Our From the Vault series examines episodes from The Art of Charm’s past more deeply; we invite you to revisit them — or discover them for the first time — with us. This From the Vault features John Corcoran of Smart Business Revolution and reminds us that the best networkers don’t just “wing it.”
Episode 254: Systematize Your Networking originally aired in April 2014 and featured a former White House speechwriter, John Corcoran. A lawyer by trade, John still writes extensively, be it for the San Francisco Chronicle. In this episode Jordan presses John for tips for those who feel that they have nothing to offer and no network to speak of who want to build something of value. John gives them practical tips and advice, but more important, frames everything within mindset, which is a core principle here at The Art of Charm.
Don’t Be Replaceable
As Jordan and John traded stories about people they knew who were excellent networkers, the theme of skill-stacking came up. “It’s important to master your skill (being a lawyer, accountant, etc.), but those are replaceable skills. Being able to bring in a client and nurture that client and foster more like them, that’s not an easily replaceable skill. It’s just not.” John went on to use the terms “grinders, finders, and minders.” He noted that the grinders are going to do all the work that the finders bring in, and while there’s some value in the minders, the finders are still the most coveted piece of the puzzle.
Both Jordan and John emphasized that your value is in the additional skills you have studied and perfected beyond your regular line of work.
Building Your Network
How to Talk to Strangers
“If you’re nervous, you’re not alone,” notes John, “everyone else at the event is too.” John notes that you don’t have to be the best conversationalist. Instead, you can follow the time-honored principle in Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People: be genuinely interested in other people. The best way to do this is to ask questions. You don’t want to ask them about their area of expertise, because it’s unlikely that you can add value there and it’s something they talk about all the time (If you’re meeting him for the first time, don’t question Jordan on podcasting, for example). Rather, ask them about things that are not their area of expertise, be it film or food, books or vacation destinations. By making the conversation personal, you’re also telegraphing that you’re not looking to “get” anything from them, but are genuinely interested in them as people.
How to Find the Right Strangers to Talk To
John recommends creating three conversation lists: people, organizations, and events.
- People: What 50 people would I like to develop a relationship with over the next 12 months? These can be people you admire, but they should be relevant as well — meaning, if you admire a filmmaker but you aren’t in that industry, that person should not be on your list.
- Organization: What organizations do I want a better relationship with, be they professional in my industry or philanthropic? Don’t just be content to join. You’ll need to join a committee, or the board, or ask to be a volunteer.
- Events: What events have I been interested in attending? Is there any overlap with my first two lists that I can use to make this list even more intentional?
John emphasized that these lists should be reevaluated every 12 months and adjusted where necessary.
Jordan noted that everyone always brings up the Jim Rohn “you’re the average of the five people you are closest to,” and John noted that these lists are part of the strategy to find those five. Steer the ship of intentionality in your relationships. Don’t solely rely on fate to bring you the right people.
Wingman or Solo?
When you are going to events, you can use the wingman strategy or the solo flyer one. John thinks that there are great cases for both, but leans slightly towards solo flyer.
You bring someone with you so you don’t look lonely and forlorn, but also because whenever you are with others, you are both able to talk each other up in an area of expertise. It’s a lot easier for your friend to say that you’re “such a great graphic designer” instead of you offering that information yourself!
This is the “you’re gonna have to do it” strategy. You’re alone and as such, you can’t help but introduce yourself and get involved in conversation. You may be forced into this anyway if your wingman has a last minute emergency.
Remember that From the Vault is just a quick look at some ideas in any given episode. If you’d like to hear more from John and Jordan, including why authors should develop relationships before writing their books, what John’s experience in high school taught him about affluent children, and how he managed to get Gary Vaynerchuk, Guy Kawasaki, and Daniel Pink onto his podcast, listen to the entire episode here.
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