Alex's Tech Thoughts

Introductions Via Email: Best Practices

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Introductions in the startup space are very important. If you abuse them you will be looked upon poorly, whereas if you do it right you can will be looked upon quite favorably.

There are right and wrong ways to go about introductions. You need to be very careful about how you approach.

There are two types of introductions:

1) Asking someone to introduce you to someone they know
2) Asking someone to take an introduction with someone you know

Both are important. Both need approval from each side before the introduction can actually be made.

I repeat: ASK BOTH SIDES BEFORE YOU MAKE THE INTRODUCTION.
The only situation when you do not need to ask a side is when you work with said person everyday and know they are okay with the introduction.

In introduction #1 make it as easy as possible for them to ask the other side. This means you should give the person you are asking the context of what you need and why talking/connecting with their contact will help. You should make your email forward-able or add a piece of info on the bottom that they can copy and paste into the “ask” email.

In intro #2 make sure you give all the relevant information to make a decision if they’d like to take you up on it. This means who you want to introduce them to, why you want to, and how the person you are introducing to them would be helpful to them/how the person taking the introduction can help them. Lay it all out.

Once both sides know the introduction is coming, it’s time to send the introduction email. The introduction email should be short and sweet. Both sides know it is coming so no need to spend time going into detail. It should look something like, “John, meet Jennifer. Jennifer, meet John. You both have the low down, so I’ll let you take it from here!” That is all.

These are some of the best practices for introductions via email. If I’m missing anything, please leave it in the comments.

Checkout other articles in these categories:

introductions best practices
What To Do When Someone Asks You For A Favor That May Be Awkward For You

UPDATE: This blog post is not in response to anyone recently. This has been in the blog drafts for a few months. Just got around to writing it. This blog post is not about anyone in specific- just general.

There are times when someone asks something of you that you don’t feel comfortable doing. For me, it doesn’t happen often, but it does happens. You’re not exactly sure how to respond to the request but you do know that it is not something you’d want to do.

There are various scenarios of awkwardness: sometimes it is that you don’t know the person they want to be introduced to very well (eventhough you are somehow connected on Linkedin). Other times someone is asking you for something that is entirely inappropriate, and you are shocked that they had the guts to ask. I’ve found three main ways to deal with all type of requests.

Be Completely Honest

Whatever the situation is, there is no harm done when telling the truth. Be nice about it, but be honest. Some things you can say:

“I don’t know that person well”

“I don’t feel comfortable making the introduction” 

and even the most awkward one, “I don’t know you well so I’m not comfortable connecting you with that person”

While all of these are for when you’ve been asked for introductions- the honest truth in an uncomfortable situation can be used for any type of favor.

Ignore The Request

Ignoring the request is not ideal, but it gives you at least a few more days until you might receive a follow up. In that time you can either grow the balls to tell the truth or try to come up with an alternative solution for them.

Offer An Alternative Solution

While offering an alternative solution doesn’t always work, I’ve had some success when people ask for a specific introduction at a company. They may want to talk to X, the founder, and I’m closer with Y, the person in BD. The alternative solution should be helpful and can turn a potentially awkward situation into a win for everyone.

Editors note: The advice here is mostly for when a request comes in an email. Responding to an in-person request is obviously more difficult situation and an entirely different ballgame.


Checkout other articles in these categories:

Business Development thoughts introductions
Compounding Introductions

I had a guy over at the office this week to play a game of pool.

He is looking to leave his finance gig and embrace the entrepreneur/startup world.

We got to talking about introductions and it sparked an idea for a blog post.

Compounding Introductions.

It is a beautiful thing. Someone makes an introduction for you. You have a call or meet this new person and he then makes an introduction to someone else. And on and on.

I have personally experienced an introduction compound and have met some of my closest friends this way (sometimes even five times removed).

The NY tech scene is such a close-knit group that it makes compounding introductions extremely important.

I would love to hear stories from people who have had a great compounding introduction experience.

Checkout other articles in these categories:

networking introductions startups relationships best practices
Getting In Front Of Someone (who you don’t know)

At some point in your professional career you will want/need to get in front of someone who you don’t know.

There are a variety of methods and strategies that work. In the end, it’s really all about personal preference. 

1) Getting a warm introduction

Look on your LinkedIN, Hashable, FB, Twitter and other social networks to see which of your friends or colleagues are connected to the person who you are trying to get in front of. Reach out to your friend and explain why you want to speak with this person. If there is any merit (and they are close enough to them) they will typically make a warm introduction.

2) Go to an event where they will be

Whether it is a conference or a networking event, get a ticket and attend. If they are on a panel, wait until it is over and go and introduce yourself. If they are just attending (and the list of attendees is public information), go find them and introduce yourself.

3) Email them

Most email addresses can be easily found online. If you can’t find the email address, look for how the email structure works for other people in the company (i.e. First Name@xxxx.com, First Initial.Last Name@xxxx.com, First Name.Last Name@xxxx.com, etc…).

Once you obtain the email address, put together a rough draft of what you want to tell them. Most people won’t read more than a few sentences (even if they know you), so make sure you make each word count!

If you send a block of text, as opposed to sending something that is short and to the point, your email probably won’t receive a response. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). Try this great personal policy- http://five.sentenc.es.

Remember: you are pitching yourself first. People respond to emails from people they either know or like. Considering they don’t know you, make them like you.  Followed by whatever you are working on/reaching out to them about. 

4) Tweet at them

You have 140 characters. Make them count. Make sure you catch their attention and make them want to respond to find out more.  

5) Call them

Get on the phone and call them. Every company has a telephone number. Ask for the person you want to speak with and give it your all.

Whichever you choose, make sure you are brief and to the point. You will typically have one shot, so make the most of it.