Over the past couple of weeks I’ve made a handful of intros between friends and a couple of mentors of mine. Making a solid intro is one of my favorite things to do because, when done correctly, an intro can immediately create an incredible amount of value for all 3 parties: both people you’re making the introduction for, and you because you’re adding value to your network and this will pay dividends to you in the future.
Intros were something I learned how to do over time, and there is a right and a wrong way to make an intro, particularly when you’re connecting a very successful, and by default, busy person.
Making a good intro creates a ton of value, but making a bad intro can destroy your reputation in the eyes of one or both parties.
There is a cardinal rule of intros that you must remember at all costs.
When you make an intro, you are extending your reputation to both parties in the process. If the intro is bad, your reputation will suffer.
On the other hand, if the intro is stellar, your reputation will grow.
Making great intros is a 3-way win. Both parties get massive value from the connection, and they both feel like they owe you a favor.
— ✏Austin W. Gunter (@austingunter) March 24, 2016
When you make an intro, based solely on your recommendation two people are going to take an hour out of their schedule for a call or to meet for coffee. They are going to show up at the meeting excited about the value that will be exchanged, expecting to enjoy the company of the other person, to learn something, to make money, etc.
But if the person they are showing up to meet sucks, or wastes their time, or doesn’t provide any value in return, your reputation is going to take a hit. At the very least you will not be able to make intros to that person any longer. But it’s more likely that they’ll see you as less credible because you wasted their time with someone they didn’t want to talk to.
A good intro is based completely on trust. If I accept an intro from a friend of mine, I’m trusting that he knows me well enough to know what I need. If he makes a bad intro, I will trust him less in the future.
The quality of the people you intro says a lot about the quality of your relationships which says a lot about the quality of you. Don’t make an intro for one of your friends if that friend will reflect poorly upon you.
What’s more, how you make the intro will say a lot about you, and how you make an intro can give both parties you’re introducing a lot of context to have an incredibly valuable interaction where they will both get something they want, and it will also strengthen your relationship with both of them.
How do you accomplish this and come out looking like a badass in the process?
Well, you can read the rest of this monster 3,000-word post for exactly how I make amazing intros. I recommend you copy the shit out of my process and then go provide a ton of value to your network.
How to give a world class intro
- Create value for both parties in the process. If only one party is getting value, you’re not making an intro, you’re asking someone for a favor.
- Make the intro double opt-in
- Explain the value for both parties in the introduction.
- Sing the praises of both parties in the introduction.
- Follow up to thank both folks and to see how things went.
Create value for both parties
Creating value for both parties in the process means that both people are going to get something they want out of the interaction. It’s easy to make a one-way value exchange with an intro, but that doesn’t strengthen your relationship with both people, it actually extracts value from one of your relationships.
For example, I guarantee you know someone really awesome who has lived an amazing life and has good advice and wisdom for a LOT of people. Maybe they’re an entrepreneur who has sold a few businesses and traveled a lot and now has a really beautiful family. They have a lot of insight and wisdom about a lot of things, and could make a material difference in a lot of people’s lives. You could go around introducing that person to all your friends so they could give them advice.
That would help your friends a ton, but it would waste the really awesome person’s time and strain your relationship with them.
I’m sure your friends are great and all, but making an intro just because someone can add value to someone else, but not the other way around isn’t an intro. It’s a favor. There is a time and place for that, but it’s not in this blog post.
If you want to make an intro like that, make sure you frame it as a favor, not as an intro. Explain to the high-value person that you have someone really important to you who you think they can help a ton, and ask if, because of your relationship, they would be willing to meet with your friend. That’s totally reasonable request, and it respects the other person by acknowledging that they are doing something nice for your friend on your behalf.
Here’s an example of an intro where both parties get value
Recently, I connected a couple of buddies of mine. One is a coach with an incredible network of influencers who is experimenting with all sorts of digital marketing tools to grow his audience and grow his coaching business. The other is on the growth team at Blab, a social video startup, and is looking for compelling thought leaders to use the product.
First of all, both of these guys are talented, smart, and doing interesting things. That’s table stakes in most good intros. But more importantly, both of these guys will get great value out of meeting each other because they both have something that the other can leverage.
The coach is using all sorts of digital tools to grow his business, and Blab could be a very powerful way for him to grow his audience. Knowing one of the key employees building the Blab product might mean he gets early access to features and can leverage the tool more efficiently.
