Are you losing fans and alienating investors by asking too much? Make it easy for others to facilitate connections by following the advice of TechStars founder David Cohen.
The idea that business is "all about who you know" might just be the oldest cliché out there. But that doesn't make it untrue, exactly. Meeting the right investor, customer, partner, or potential hire can make or break your business, and often the best connections come through an introduction by someone you already know.
Often, Cohen explains, people ask him: "Can you introduce me to investors that you think might be interested in my company?" But that's the wrong question, according to Cohen, who says these general requests are lazy, put him in a bit of a bind and end up undermining the value of his recommendation. He explains:
Let's say that I answer your original LazyWeb question above with, "Why yes, Jeff Clavier is someone who comes to mind."
You are now very likely to reach out to Jeff Clavier and say "David Cohen told me I should talk to you." Now I've created an *obligation* for Jeff. Because of his relationship of me, he may feel that he almost has to take this introduction. While you might think that's good for you, it's not and it's also not so good for Jeff or me. Further, in this situation Jeff is going to ask the inevitable question of whether or not I'm investing in your company—and if the answer is no, the introduction now has no power at all. In fact, it may have negative power.
Now contrast this with you asking me for an introduction to Jeff Clavier. You asking me allows me to reach out to Jeff (I never do blind introductions that are not double opt in) and explain to him that YOU thought of HIM for a specific reason, and are requesting that I introduce you to him. In this case, I’m merely facilitating an introduction that you requested. Socially, it’s pretty much expected of me that I would do this, and doing it as a double-opt in literally has no "cost" in terms of social currency associated with it. And, as a bonus, in the case where I’m not an investor this doesn’t hurt you because you’ve asked for the introduction regardless, for a specific reason relating to Jeff and not me.
So next time you're looking to ask a well-connected associate to help you connect, think about having a specific target in mind and a compelling rationale for targeting that person.
JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist. @EntryLevelRebel