One of the most important and frequent elements in an entrepreneur’s life are introductions. We use introductions almost from day one of our venture, and all throughout its lifecycle. Introductions to potential co-founders; to investors; Introductions to partners and customers, and the list goes on. It’s the lifeline of the entrepreneur.
Therefore, it’s important that we learn to ask for and use introductions correctly and effectively. Here are a few tips from my own experience:
Don’t be afraid to ask. If you’re like me, you might not feel comfortable asking for introductions. We are concerned about a negative response, or don’t wish to inconvenience our friends or colleagues. You need to get over it. Develop a courteous and respectful approach in which to ask for these important favors. Give your friend an easy “out” to decline your request for any or no reason (for example, you might want to say/write: If for any reason you don’t feel comfortable making an introduction on my behalf, I completely understand). Once the favor has been granted, and an introduction was made, be sure to thank the other person profusely for their time and help.
Always be networking (ABN). Never turn down an offer from someone who wants to introduce you to one of her contacts. You never know from which introduction or new contact will come your next major breakthrough, such as new business opportunity, investment, or a new customer. Treat all introductions and contacts as if they could be the most valuable one yet. Bring this mindset and approach to your meeting.
Always come prepared. Always. Prepare yourself well for the first introduction meeting or call. Learn as much as possible about your contact, and think about some possible scenarios in which you can engage. Prepare your key messages, asks, and expected outcomes. Think about your contacts objectives and how you can best address them as well. Like any relationship, there needs to be a win-win outcome, and a mutual interest to develop this introduction into some form of engagement (partnership, cooperation, investment, business transaction, etc.). Being prepared for your meeting will also leave a very positive first impression on your counterpart.
Follow-up. Always follow-up an introduction meeting. No matter what was the outcome of your meeting. Thank the person you met with for her time, and if there are any action items or next steps, summarize them. I also suggest following-up with that new contact on a regular basis in order to maintain and build that relationship. Even if presently there are no immediate actions to take, or opportunities to pursue, things might change in the future and this person could be of great value to you.
Return the Favor. In general, I believe it’s best to give more than you receive. It makes you feel good, as well as increases the chances of you getting that favor when you need it. Therefore, always maintain a positive balance in the “emotional bank account” of any relationship you have, as the late Dr. Stephen Covey preached. It means that you should be gracious towards your friends, colleagues, and others, with your time, assistance, and introductions. Always treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.
And lastly, please don’t forget where you started from. How you felt when you were an entrepreneur and relied on introductions for your lifeline. As the old saying goes: be kind to people on your way up because you will meet them again on your way down.