I ask for and receive a lot of requests for introductions. Whether it’s someone at a company looking for a partnership or job, an investor, a journalist or someone else, it’s an integral part of pretty much any profession. At the same time, such requests often arise in the least efficient way possible for the middleman: in person, in the middle of another email exchange talking about the other party or simply with no details at all.
Once I got involved in the start-up scene with Fetchnotes, I found that the start-up crowd has email introductions down to an exact science. I’m sure similar rules apply outside of our bubble, but inside there is a very specific set of expectations, and it was a bit cryptic and counterintuitive to pick up, at first.
First of all, no matter where the request for an intro arises, always send a separate request email. That way, the receiving party can act on it directly (since most intros are over email). You’re asking someone to spend his or her social capital on you, so your number one goal is to make it as easy as possible. Here’s how.
Hope all is well! I saw you’re connected to Mark Zuckerberg (contact) on LinkedIn. I was hoping to connect with him about a partnership (reason), the details of which are below. Do you know him well enough to make an intro (gives middleman a way out in case they don’t know each other well)?
StartupWithFriends is an awesome new app that lets you start a company with your friends, right on Facebook (what you do). We have 150K+ active users, and on average they’re starting 1,000 companies per day (credibility + traction). We’ve been integrating with OpenGraph already (shows you’ve done work already, otherwise they often point you to their API page), but we think that we can make our app a huge revenue driver for them if we get access to some of the data not available in their APIs, specifically the number of times users look at the profiles of their exes (basic benefits + needs outlined).
Let me know if you can make the connection. If not, no worries, I can reach out cold (shows them you have confidence that this is going to happen one way or another).
When I receive an email like this, I forward it to my contact and ask, “Hey, these guys were looking to connect. Can I make an intro?” If the person says yes, I make the connection. If not, I say I tried, but he or she doesn’t want to talk. Unless you know someone really well (or know they are looking for such opportunities), you want to give your contacts a chance to say no. Otherwise, they’ll feel obligated to take it and have bad feelings toward the person from day one. Not only is it just good etiquette to give them a choice, but it also prevents the value of your introduction from being diluted.
Is it contrived? Obviously. Does the other party realize it’s contrived? Usually. And yet I write every email introduction request in this exact format because it does three really, really important things:
- Makes it easy for the middleman to make the intro (just hit forward and type a sentence).
- Gives the person you’re trying to get connected with a basic overview (so he or she feels more comfortable taking a meeting).
- Limits the amount of back-and-forth.
This format makes the introduction more likely to happen, the person you’re trying to meet more likely to take the meeting and, most of all, makes the most efficient use of everyone’s time.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.