The friend at Blab is looking for influencers just like the coach to use Blab because influencers spread the word and get more users using the product. And if he provides a lot of value for the coach, the coach will no doubt introduce his network of influencers to Blab so they can use the product, get value for their businesses, and attract more users to the platform.
Both people can help each other out in really specific ways. Total win-win.
Make the intro double opt-in
Before you introduce two people together, you have to make sure they both want to be introduced to each other.
One of the intros that I made recently was between someone building a business on WordPress and someone who is a leader in the WordPress space and coaches WordPress entrepreneurs on how to grow their businesses. The leader in the space knows the business side of WP in and out, and can add a ton of value to WP entrepreneurs. But because he can add a lot of value to a lot of people, that also means he is a super busy guy.
His day job is as an exec of a growing agency, leading engineering and product there, while also maintaining a rigorous travel and speaking schedule. He is also raising a really beautiful family. He really doesn’t have a ton of time, so I have to take that into account when making an intro to him and be clear that he can make time for the intro.
Now, he and I have a good relationship from the past, but that doesn’t mean I have the right to fill his inbox up with introductions to people who want to pick his brain or take up his time without his permission.
So I sent a quick email with context and asking permission to make the intro.
Now, had I gotten a “no, not at this time,” or simple no response at all, I would not have made the intro. That would have been that.
But I got a yes, so I was able to go on and make the intro.
Explain the value for both parties in the introduction
Now that you’re writing the intro, you want to re-iterate the value of the introduction to both parties. Why do you think they should know each other and how can they provide value to one another? This starts the conversation off between two people with a very strong context. Person A can provide value to Person B, and Person B can provide value to Person A.
It’s an amateur move to write an email intro and just say, “Hey, you guys should meet because I think you’ll get along.”
You want both people to get an incredibly clear email that provides context about how both parties should proceed.
In the example below, I am introducing a friend of mine who is an executive recruiter to a VP of marketing that I have worked with. The value that a strong candidate can provide is obvious to a good recruiter, and a VP of marketing will understand the value to their career of a long-term relationship with a good recruiter. By being clear about that in the email, I make it very easy for both parties to follow up with a phone call or a coffee.
Sing the praises of both parties in the introduction
Singing the praises of people that you introduce creates a sense of quality on both sides of the introduction and makes both people feel very good about being able to get to know one another.
In the example above, you’ll notice how I make really specific compliments of both parties. The more specific the compliment, the better the intro, because the compliment sheds light on why I’m introducing each person. I’m not just saying, “here are two awesome people,” I’m saying “here is a close friend of mine that I’ve known since college.” That communicates that I’ve trusted this person for a long time, and you can too.
And when I say that the VP of marketing is someone that my company might want to keep, I’m telling the recruiter that the candidate is good enough for my company to want to hire. Saying you want to work with someone or hire them is as strong a compliment as you can make in the job market. People only say they would work with someone again when someone is actually incredible to work with.
Both compliments I gave are big ones, but they’re also 100% genuine. If you can’t make a sincere compliment like this when you make an intro, that’s probably a sign you shouldn’t be making it in the first place.
Follow up to thank both people and to see how things went.
After you’ve made the intro, wait about a week or two and then follow up with both parties to see how things went and to thank them for taking the time to meet each other. You always want to say thank you because it again shows respect for their time.
You follow up to see how things went for a couple of reasons.
First, it’s simply good for you to know if it was a valuable intro or not. This gives you feedback as to whether both parties created value in the process, or if it was a lackluster connection. Sometimes you will make a connection that isn’t super useful, and that’s totally ok, but you want to understand why it didn’t work out so you can tweak your strategy a bit next time.
But if it was a good intro, checking to see how the intro went lets you see the impact of your work.
It also reinforces the value you’ve just provided to both people, and strengthens the positive memory that they have of you, which will deepen your relationship with both people, engender more trust, and make it more likely that they’ll do something nice for you in the future.
That sounds a bit self-serving, but it’s not. If you’ve made a good intro, you’ve created value for three people: the people you connected as well as yourself. Your relationship with both of them is stronger for it, and it makes them more likely to want to help you out in the future.
It’s totally acceptable for you to want to do this partly because you know that this may benefit you in the future. Doing something good for someone isn’t any less valuable when you know that you will also benefit from the exchange. Don’t for a second feel guilty about it.
