How To Ask For An Introduction.

Getting a strong introduction by a mutual connection can make the difference between getting funded or not, between getting a new customer or not, between successfully moving forward or stagnation.

The problem? Too often, people ask for introductions in the least helpful way possible.

Christian Thurston @Gigster already wrote a strong blog post about this that I would recommend to everyone, but I wanted to give some specific examples.

Here’s the Golden Rule of introductions:

Help me help you.

That's it.

Before we get to that, let’s first look at a frustrating example:

“Can you introduce me to anyone who might be interested in hiring me / buying my product / funding my company?”

I call this the “blank” ask, as in, I normally just draw a total blank and file away the email/message. I’m certain this does work in some cases if the person you are asking is your best friend and is intimately familiar with exactly what you do.

But this type of blank ask puts nearly 100% of the burden on the person you are asking to come up with a good match.

Compare this to the “ideal” ask. The ideal ask has 2 main features. Feature 1, it asks for an introduction to a particular person. Feature 2, it requires effectively no work for the mutual connector other than to forward the email. Here’s an example:

“Hi Li,
Can you introduce me to Jane Doe from ABC Startup. I wanted to connect to her to discuss our product that helps startups with customer service requests. I know that ABC Startup recently raised a round of funding and is looking to scale their customer engagement efforts and I believe our product can really help them.
John Doe”

A real email would probably contain a bit more nuanced information than this example, but this email is clear enough that I can just forward on to Jane Doe because of Feature 1, I know exactly the person I’m sending it to and Feature 2, I don’t need to explain anything to her because you’ve already explained the value proposition to her in the email.

Now there is some room in between the “blank” ask and the “ideal” ask. This middle ground ask describes a particular set of people you might want to meet. For example:

“Can you introduce me to someone who is building a consumer marketplace startup who has recently raised a Seed or Series A round looking to hire an experienced business development person to help them grow their channel partnerships?”

While this type of ask is still going to require plenty of mental cycles on the mutual connector, it at least sets up some parameters and begins a helpful dialogue. The tighter you can set the parameters, the better your chances are of striking a match.

There are so many eager and helpful people in Silicon Valley and in what we call the Global Silicon Valley that I’m always encouraged by the enthusiasm in which they bring in helping other people achieve their dreams. I wrote this post not to be critical or difficult but rather to be helpful in making sure more connections are made in the right ways to accelerate progress.