Knowing how to ask for an introduction is a powerful networking tool. Instead of milling around at networking events (the worst), meeting tons of salespeople and job-hunters who are not helpful for your own goals, you can get introductions to the Very Busy People who don't show up to those events. Even better, you can get these introductions without ever leaving your bed. A great introduction from a well-connected friend or acquaintance can effectively double your Rolodex of contacts and potential clients or employers overnight. That introduction can be the difference between your dream job and milling around in the cubicle job you hate.
This is an important skill to know. Most people let their fear and self-awareness get the best of them and fail to ask for the best introductions.
There's an element of fear ("what if they ignore my email?"), a compounded element of rejection ("what if the first person does the intro and the other person doesn't reply?"), and a ton of self-awareness ("how do I describe myself?").
You should learn this skill.
Advanced Skill: Being a Super-Connector
But if you already know how to ask for introductions and want to take your networking and connecting skills to the next level, become known for making great introductions.
Most people think you need to have a fantastic network before you can make great introductions. Not true. You just need to know who other people need to know and be willing to make that connection. You need to have your ear to the ground, proactively listen to those you meet, and be willing to send the email putting two people in touch with each other.
By becoming somebody known for making great connections, you can become a node in a network. Some of the best-connected people I know are those who do fantastic introductions.
This is the kind of person who, when they make an introduction, you listen.
Here in Pittsburgh, for example, Aaron Watson and Scot MacTaggart are two of the best-connected people I know. They know when to make introductions. Liam Krut is another such example. If I see an introduction roll in from any of these three, I know that the person to whom they're introducing me is worth my time.
This is the kind of person you want to become.
When you become known for making good introductions, people value their professional relationships with you and will search you out. In sales, business development, and freelancing, six- and seven-figure careers are built on being the kind of person who makes fantastic introductions.
Here are some fundamentals for becoming such a person.
Becoming a Super-Connector
Becoming a super-connector is all about understanding what the people in your network need and where connections don't exist that should.
- Actively listen: When you meet new people, actually listen to what they are talking about and what problems they have or that they intimate that they have. If somebody is a marketer looking for new clients, their problem is finding new clients. If somebody is a business owner wanting to increase their deal-flow, their problem is setting up effective marketing.
- Look for connections: People tend to exist within circles and networks in their cities. Most cities have a "startup circle," an "arts circle," an "education circle," a "corporate circle," a "politics circle" and a few other niche areas (e.g., Pittsburgh has a "self-driving car circle" because of the niche industries here, DC has a "ideological nonprofit circle," that then subdivides into "conservative nonprofits," "libertarian nonprofits," "center-left nonprofits," and "progressive nonprofits."). If you can sit on the intersection of two circles, you can make connections that currently do not exist. The marketer and business owner above, for example, should be connected if they aren't already.
- Make the introduction as easy as possible: Follow the scripts below to make introductions as easy as possible to respond to.
- Put some burden on the other party: You don't want to make introductions carelessly. Aaron, Scot, and Liam are valuable connectors because the introductions they make are quality introductions. If they introduced me to a few people who wasted my time and made me frustrated, I wouldn't take their introductions seriously. One way of testing the seriousness of an introduction is to mention to the other party that you would like to make an intro for them and need some information (i.e., a blurb or an example of work) before you can do it. If they fail to follow up with you, you probably dodged a bullet.
- Empower timesucks: If you would not want to meet this person, don't introduce them to other people you know. See the last rule above.
- Make open-ended introductions: The introduction should be obviously relevant to both parties. You shouldn't leave either party guessing why you made the introduction.
- Interject yourself needlessly: You want both parties to connect without you, if possible. You being there when they meet or get on the phone puts pressure on the other two people to feign interest. They'll still need to connect outside of your presence, anyway.
Email Script for Introductions
Hi [Person 1],
I want to introduce you to [Person 2]. [Person 2] is [substantive, relevant description of Person 2]. I met/know/was introduced to [Person 2] by [Mutual Connection]. [Social-proof and personal endorsement of Person 2].
[Person 1] is [connection] and [relevant reason for connecting them]. [Interesting information to allow Person 1 and 2 to break the ice]. [Recommendation for how to take the conversation forward].
I'll let you two connect from here.
[SPECIFIC CALL TO ACTION for both people.]
Email Script Example
I want to introduce to you John. John is a student at Carnegie Mellon University launching a startup using blockchain technology to securely transfer and edit documents for enterprise legal teams. I met him at Project Olympus, CMU's incubator. We had a great conversation and I immediately thought he should connect with you.
Liam is a good friend of mine and has experience leading the technical development of blockchain-based enterprise software in the past. He can give you some of the dos and don'ts of trying to sell such new and interesting software solutions to large companies, as well as some model for how the technical side works.
I'll let you guys connect from here!
This introduction gives both people relevant information on the other person, rapport through the mutual connection making the introduction (me), and puts the responsibility of the conversation in their hands. After this intro, John (since it appears John requested the intro and he's being pushed up the value-chain by me) should reply by BCC'ing me out (so my inbox isn't flooded by this conversation) and requesting a time to chat with Liam.
John should respond like this:
Thanks, Zak! (BCC)
Zak says great things about you. Like he said, I am working on building collaboration tools for enterprise legal firms with blockchain technology. I have a few questions about distribution and would like to run them by you.
Do you have 20 minutes for a call on Thursday afternoon at 2 or 4 ET? Alternatively, I could do Friday morning at 10:30 ET.