BONUS: how to accept an intro in a world-class way
Ok, so someone has made an intro on your behalf, so how can you make sure that you accept the intro in a world-class manner and make the experience amazing for everyone involved? I have a few steps for that as well.
How to accept an intro
- Give gracious thanks
- Bcc the intro-maker
- Respond with a lot of specific information about what you are working on and what you hope to accomplish via the intro
- Thank both parties afterwards
Give Gracious Thanks
This is really simple. When someone makes an intro for you, you want to thank them for it. The more grateful you are, the better it reflects on the person who is making the intro for you, and the better it reflects on your character.
I like to say things like, “Thanks as always for the introduction. It’s much appreciated.”
That’s really simple, but it’s worth spelling out.
Bcc the intro-maker
The person who made the intro doesn’t want their inbox filled up with all the back and forth as you and the other party are figuring out schedules to meet for coffee and discussing ideas together. They’ve made the intro, but they don’t need an RSS feed of the rest of the interaction.
After you thank them for the intro, say something simple like “Moving you to Bcc for the sake of your inbox,” and then drop their email into Bcc.
Unlike CC’ing someone on an email, when you Bcc someone, they don’t stay on the email thread for all subsequent replies. They see your response, so they can see your gracious thanks, but will drop off when the other person replies.
Their inbox, and cognitive load, will thank you.
Respond with a lot of specific information about what you are working on and what you hope to accomplish via the intro
Long H1, I know.
When someone makes an intro on your behalf, it’s because you have something specific you’d like to learn or accomplish via meeting the other person. Chances are, if you have something you can accomplish or learn from them, they are more successful than you, or a subject matter expert in a particular area, so they are probably busy. You can save them a lot of time by being incredibly specific about what you’re working on and what you hope to accomplish by meeting them.
Provide detailed context about what you’re building, what your focus is, and how they can specifically help you. The more clear you are, the less time you both will have to spend asking each other questions to identify how they can provide value to you. If they accepted the intro in the first place they want to help you out, but what they don’t want to do is spend half an hour guessing after how they can be of use.
The screenshot below is the response from an entrepreneur I introduced to another founder who has insight into the market they are both in (they don’t compete).
You notice how he provides a high level context about his current focus, and then jumps off from there to be specific about the perspective he’d like to gain from a conversation. He’s incredibly specific about what he wants and how the other entrepreneur can provide value to him, which makes it simple for them to hop on a call and accomplish a lot in a really short period of time.
Now, what if he had said instead, “Thanks for the intro, Austin. Hey [Joe], can we please hop on a call this week? I’d like to pick your brain on something.”
That would have provided no context about how the other person can help out or add value, and it makes it hard for the other person to want to hop on the phone. It’s particularly bad because he used the words “pick your brain,” which is usually code for, “I have no clue what I’m doing, I don’t respect my own time, and I certainly won’t respect yours.”
In other words, never say “can I pick your brain?” When you say those words to a busy person, 9 times out of 10 the busy person will rightly ignore you so that you don’t waste their time.
But if you provide specifics for them, that communicates that you have done a lot of thinking about your problem already. It means that you are focused enough to be asking good questions. Those are both good signs of an intelligent and driven human being that has a lot of potential for success, and all busy, successful people want to help intelligent, driven people find success.
Providing specifics also signals that you respect the other person’s time to have prepared for a meeting with them. It means that you have identified them as someone who can help, and you have spent the time identifying how they can help you.
Thank both parties afterwards
After you’ve met with the person you were introduced to, you need to follow up with a thank you email to them. Shoot them a quick email to thank them for their time and for their insight and advice. Be specific about what they said that was helpful so that they know how they’ve made an impact.
Everyone always wants to know how they’ve made an impact. It makes them feel good, so give them those good feelings by telling them how they shifted your thinking or how you’re going to implement their advice.
Then follow-up with the person who made the intro to say thanks and to tell them how the meeting went. Give them some details about what the conversation was about and how it provided value to you. Let them know how they’ve impacted you so they know how the intro went. So many times when people make intros, they never really know how things went afterwards. They are always curious about how things went, but don’t get a chance to find out. You can tell them 🙂
Ok, there you go. Nearly 3,000 words written on how to make and receive a good intro. That’s probably more than enough.
I hope this helps.
Austin W. Gunter