As I have discussed on a number of occasions, it is important – really important – to be both a networker and a connector. That is, to request and receive introductions to new people on the one hand and, on the other hand, to introduce your contacts to each other. With special thanks to my friend, Ken Glickstein, I want to focus today’s post on etiquette for serving as connector in a way that will earn you admiration, allegiance and respect – without getting you into trouble!
There are many ways to make an introduction… some good; others, not so much. Let’s take each in turn. For these examples, let’s name our characters. First, there is Jane. Jane is well connected and knows both Alex and Lauren. Alex asks Jane for an introduction to Lauren. Jane agrees to make the introduction. Here’s how the scenarios could play themselves out…
- BAD. Let’s just get this one out of the way. Jane recently met Lauren at a benefit luncheon. They happened to be seated at the same table, exchanged business cards, but had very little meaningful conversation. In fact, Jane is unsure that Lauren will even remember her. As such, Jane reluctantly gives Lauren’s contact details to Alex with the caveat that he not mention that he received her name, number and email address from Jane. Basically, Alex is making a cold call – there is no warmth or familiarity to contacting someone out of the blue. He might as well have looked up her number in the directory! This is cold, and very uncool. Unless you are willing to allow “Alex” to use your name as a reference, don’t give out “Lauren’s” contact information. Period. It is poor form and shows little imagination!
- GOOD. Jane gives Lauren’s contact details (phone number, email address, maybe her company and title, too) to Alex and says, “Be sure to tell Lauren that I suggested you connect with her.” OK. Well, this works and frankly, I’ve employed this tactic many times. That said, it is by far the laziest of the approaches to introductions! It accomplishes the initial goal in terms of Jane checking the box for having given Alex the information and Alex does, indeed, now have a way to contact Lauren. However, Alex is still out there flying solo. Lauren is less likely to take Alex’s call or open his email since she doesn’t recognize his name than she would be if the initial outreach came directly from Jane herself.
- BETTER. What would be better is if Jane sent a mutual introduction to both Alex and Lauren with some context for why they should connect. This is my favorite approach to making introductions. It is only slightly more time consuming than GOOD and shows some genuine effort on my part. I start with something in the subject line like, “Introduction: Lauren/Alex,” then open my message with “Lauren – Meet Alex. Alex – Meet Lauren.” From there, I provide two or three sentences about each of Lauren and Alex to give them some understanding for the other person is, what they do and a high level reason for why I think they should meet. I also share phone numbers and email addresses. I close with, “I will leave it to the two of you to connect.” In this scenario, Jane still checked the box, but she put forth a bit more effort by personally facilitating the introduction, made it more comfortable and justified why Lauren ought to give Alex the time of day and helped to ensure that Lauren and Alex will actually connect. Good job, Jane. Good job so long as you are certain that Lauren won’t mind that you have shared her contact details with someone she doesn’t know. CAUTION: If you have any inkling at all that Lauren might care or if you don’t know Lauren well enough to know, you might consider a higher touch approach to the introduction.
- BEST. If Jane really wanted to show Lauren the consideration and respect that I know she has for her, she would take Alex’s request under advisement. From there, she would phone Lauren or send her a direct, private email message requesting permission to share her contact information with Alex. Indeed, this approach takes a lot more time. However, once permission is granted, Alex is assured of actually connecting with Lauren since Lauren will be expecting his call or email. I suppose it is possible that Lauren will decline Jane’s request; if she does, Jane can respond to Alex’s inquiry by indicating that she is unable to share Lauren’s information, but can suggest another of her contacts that Alex could connect with and who can offer similar guidance and advice as an alternative.
When he contacted me about this topic, Ken shared that he tends toward GOOD when he knows the “Lauren” in our scenarios really well and feels certain that she won’t mind him giving out her contact information (so long as Alex makes note of Ken’s reference when he reaches out to Lauren). Ken went on to say that he tends toward BETTER when he knows Lauren less well. He says that he is still thoughtful about who he makes introductions among. However, recently, after a BETTER introduction, Ken received a polite response from Lauren with a request to, in the future, seek her permission first before sharing her contact details. Ouch!
What I appreciated most about Ken’s message is the following:
I realize now that both of my approaches [GOOD and BETTER] are rather presumptive. Both approaches, of course, assume that every target in my contact database will be willing to, at a minimum, spend 20 minutes speaking with any networker [like Alex] that I believe justifies an introduction. I attempt to counter this by being very judicious in identifying targets [like Lauren] and by limiting the number of times I use anybody as a target over a given period of time. I suspect I have adopted these approaches because: (i) at a minimum, I am generally willing to spend 20 minutes on a phone conversation with anyone that one of my contacts thinks I can be of assistance to, and (ii) I am a little bit lazy and would rather not go through a two-step process to facilitate the intro.
Upon further reflection, Ken noted that if he were to employ BEST more frequently, he might, over time, be able to categorize targets into those that prefer GOOD vs. BETTER vs. BEST. Great observation and idea, Ken! I couldn’t agree more and I, too, have struggled with this issue.
Let’s take our scenarios one more round…
- BESTEST. Better than BEST would be if Jane not only sought and received Lauren’s consent to share her contact details with Alex, but offered to organize Coffee or Lunch among the three of them. In that way, Jane could, herself, enjoy a touch point with each of Alex and Lauren, but she should also help to guide the discussion so that Alex and Lauren were made to feel comfortable with one another.
So, throwing out the BAD, please tell me (and Ken!), does this resonate with you? Of GOOD, BETTER, BEST and/or BESTEST, which approach do you prefer to take when making introductions? When receiving introductions? Do you have another approach to share? The entire Coffee-Lunch-Coffee community could benefit from your insight.