I’d Like You to Meet the Right Way to Do an Intro
Every couple of days I get an email or LinkedIn message that reads something like this:
I’d love for you to meet with [Random Entrepreneur]. Whadya say?
[Random Person from my Contact List]
When I get these kinds of messages my first response is to wonder how-in this day and age-people are still so terrible at something as fundamental as making on online introduction. My second response is usually to delete the message. If I do respond, I will often say that I need to think about it and will get back to them in “x” amount of time, where x=infinity.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I appreciate how hard it is to be a startup founder. I’ve been there and done that and it’s one of the most difficult professional challenges out there. I also know that there are lots of people out there in the industry who want to help by connecting founders with VCs, stakeholders at programs like Microsoft ScaleUp or various accelerators, or potential partners and customers.
However, there is a right way to do an intro and a wrong way. Unfortunately, from my experience, people all too often fall into the wrong way of doing these intros. People want to be nice; they might know someone looking for something and think that I can help so they dump the problem on me. Maybe I know them well, or maybe I’m only tangentially connected to them. It doesn’t seem to matter.
However, when done properly, a helpful intro can start an important new professional relationship, one that creates value for everyone involved. How can you make your introductions better? Start with a few common-sense questions:
Is the intro valuable?
Before you start scanning your contacts or typing that intro email, you need to ask if its worth it to everyone involved. Will the person you’re introducing actually benefit from this new relationship, and will the person you’re introducing them to also benefit from the relationship. If it’s a one-way street, there’s a strong chance you’re wasting everyone’s time.
Are you talking to the right person?
This should seem obvious, but you need to make sure that the intro is relevant to the person you’re reaching out to. If trying to help someone get funding, you’d better intro them to someone who can actually help them achieve that. You’d be surprised how often I’m asked to help people with problems I have no solution for.
Is it really a good idea?
I’ve been sent intro emails by people who claim to know me well and yet I can barely remember them. You need to think before you email or send a message. The simple fact that your connected to someone on LinkedIn or have their email doesn’t mean you have to use it. Also, just because someone asked for an intro doesn’t me you’re obliged to provide one. It’s okay to say no.
So, if you can answer all of these questions in the affirmative, that brings you to the next part – writing an effective intro. How do you do it?
Please, Please – Keep it Short
Everyone knows this, but we are all hard-pressed for time. Between full work schedules, constant messages and emails, plus actually trying to have a life, no one has time to read a long rambling intro. Also, there is no need to provide a detailed bio of the person you’re introducing – that’s what Google is for. So, keep your message short and sweet.
Tell Me why I Should be Interested
In your intro, you need to do more than just explain who the other party is and what they do. Explain what’s in it for me. It’s the bottom line that matters, and no one is going to create a professional relationship that doesn’t give them something in return.
There Needs to be a Call to Action
Really, this applies to almost any business email or message, but certainly applies here. Explain what the next step should be. Is it a meeting to discuss funding, to become partners, or to have coffee simply because I “need” to know this other person. Make my life easy and explain what I should do next.
Avoid the “Helper”
How do you know your intro has failed? If it gets passed on to another person or someone else gets looped in to “help”, that usually means that the intro has been pawned off to someone else to worry about. How do I know this? I do it all the time, that’s how.
Here’s a basic template to help guide you the next time you need to make an online intro:
I wanted to introduce you to [John Smith] from [Startup Name.] He is doing amazing work in the [robot butler] industry.
I think it could be a big win for you to meet with him considering your focus on [robot butlers].
If you’re interested, I’ll connect you two, and you can arrange for him to pitch his startup to you.
See – short, simple, and to the point. Keep it simple, and you’re already on the right path. In addition, this template shows why it’s best to ask someone if you can do the intro first. If they’re not interested, you can save them the hassle of having to say no in front of the person you want to introduce.
Hopefully, all of the info above can help you make more successful introductions. At the end of the day, this is a critically important part of doing business, especially for startup founders who need the help and support of the wider ecosystem.
But don’t just assume that because you’re doing someone a favor and introducing them to an important potential partner that everyone is going to just smile and jump at the chance. Business is still business at the end of the day. You need to provide value in everything you do, including introducing people.