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Have You Met… 7 Tips for Introductions?

Characters from CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother”
Barney Stinson from CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother” makes introductions look easy. And in actuality, you’d think introductions and referrals should be extremely simple, but unfortunately, they can be utterly complicated. I’ve always valued relationships believing that success can be attributed to the people who put us in position to “win”. In the professional world, leveraging relationships is “networking”, and the greatest networkers are less about who they connect with as much as who they connect to who.

I’m going with the assumption that by reading this you already understand the opportunities networking and connecting affords. But a few examples anyways:
  • Connecting to others can open doors to the right customers you’ve had your eyes on for months.
  • Connecting to the organizer and chairperson of a tradeshow may get you introduced and in-the-know of everyone else attending the tradeshow. They are, after all, the common point.
  • Connecting with your old college buddy’s company’s Vice President can land you your dream job.
For so many reasons, I love introducing the good people I know with other good people. However, it can be tricky business, especially when others don’t value relationships quite like I do. So here are some simple thoughts on introductions and networking:
  1. It’s your reputation and your relationship. The people you introduce together are representatives of you vis-à-vis the people you associate with. Be cognizant of this. If you’re one of the people being introduced by someone, be considerate of the person making the connection.
  2. Are all parties equally interested in meeting? Not everyone is interested or “have the time” for new connections. What you’ll find when making connections is that there really needs to be hooks/ motivations for both parties to be connected together. As the person making an introduction, you should be clear why you want to make the introduction (explicit motivation).
  3. Ensure both parties are able to and committed to connect. I remember an instance where a new connection (“requestor”) wanted an introduction to a staff member (“requestee”) at my grad school. I sent a quick intro email, and within an hour, the requestee sent an email to the requestor excited to connect. The requestor, though, went silent. No response for weeks citing “really busy”. *Palm, meet forehead.* After that debacle, before I make an introduction, I now explicitly ask both the requestor and requestee separately if they’re interested in connecting with the other and if they can be responsive within two days.
  4. Help spark the introduction. If you’re making the introduction, you’re the catalyst. Remember those parties back in the day when the shy boy is too shy to talk to the shy girl? Try to nudge-start the conversation. This isn’t necessary for all introductions, but sometimes, it’s appropriate to ask one person to introduce him/ herself – I like the requestor to start the conversation.
  5. Know how, why, when to ask for introductions. If you’re ever looking for an introduction to someone, nail down the purpose, share it with the mutual connection, and get feedback if that works. Again, it’s her connection so asking for her feedback ensures she’s comfortable and she’s more bought into connecting.
  6. Warm is always better than cold. Some entrepreneurs have a “me against the world” mentality and don’t want to leverage relationships for introductions. Perhaps they like the challenge of thinking they can build something great on their own. However, anyone in sales will tell you warm trumps cold any day of the week. Use your connections.
  7. Thanks. People are taking the time out of their days to either set you up to meet that person you’ve been longing to meet, or you’re meeting someone who could change the trajectory of your company. Thank everyone involved for making the introduction individually.  
(image source: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Czi-rTRRhsE/UwYNolZvcJI/AAAAAAAAFyw/WNss2XELITw/s1600/have_you_met_ted_2013-08-01_23-44-40.gif)
Introductions shouldn’t be hard, but I’ve been burned plenty of times to know that introductions can be tricky. I’ve also met some great people benefiting personally and professionally through introductions so it’s clear the power of relationships. At the end of the day, I’m more cautious of making introductions, and it’s shown to create better introductions for both sides.

As all relationships showcase and to the first point above, connections and introductions are about trust – trust in individuals representing themselves and you accurately and appropriately.

What are some of your tips for making introductions both what to do and what not to do? What traits does a person have that you’d have no problems making introductions for?

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