The Art of the Introduction
Technology has been immeasurably good for productivity in the business world. The latest innovations have allowed us to do things better and more efficiently in countless ways. But, nothing is perfect and technology has some negative effects. The impact that bothers me the most is what it’s done to introductions.
We hear the term “warm introduction” often and most agree that it’s the best and sometimes the only way to meet key contacts in any industry. A warm introduction occurs when person A introduces person B to person C, usually with an express endorsement of person B. Person A is explicitly telling person C that they are vouching for the character and worthiness of person B. There is true value in the endorsement by a mutual friend and colleague. But with the advent of technology, people have begun to lose the human touch of a warm introduction. When in a business setting, people have begun to introduce themselves in ways that have no value. Here’s a list of ways we should not be making introductions:
• Don’t wait in a long line to talk to a potential client after she speaks on a panel. No matter how special we think we are, the speaker will not remember who is who from the 50 business cards she receives in that 15 minute time span.
•Don’t cold email a potential client with a long email and business plan. We’re all overwhelmed with emails today. Anything that isn’t quick and to the point gets deleted without being read.
• Don’t approach anyone in the hallway with a cold pitch of your business. It’s one thing to give your pitch during a scheduled meeting or a by chance meeting during a conference, but if the person you are trying to meet is walking through a hallway on the way to their next meeting, the last thing they want to do is be stopped and have to listen to why you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread.
• Don’t contact someone on LinkedIn with your pitch and hyperlinks to your deck, website and press coverage. LinkedIn is a great tool to connect with people, but I am continually amazed by the way people contact us through LinkedIn. It's as though because they have a profile on LinkedIn that it automatically gives their business tremendous credibility, when in fact, we all know that anyone can have an account and it doesn’t actually tell us anything about the quality of their business
In the age of the internet and social media, professionals would say these behaviors reflect an immense laziness and amateur approach to connecting with other people. I’m not an expert in this area, but in my opinion, when we see someone with an incredible social media presence, it makes us wonder if they spend more time on social media than they do conducting productive business and developing actual relationships.
There is a lot of literature out there that says these approaches are the result of a deeply flawed understanding of how human beings operate and what they value. They also reflect a rather selfish and opportunistic way of looking at the world. Sadly, this sort of behavior is endemic in the business world.
So let’s get back to warm introductions and why they are the supreme currency of all business networks. Other than capital, warm introductions are the most important currency in business. They can have an extraordinary positive impact on people’s lives and businesses. They can help form partnerships, raise funds and get people jobs. A warm introduction is an endorsement wherein the one introducing is explicitly vouching for the value, authenticity and character of the person, and making an implicit statement that there is mutuality in the sense that he or she is worth the time of the person to whom an introduction is being made. One has to be careful not to abuse this currency, because if it is, the one making such introductions will no longer be respected.
A person cannot snap his or her fingers and instantly make warm introductions for everyone in their network. These things take time and timing is everything! People have to know that the person they want to meet values human relationships and is in business for the long haul. Integrity cannot be faked or forced. If you finish every meeting by saying, “My takeaway is…” or “What are the next steps” or look at people as just a means to an end, colleagues will not make warm introductions on your behalf for the long haul.
When making introductions, we must be exceptionally thoughtful about who we introduce, how we introduce and to whom we introduce, always looking to provide mutual benefit. If you want to get to know someone, do it in an authentic way and build a relationship. It’s a very different approach then just trying to consummate a transaction. This might involve spending time commenting on the person’s blog or Twitter feed (good uses of technology!), inviting them to an event as a speaker, or to a breakfast, lunch or dinner gathering that might be of interest to them .
At Grey Elephant, we treat the whole process of warm introductions with great thoughtfulness and care—and it has had a tremendously positive affect on our business and those of our clients. We often say that our job as a list is to “connect the dots” – but those connections have to make sense for everyone’s benefit.