What to consider before writing an email introduction [Part 1/2]
The three principles I stick to, in order to protect my network and ultimately my brand.
I work at Open Austria, the official Austrian presence in Silicon Valley. Our mission is to connect Austrian entrepreneurs, innovators, scientists and creative minds to the Valley. You’d be surprised how many companies you know are Austrian. Red Bull (energy drink and marketing behemoth), KTM (world-class enduro motorcycles), Glock (the pistol of choice for special forces around the world) or Swarovski (crystals for jewelry, optics, and industrial drilling) — All are made in Austria.
A big part of my job is connecting Austrian companies to the right people in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, which is a great opportunity for me to talk to a lot of interesting individuals! I get to hear many life stories, I receive free career advice and can gain insights into industries I had no previous knowledge about. But the best part about it is getting to know the person behind the name and title. That’s when you are able to establish a true relationship.
I also manage the official Austrian startup initiative, GoSiliconValley, which brings 15 pre-selected startups to the Bay Area every year. Once the startups are here I get them connected to potential mentors, potential partners, potential clients, advisors, investors, etc. But that’s a story for another article.
But let’s get back on topic — so I connect the startups to the right individuals in the Bay Area. However, when making introductions I stick to three principles. When you make an introduction you’re extending your trust to another person. For the time being your credibility is in someone else's hands, and you want to make sure the introduction increases your credibility, not take away from it — Your credibility and your level of trust is your brand, it’s what people associate you with, it’s your most valuable asset (Just check out these two tweets).
Your introduction has a lot of power and can go a long way. In order to protect my brand, I stick to these three principles before introducing anyone to anyone.
1. I always make sure there is a mutual benefit.
This one is CRUCIAL! Most of the time, the person asking you for the introduction will tell you why it’s important for them to talk to a certain contact in your network. However, what is important to them may not be important to your contact because they are looking at it from different perspectives. Additionally, you always, always, always have to make sure that your contact actually wants to be connected. Just ask them to confirm.
You’re the connector, you’re the linchpin, so it’s your job figure out what that mutual benefit is — that’s how you add value to this equation. One way I add value to the equation is by suggesting a best practice conversation on whatever the introduction is about. This allows for both parties to exchange their experiences in a certain field (and if that field is of interest to you, you can always ask if you can join the meeting and take some notes). It also positions both parties as experts, allowing them to talk about their achievements — and trust me, everyone enjoys a little admiration every once in a while.
“The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work. Marinate on that for a minute.” — Robert T. Kiyosaki
2. I trust and believe in the person I am introducing.
There are two factors to consider. First, do you trust the person who asked you for the introduction to respond quickly, to be reliable when setting up an appointment and to be able to deliver on what they promised (a product, a business, expertise, etc.)? Again, this is important because you’re extending your credibility and trust to another person and you have to make absolutely sure that they handle your credibility and trust with the utmost care. Secondly, you have to believe in the person you’re introducing. What I mean by that is you have to believe in them as a person as well as their promise. Most of the time this is a question of timing. Someone might not be ready to have a “seat at the table” yet. Don’t be shy to voice your concern and send someone back to the drawing board — but do so respectfully and politely. This is where YOU can add value by coaching someone on what they have to do in order for you to confidently make an introduction.
3. I’ve made it clear who follows up with the conversation.
You’d think this one is kind of a no brainer but sadly it isn’t for everyone. The person who asked me for the introduction has to follow up the conversation as soon as possible. I don’t care how busy you are, how little sleep you have gotten or how many emails are in your inbox. If you asked for an introduction it’s your responsibility to follow up the conversation within 24 hours of sending the initial email. There is no wiggle-room here. If you want to talk to someone in my network, then you have to start talking. Period. I have found that the best way to ensure the follow up happens, is to send an email or to call the person requesting the introduction. No one has gotten offended by this approach yet and I highly doubt anyone ever will get offended by me reminding them to respond to an intro they asked me for in the first place.
An introduction can go a long way. As the tweet above outlines, it allows you to skip ahead in our social hierarchy. What’s interesting is that as you are building your network, you will realize how people are connected, and you will be able to identify several active connectors in your network. There’s a theory called the “Six degrees of separation”, which is the idea that all people are six, or fewer, social connections away from each other. Below you can see how e.g. Peter Thiel (Founder of Palantir) is connected in the world.
With a couple of well-strategized intros, you could end up talking to Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk or even Arnold Schwarzenegger. Speaking of Arnold Schwarzenegger — if any of you reading this know Arnold or someone in the proximity of him, let me know because the man is a legend, and a machine — Arnold is numero uno.
On that note, since I’m digressing anyways, I’ll wrap up my article. Comment if you have any questions and let me know if this helped. In my next article, I will cover how a proper intro email looks like and how you can become a linchpin in your network.