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. The average professional isn't lacking for things to do. Everyone's to-do lists are overflowing with "helpful" things they will never get to. You don't want your introduction to just be helpful. You want it to be critical. You want it to be something that each person would put at the top of his or her to-do list.
- Now is the best time to make the introduction. People's schedules vary as they go in and out of busy periods.
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. As a result, they feel as though they wasted their time, and they're less likely to hit it off with the person because they're not as excited. They look at it as doing a favor for you.
- They don't respond at all, or just one of them responds. This makes you look bad or makes one of them feel unimportant.
- They turn down the introduction in front of the other person. This again makes you look bad (thanks but no thanks) or insults the other person (you're not important enough for me to connect with).
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. When I ask people if an introduction would be helpful, I try to gauge level of interest. If they don't sound especially excited, I let them know that the door is open and that I'd be happy to make the introduction in the future. Sometimes people say yes to an introduction when they should probably say no because they're so busy.
- Ask how they want to be introduced. If someone says yes to an introduction, I ask, "I want to make sure I present you in the best light to the other person. You know yourself the best. Can you share a two- to three-sentence blurb on yourself that I could use? Feel free to brag." This saves me time and makes the introduction better. However, I don't do this if I already know the person really well.
- Understand why each person wants to be introduced. Understanding each person's interest helps make sure you give the proper context during the introduction. As the introducer, you have the responsibility of connecting the dots since you know the most about each person. The worst introduction is, "Bob, Meet Joe. You two should connect." Introducing the right people in a bad way could mean it's a bad introduction if the two people don't discover what you already know.
- Ask for permission via phone. If an introduction is particularly important, consider making a phone call so you can really explain why you think the introduction is valuable and build excitement. The few extra minutes of time will more than pay dividends and give you an excuse to do a quick catch up.
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!