I decided to make a commitment to myself on August 20, 2013 that had a profound impact on my life.
Introductions have led to my closest friendships and professional relationships with the White House, United Nations, Fortune 500 companies, some of America's top entrepreneurs, elected officials, and major media organizations. So, after learning about the power of Adam Rifkin's 10-year introduction habit and introductions overall, I committed to making three introductions daily.
However, things did not go as smoothly as I expected them to.
I wrote about the first challenge in The No. 1 Relationship Building Mistake Smart People Make.
This article is about the second challenge. It was harder to solve, but ultimately made all the difference.
How To Choose The Right Two People To Connect
"Damn! I need to make another introduction! Who can I introduce?"
I was asking myself this question on what felt like a daily basis.
The spirit of excitement I started with was dimming. I needed to change something.
"Should I just quit?" I wondered.
As I painfully became aware, the hard part about consistently making introductions isn't typing up the introduction email. It's finding high quality introductions to make.
Consistently making the right introduction is like looking at a stadium of 60,000 people and picking one person. The average Facebook user has 338 friends. That means that there are 56,953 possible introductions one could make. Not only that, staying relevant is hard. Everyone is constantly facing new challenges, setting new goals, and carrying heavy workloads that might make them closed to new intros.
In order for the experiment to work, I switched to one introduction per day and started to keep in touch with my network more than I ever had before.
Here's the system I developed for myself to make hundred of introductions last year. It was shaped by interviews with network scientists and top relationship builders.
Step 1: Think Of Your Network As Clusters
The first step is to think of your network as a set of clusters, not as one big network.
This has two advantages:
As an example, below is an actual graphic of my Facebook network created by Syndio Social, one of the world's leaders in applied social network analysis:
Clusters form when a lot of people already know each other. In the professional world, they are often based on a combination of:
Step 2: Identify The Possible Clusters You Could Connect
To help you think through your clusters, here is how I thought about mine.
I've spent my entire career supporting entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs almost universally need the following types of introductions depending on the stage of their business and industry:
From there, the introductions vary by industry. Below are examples of a few industries that I personally have experience with:
With these clusters identified, I could very easily see specific introductions I could make for any entrepreneur I was talking to. Instead of ending conversations with, "How can I help you?", I could ask questions and then offer specific introductions based on people's needs.
Step 3: Specialize In Just A Few Types Of Introductions
By making introductions to vendors, clients, employees, partners, etc., I was essentially acting as a recruiting agency, affiliate, sales person, and accelerator for the entrepreneurs in my network.
People spend their whole careers on just one of those areas. Trying to be good at all of them at once in my spare time didn't make sense.
I realized that I had a Home Court Advantage for certain types of introductions. In other words, there were certain areas where I had a strong and unique network of relationships that was valuable to people I most wanted to build a relationship with.
When I specialized:
Step 4: Organize Your Network By Clusters In A CRM
Once you know the introductions you want to make, it's important to use a CRM that allows you to organize your network into clusters. This way, when you do an introduction, you're not depending on what's top of mind. For example, if you wanted to introduce someone to an investor, all you would have to do is pull up your list of investors and pick the best ones to make the introduction to. I explain the power of this process in The One Thing You Should Do After Meeting Anyone New. In that article, I feature master networker and entrepreneur, Francis Pedraza. In his words, "The spreadsheet I have with my network divided into clusters is the most valuable thing I own except for the relationships with the people I have inside of it."
I personally use and love Contactually for organizing my network.Contactually has an amazing introduction feature, which cuts the time it takes to do an introduction in half.
I know many other relationship builders who love RelateIQ. RelateIQ allows you to organize your network by clusters and subclusters, while Contactually only allows you to organize it into clusters.
Step 5: Create Habits That Trigger Introductions
The final key is triggering the introductions.
Larry Benet, a world-class connector and the founder of the Speakers and Authors Networking Group (SANG), calls these triggering events.
Here are a few triggers you can set in place:
The Final Step: Commit To The Habit
In my opinion, making introductions is the most important relationship habit someone can adopt because it's a keystone habit. In the same way that exercising is a keystone habit that triggers people to eat better, be productive at work, and smoke less, making introductions is a keystone habit that leads to people keeping in touch with their network and seeing how they can be helpful.
The simple act of making one high quality introduction will compound exponentially over time. 365 introductions per year means connecting 730 people. Doors will be open where they were closed. There will be warmth where there was coldness. Others will proactively help you.
As you build a reputation for making introductions, others may start coming to you. This is what happened to Adam Rifkin, recognized by Fortune as the country's top relationship builder. Adam has made three introductions per day for over 10 years. As a result, he now has a queue of many people who have requested introductions. Each day, he picks the three best introductions to make.
In the end, if we help someone else make a friend for life, then we will have a friend for life too. It's one of the ways that we can all put a footprint in the sands of time.
Who are you going to introduce today?