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Networking

The right way to make e-mail introductions Add to ...

I ask for and receive a lot of requests for introductions.

Whether it’s someone at a company looking for a partnership or a job, an investor, or a journalist, it’s an integral part of almost any profession. The requests often emerge in the most inefficient way – in person, in the middle of an email exchange about the other party, or with no details at all.

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When I got involved in the startup scene with Fetchnotes, I found out that the startup crowd has e-mail introductions down to a science. I’m sure similar rules apply outside that bubble, but inside it there are very specific expectations, and it was a bit cryptic and counterintuitive to pick up at first. Hopefully this will help you maximize the success of your introduction requests.

First of all, no matter how the request comes up, you should always send a separate e-mail. That way, the receiving party can act on it directly, since most introductions are by e-mail. You’re asking someone to spend their social capital on you, so your No. 1 goal is to make it as easy as possible.

Here’s an example:

Hey Alex,

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 middle-man 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 it 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 a user looks at the profiles of their ex-girlfriends (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).

Thanks!

Networker McAwesome

When I receive an e-mail 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 you know they are looking for such opportunities – you want to give them 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 good etiquette to give them a choice, it prevents the value of your introduction from being diluted.

Is it contrived? Obviously. Does the other party realize its contrived? Usually. But I write every e-mail introduction request in this exact format because it does three really important things:

  • It makes it easy for the middleman to make the intro (just hit forward and type a sentence).
  • It gives a basic overview to the person you’re trying to connected with (so they feel more comfortable taking a meeting).
  • It limits the amount of aggregate back-and-forth.

That makes the introduction more likely to happen, it makes the person you’re trying to meet more likely to take the meeting, and most of all, it makes the most efficient use of everyone’s time.

Alex Schiff is the founder and chief executive officer of Fetchnotes, which makes productivity as simple as a tweet. Prior to Fetchnotes, he was vice-president of Benzinga and a student at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. This post originally appeared on the author’s blog.

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 e-mail lessons.

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