembering to follow up with all your connections can become very cumbersome, very fast. This is why John uses a cool piece of software called Contactually.

Contactually is a relationship management software that connects to all of your social media and email accounts.

Once you connect your accounts to Contactually, it will create a unified profile for each person you are in touch with. Then, you place each person in a bucket: “people I want to be in touch with every 30 days”, “people want to be in touch with every 90 days”, etc.

From that point on, Contactually will monitor your network, and if you had no touch with someone for more than the time you have allocated for the bucket they’re in, the program will remind you to follow up with them.

A follow up can be a quick email, sharing an article with them, making an introduction, or any other helpful thing you can find!

In fact, Contactually supports all sorts of email templates that make everything I just mentioned incredibly quick and easy to do.

I have started using it following John’s recommendation, and I have been blown away by how much fun and effective this tool is.

Speaking of followup templates, John has generously shared with the audience of Inspiring Innovation his favorite two templates! Here it is: John’s Follow-up Email Templates. It’s yours for free.

chess figures

Bonus Step: How To Be Strategic With Your Networking

The last piece of advice Corcoran leaves us with, is creating your “conversations list”. John recommends creating a list of the 50 people you want to have relationships with 12 months from now. Who do you want to be able to call? Who do you want to be around?

It’s much easier to choose the right events to attend and the right people to approach when you are strategically focusing on the relationships you would like to build and nurture.

Don’t leave things for chance. Make a list and start taking action – one helpful followup at a time!

And If you benefited from all the amazing advice from John, I strongly recommend you check out the free e-book he’s giving away to my listeners: “How To Increase Your Income by Building Relationships with VIPs — Even If You Hate Networking!”

Recommended Books & Resources On Business Networking

I Need Your Help!

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5 thoughts on “How To Network: 10 Steps To Becoming A Business Networking Superhero”

    1. Woohoo! Missions achieved! 🙂 What part of what John shared kicked you into action, Marshall?

      For me it was just considering all the people I connected with, that I’ve been letting our relationship fade away, instead of grow stronger. It hurt enough for me to join Contactually and start changing my ways! What about you? 🙂

    1. Thanks, John! Considering the fact that you are a man with many, many, many (!) connections – I would love to hear what are your thoughts When it comes to using a CRM solution? Are you using one currently? or plan to use one in the future?

  1. That NY Times Op Ed letter thing… that was awesome.

    Lucky, yes, but this is a supreme example of making your own luck through planning and foresight, and damned hard work.

    Will definitely give the CRM a go via his aff link too, sounds very interesting, love the date based buckets and reminders.

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