Why aren't some people responding to my introductions? Do they not appreciate me? What am I doing wrong?

I was three months into my experiment to make three introductions per day. The experiment was going great ... and terrible.

My original inspiration was an interview with Adam Rifkin. Adam has been making three introductions per day for 10 years. During that time, he has made more than 10,000 introductions, which have led to two marriages, hundreds of jobs, dozens of company fundings, and approximately 12 new business partnerships. His experience showed me the surprising power of introductions and how the world's top relationship builder makes them.

You can see why I was inspired. With just a few minutes every day, I could have a huge positive impact on the lives of people I care about.

However, an experiment that started with excitement was giving way to frustration and burnout. I wasn't making introductions so I could receive something immediately in return, but I was at least hoping for responses. When I made an introduction to someone and that person didn't respond, it made me look bad and feel unappreciated.

I now see I was making a mistake that way too many smart people make.

In fact, somebody made an introduction for me today with this mistake, and I'm probably not going to respond.

I finally learned what I was doing wrong when I interviewed Topher Wilkins. Topher is the CEO of Opportunity Collaboration, which convenes top-level executives and trustees from the social sector annually. Topher makes introductions like it's his job--so much so that it has become his job. He makes 1,000+ introductions per year to attendees of the Opportunity Collaboration gathering, which means five to 10 introductions per attendee before and after each event. Every year, 40 percent to 50 percent of attendees come back. The conference is 80 percent sold out 10 months before it happens. Here's what Topher taught me:

The No. 1 mistake people make is sending unsolicited introductions that one or both recipients don't want.

Here are two critical ideas he explained to me that hit this home:

1. An introduction requires two guesses to be correct

No matter how smart you are, it is tough to be right on the following guesses with every introduction:

The introduction is critical for each person.
Now is the best time to make the introduction.

2. A bad introduction puts everyone in a no-win situation.

If you make a bad guess, you've now put the recipients in a bad place. Here are their options:

They take a call that they don't really want.
They don't respond at all, or just one of them responds.
They turn down the introduction in front of the other person.

How to do permission-based (also known as double opt-in) introductions.

Here's a formula you can use to make permission-based introductions:

Ask both people you're introducing if they're interested in an introduction now.
Ask how they want to be introduced.
Understand why each person wants to be introduced.
Ask for permission via phone.

Introductions, if done right, are the most powerful and simple way to give back to your network. In just a few minutes of time, you can have a profound impact on someone else. Taking a few extra minutes on each introduction to make it permission-based will make it more rewarding for everyone involved.

For now, I've decided to hold off on doing three introductions per day as it forced quantity over quality. If I make one good permission-based introduction per day, I'm happy.

Let me know how permission-based introductions work for you!

Published on: Sep 24, 2014