Skip to main content

We have all heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” and it’s often very true. Personal relationships of trust and confidence are the building blocks of business.

Building relationships early in business is critical and asking your friends, family, and business acquaintances for an introduction to someone in their networking sphere could lead to an important connection. All rainmakers and serious players understand that to win in business, you must cultivate the art of networking, trust, and relationships.  Until the matrix takes over, business is transacted between people, and relationships are personal.

In the world of business, upon meeting someone new, you’ll go through a quick review of mutual connections. When we add to our network, the new person also becomes a first-degree connection, linked to dozens of other potential connections –in other words, new possible connections. We’ve all heard of the concept of this connection on LinkedIn.

Whether you are at a small hangout amongst friends and acquaintances, or you are a delegate at a large industry conference and want to meet someone, or you’re conducting some business development, most of us depend on introductions from people we already know to expand our networks.  As industry conferences have become digital or hybrid events, it’s increasingly difficult to meet new people and make a personal connection.  While well-conceived cold outreach (increasingly enabled by digital conferencing technology) can lead to a new connection, a warm introduction from someone that is mutually known and trusted dramatically increases your chances of success and accelerates the speed of transacting.

It is essential to carefully craft your “ask”, which often means writing a targeted and polite introduction request. Be clear about why you’re asking for in an introduction.  It is also important to give the person an “out” to say no without feeling badly.

Here are some other practical tips for asking for a connection:

Be clear about how you know the person who will introduce you. You’ll usually be asking a colleague or friend. However, sometimes you may ask for an introduction from someone you don’t know very well. If so, make it easy on them; you don’t want to make the recipient of your request guess who you are. Your message could start with something simple: “We met last year at the Pegasus conference during the financial modeling breakout session. I enjoyed our conversation about big data.”

Be as specific about why you’re asking for the introduction. Discuss why connecting to the particular person could help you reach your goals and why you decided to ask the person receiving your request.

Make it easy. Write a draft of the introduction for themFor example, if you’d like an introduction to a venture capitalist, craft an email that your contact can easily forward to that investor. When asking for the intro, include information you want that person to be aware of, such as information about the company, or attach an investor deck. Your email should be clear, quick to your point, and say, “Hi John, I know you are close with the team at XXX. I would appreciate the opportunity to be introduced. Here are some details of what my company does, and I have also attached my deck. Thank you, Your help is most appreciated.”

Be brief. Make it Personal. Make your email short, to the point, and personalize it so once it has been forwarded, there is an interest in taking the intro to the next step. Each introduction should be personalized and different with the name of the person or the company. Include a line of why you want to connect with them and the importance of this relationship to you. This will increase the chances of them agreeing to take the intro. For example: “Hi, Susan. From your LinkedIn profile, I see you know the team at HighFly. I also work in the Data world and would enjoy meeting John. He would be invaluable to my company. May I ask you to intro?”

Give your subject line some thought. It is the first thing someone sees. Subject lines can increase the chances your email gets opened. The email’s subject should be direct, “Requesting an Introduction to John.” Additional details in your email should include the name of your company and the purpose of the intro. So, when someone forwards your email to their contact asking her permission to make that intro, they’ll see the subject, your name, and you want to meet.

Rule of double-blind.  When requesting, making and receiving requests for introductions, the rule of double-blind should be observed.  That is, the person seeking the introduction should understand that the recipient needs to ask the target first whether they are open to receiving a direct introduction before making it.  Sometimes the target will not respond or will decline the introduction.  All you can expect is that the recipient receiving your request will reach out to the target and make the ask.

How many?  If you are asking the same person to make more than two introductions for the same purpose, be wary of becoming a nuisance.  Do not abuse the generosity of the person you are asking to make an introduction.  If you are asking for more than three introductions, consider whether you should ask that person first to be your company’s advisor and whether you should offer to compensate them with stock options for the privilege of attempting to monetize the value of their network.  This will position you to ask for more…

Once you’ve sent the request, detach yourself from the outcome. Your connection may or may not know the other person well or feel uncomfortable doing so.  They may not respond.  Failure to respond or silence is a pass – it means no, it means that for whatever reason, either the recipient or the target is not available.  Perseverating about it is wasted energy.  Good business people will forward a request for an introduction.  If you do not get a response, you should trust that there is a valid reason not to proceed and not to take it personally or read too much into it.

But they might respond with some advice. Be grateful for whatever help you receive.

Once you get a response back, show your appreciation. Regardless of the outcome, thank your contact for their time and effort in considering your request. End the conversation on a positive note.

At a time when business happens between people who have never met in person, the value of a personal introduction from a trusted source, properly asked for and enthusiastically given, has never been higher.  Following these simple rules of the road can help smoothen the ride.

Author Louis Lehot

More Insights by Louis Lehot