MAP’s Director Rohan Workman has given (and asked for) his fair share of introductions. Happy to oblige and connect, he shares his advice below on the art of the warm introduction, or as he calls it…
NEVER ASK FOR AN INTRODUCTION WITHOUT READING THIS.
One of the reasons why I love the startup ecosystem is because it is one of the most proactive industries in terms of people willing to help each other out. The reason is pretty simple: no entrepreneur has ever succeeded without the help of many others. As a founder, it is impossible to know everything you’ll need to know about how to make your business successful. Every entrepreneur who has succeeded over the years will have received help from others without the expectation of anything being provided in return. It’s a simple pay it forward philosophy. It’s awesome.
One of the key components of this philosophy is that of the introduction. If you need help you may need an introduction to the person who can help you. Yet, for the most part, I’m left underwhelmed about how people (especially those entering the ecosystem and who have very little to offer but their manners) go about doing this.
Due to the sheer volume of poor introduction requests I receive I’ve decided to write this blog post to help explain how to put a good introduction request together.
Here are the key things that you need to consider regarding introductions.
1. BEFORE THE INTRODUCTION REQUEST
Introductions are personal validation.
If somebody is going to introduce you to somebody else they are staking their reputation that you will not jeopardize their existing relationship. It is important to keep this in mind when framing an introduction request.
How do you keep this in mind?
- If you hardly know the person that you’re asking for an introduction you need to determine if that person is best placed to intro you. If they are the right person you need to be very careful with how you frame the intro.
- Have you thought about whether it is appropriate for the introduction to be made?
Always be courteous of the existing relationship.
Just because somebody knows somebody / is connected to them, it doesn’t mean they can make the introduction.
There are two issues here:
- Social media is misleading in regards to quality of relationships. How many people are you connected with on LinkedIn or Facebook that you hardly know? Instead of asking somebody for an introduction to somebody else that you can see they’re connected with, ask them if it would be appropriate for them to make an intro.
- A person may know somebody but is unable to provide an introduction without an appropriate reason (this relates to more senior stakeholders). It is difficult to make introductions to some people (more likely to be senior people) unless it is worth their while. Have you thought about why they would want to meet with you? The more senior the stakeholder the better reason you need (above and beyond them providing you with charity / pity) as to why is in their interests to meet you.
When asking for an introduction, you must do the groundwork.
Do you know the person you’d like to speak with? I.e. Do you need an introduction to somebody at a specific company but you’re not exactly sure who it is? If so, do some googling to find out who at that company you’d like to speak with, or at the very least what department they are in. Don’t just say “I need to speak with somebody at Australia Post, can you introduce me?” LinkedIn can be very helpful here.
2. REQUESTING THE INTRODUCTION
A simple two step process.
- If you don’t know the introducer that well / know if the introducer is able to make the intro, then email something like this:
I noticed that you’re connected with ABC at XYZ company. I’m hoping to speak with them and was wondering if you could intro me? The reason for the intro is [insert a well thought out reason].
If able, let me know and I’ll send through an email which you can forward on to them with bio, dates, details, etc.”
That email is lovely – I wished I received more of them.
2. If you know the introducer relatively well / believe the intro shouldn’t be an issue / the person has already offered the intro, then you can jump straight to the second step:
I’m traveling to the Bay Area in the week beginning Monday 23 January and would welcome the opportunity to connect with ABC.
By way of background, I’m [insert who you / company background are in one or two sentences]. The reason why I’m keen to connect is [insert why you want to meet them and if possible why it is in their interests to meet you].
I noticed that they are located in San Francisco and I’ll be there the week beginning Monday 23 January. At this stage either of the below options would work well but I should have some further flexibility if neither suit:
– 2pm on Tuesday 24 January
– 10am Thursday 26 January
I can meet at a location convenient to them and please let me know if you’d like any further information.”
The key thing about this email is that it allows the introducer to forward it straight on. They don’t need to describe who you are and why you want to meet somebody they know.
YOU HAVE MADE IT EASY FOR THEM TO INTRODUCE YOU. THAT IS GOLD.
Some additional tips.
- Be specific with dates and times. Sometimes people early on in their entrepreneurial careers don’t want to impose and are therefore more vague under the false pretense that it is more courteous. This is not true.
Don’t say “If you have time for a coffee in the next few weeks that would be fantastic”. Say, “How are you placed for a chat at either 2pm on Thursday 26 January, or 10am on Friday 26 January?”
This makes it very easy for people who have busy schedules to see if they have a gap. If they can’t make those times work but are happy to meet with you they will offer an alternative.
- Keep meetings short. 20 minutes is ideal for busy people and forces you to get straight into the specifics. It takes a lot more preparation to be concise, so do your homework first (see above).
- Be flexible. Giving someone the option of a phone call rather than a face-to-face meeting might be the difference between making a connection and not… and if you impress on the phone, there’s always the chance of a follow up meeting.
- Prepare in advance. If you’re traveling make sure you provide the dates and send the intro request email well in advance. Prepare your pitch, refine your questions and do your homework. Meetings should not be about information that’s already readily available on the company website.
- NEVER be late for the meeting. This is so important, it needs repeating. Never be late for the meeting! Being late for a meeting shows that you are:
- Don’t value their time
Neither of the above are desirable for a first impression.
3. AFTER THE INTRODUCTION REQUEST / MEETING
- Follow up with the person you met with to provide any information you agreed to provide. A lot, dare I say, most people don’t do this.
- Follow up with the person that made the introduction thanking them again and letting them know how it went. Very few people do this and if you do it will buy you serious brownie points and help establish greater trust with the person who introduced you that you are worthy of their introductions.
That’s probably enough for now.