One of the lesser known parts of my job is making introductions. It’s something I do every single day and for me, it’s very gratifying to connect two people who might benefit from meeting and perhaps even establish a lasting relationship. Growing up in a Jewish household where my parents and grandparents spoke Yiddish, we even had a word (shadchen) for those who were matchmakers!
For me, it’s a game of connecting the dots. When one of our portfolio companies is looking to fill a position, more often than not I’ve met a handful of people with the right qualifications for the job. Additionally, when someone looking for a job in a startup sends me a quality resume that suggests some unique and valuable attributes, it’s rare that I don’t know of a company or two in the region that might be a good fit. Other times it’s a service provider looking for a similar introduction. Given that I get to meet hundreds of startups in the region each year, it’s a good bet that I can make these types of introductions and I’m happy to do it.
On the other side of the coin, most VCs I know spend a great deal of time and energy trying to introduce their portfolio companies to new customers or partners and at Highway 12, we try to leverage our firm’s collective network to do this as much as we can.
Most of the time, people who have asked me for an introduction do a good job of following up and use good judgement in the manner that they do so. However, you’d be surprised how often I’m left shaking my head at the lack of etiquette that I see on a somewhat regular basis when it comes to follow up by those who have asked for the introduction. It’s disappointing to make a connection for someone (which is essentially a soft recommendation, isn’t it?) only to see them make you look bad for doing so. I’ll never stop doing this part of my job because I enjoy it and it’s a great way to help folks on both sides, but poor follow up is a sure way to make sure that favor won’t be repeated.
Below, I’m offering some tips you might consider when asking someone to make an email introduction for you. Remember, the game is long. By following these ideas, it will help ensure that people will continue to lend a hand when you ask.
1. Reach out promptly. Sounds easy right? You’d be surprised at how often I see people take days to reply.
2. Move the person making the introduction to BCC. There’s no need to spam that person a dozen times as you and the third party make plans to meet for coffee. Moving me to BCC ensures that A) I see that the connection was made and B) takes me out of the loop of follow-on correspondence. Start your reply like this:
John, (moving Mark to BCC)
Great to meet you and thanks Mark for the introduction. I’m interested in talking to you about blah blah blah.
3) Save the person you’re being introduced to some time and effort. If there’s something they can read to help them prepare for meeting or talking to you, attach it in your reply, and make sure it’s brief.
4) If they offer to meet or talk, bend over BACKWARDS to accomodate THEIR schedule. Remember, you’re the one asking for something. Don’t ever say something like “I’m available next Thursday at 9:30.” The only proper way to address this is “Please send me a few dates and times that work for you and I’ll be sure to make one of those work.”
5) Same thing for location if it’s a face-to-face. Don’t ask them to come to your office or suggest a place to meet. Ask what’s most convenient for them. You’d be amazed at the chutzpah I’ve seen in these requests…
6) Use spell check. Seriously.
7) Remember that once you’ve engaged, you’re no longer just representing yourself, but the person who made the introduction as well. Be prompt and well prepared for your follow up call or meeting and take the time to write them a thank you note.
I’ve talked to a number of my colleagues in the venture business and there’s no doubt that this is a trend. I’m also sure that this isn’t isolated to venture, but evident in all email correspondence. These tips outline basic email etiquette that should be used for any type of introduction. Please use them and help keep the continuum going.
This post was republished by Fortune Magazine here