The Gift of Warm Introductions

giftThe internet has had a profound effect on business, yet nothing is more underrated than the power of a warm email introduction. In the startup world warm introductions are a life blood, in the professional world it makes the difference in finding the best employment, and in your personal life the best dates or valuable resources to do personal business with. For example I got an excellent broker through a warm introduction. With all the value that can be shared, why are warm introductions so difficult to get?

Warm Introductions are an Investment


Good Things Take Time

Great warm introductions take effort and time. It’s important to ensure they are valuable to both parties. For example, it’s not always proper to fire off an introduction without asking folks first- someone could be going through a difficult time, or they may not want their contact information shared. On the other hand, it’s tough to tell if someone is really ready for an introduction, just because they ask for an introduction on LinkedIn doesn’t mean they are entitled to it.

To add grease to the fire, sadly too few people know how to follow-up to best make use of a warm introduction even when they get it, either letting it fall cold or following up wrong, resulting in a sad loss of opportunity, power and momentum. The worst part about a botched introduction is that it’s a detraction from the bank of social capital — every time you don’t follow-up properly when someone makes an introduction for you it subtracts social capital from the person who made the introduction (who was most likely doing you a favor) and yourself as well. There will inevitably be a conversation about “whatever happened with that introduction?” and in this hyper connected and highly competitive world you won’t likely get a second chance. When you receive a warm introduction, what you do next and when you do it are of critical importance. It’s never to late to learn however, and that’s what this blog is about.


When is an introduction the right gift?

When someone makes an introduction they are offering a small gift by really making a clear connection and usually presenting a clear opportunity. emailintroduction

A personal example comes from last year when I was featured on a project with NPR on the topic of blacks in technology, I looked at the list of contributors and almost fell out my chair when I saw that less than 25% of the participants were women and I was the only one from Silicon Valley. It was a perfect opportunity to help fill a gap and connect good people with a great opportunity. In a single afternoon I introduced the producer to 10 awesome people including women in the Silicon Valley tech scene using the 3 line introduction rule. For the introduction I briefly recapped the last conversation I had with the producer summing up my intent to connect the program with some amazing folks in the Valley that meet the needs of the program, introducing each with qualifying details, in other words- to say why this person is awesome for this opportunity. I used the second to provide more information for the second person about the program, the producer and why it’s a good opportunity for them to jump on it. The 3rd and final line is me getting out the way, it’s the same model found in this forbes article. A great email introduction has a little bit of a gift for each person and ultimately is intended to add value to the individuals being connected.

What struck me about this encounter with NPR was how every person I introduced responded almost immediately confirming their interest and availability and setting clear next steps. That day I really learned how far the power of a warm introduction can go because while it would have been easier for me to provide a list of recommend women to the producer, it would have shifted the burden of effort onto her to reach out to each one of them individually, giving her more work rather than making it easier and it would leave me in the dark as to who was following up. By putting the effort into the warm introduction it put the ball in the court of the people I’d introduced, giving them the chance to form their own destiny and close in on the opportunity. Fortunately everyone introduced knew not only how to dribble the ball once it was put in their court, but they each made a collective slam dunk andturned the introduction from an opportunity to a successful branding event to raise the profile of a critical topic. This leads me to 7 basic rules for follow-up to a warm introduction and how you can ensure your email intro follow-up game is tight.


What to do:

Do move the introducer to BCC – A great opening is to thank the person who made the introduction and announce that you’re moving them to BCC – this shows that you appreciate the introduction and that you will take it from there. The person who introduced you also doesn’t need to ask if you followed up because they will have received the BCC note.
Do confirm your interest & value - Validate your interest in connecting and add further detail or questions but keep it brief. If you have a lot of questions it’s better to schedule a call to get more details.
Do provide clear next steps - No email introduction response is complete without clear next steps. This will likely be a set of dates and times you can meet to further discuss the opportunity.
Do share the results – Especially if the introduction was fruitful you need to make sure you relay that to the person who made the introduction. If it turned into a disaster you should let them know as well so they can improve their connection quality. Everything in the spirit of future success.

What not to do:

Don’t let the email go stale - If you don’t know how to best respond call the person who made the introduction to get more detail. It’s also better late than never- if you get an introduction while on vacation, reply when you get back even if it was a time sensitive thing and the opportunity is past, don’t just ignore it. If you just let an introduction sit that person will probably never introduce you to anyone again. That will suck.
Don’t keep the introducer on the email chain – Unless the opportunity includes collaborating with the person who introduced you then keeping them on the email chain is just cluttering their inbox. If you want to keep them informed for the purposes of coaching use BCC instead.
Don’t be available anytime – The worse thing you can do with busy people is say “I’m available anytime”. When you say this it means one of a few things: You’re time isn’t valuable. You’re too lazy to take the time to check your schedule. You’re leaving it up to chance. When you say you’re available anytime it means you expect the other person to look into their schedule and pick out slots of availability for you. Unless they really really want something from you they aren’t going to play secretary and you’ve effectively erected a barrier to what could have been a great opportunity for yourself.
There is of course a lot more to this as making sure you hit the mark on bridging connections takes a caring and human approach. It’s not all about the next big opportunity. At any rate I highly recommend going deeper into this topic as there are plenty more resources out there. For starters I recommend reading The Supremacy of Warm Introductions by Dave Lerner, for a longer read check out The 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen R. Covey. If this article helped you at all please let me know with a comment and if you are a professional at this make sure you add a comment with any tips I may have missed so you may spread your knowledge as well.
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