The Three Ways to Introduce Two People Over Email
As we talk about in the chapter “It Takes a Network,” a good way to strengthen your network is to make an introduction between two people who would benefit from knowing each other.
When you introduce two people, you’re in a unique situation:
1. You’re at an informational advantage: You know both parties, and usually you know why the two should get to know each other. Meanwhile, they know nothing about each other.
2. Both people are presumably busy, so you want to make it easy for them to take action and quickly decide if it makes sense to get to know each other.
3. You’ve instantly bestowed social pressure on both the recipients. Because you know each of the recipients, they will feel social pressure to at least respond (whether you intend this or not). The worst introductory emails make busy people resent having to respond to someone who they (1) don’t know and (2) aren’t sure why they’re being introduced to them.
There are (at least!) three types of email introductions. We will cover each in blow-by-blow detail.
Say I want to introduce Jason to Christina, and say Jason is the less senior person who wants to meet Christina. I know both of them. Rather than email both of them, I could tell the lower status person (Jason) to email Christina, CC me, and “use my name.” This approach saves me (the introducer) time but doesn’t guarantee Jason a positive response from Christina; after all, she may very well skip over an email that comes from a name (Jason) she doesn’t recognize.
The email chain would look like this:
Subject: Getting to know Christina
We talked about my friend Christina at lunch. I think you’d enjoy chatting with her. Feel free to contact her at: email@example.com and say I recommended you contact her.
Let me know if you end up meeting with her
Subject: Greetings from fellow author in Baltimore / Ben Casnocha recommended I contact you
Ben Casnocha recommended I contact you. He thought very highly of you [Always flatter the person you're sending an email to, and make the introducer (Ben) look good in the eyes of Christina] and encouraged me to reach out to talk about our respective experiences in the publishing industry.
I wrote a book last year and it was named one of the top business books of the year by the Wall Street Journal.
Would love to compare notes and hear what your next book is going to be!
Are you available for coffee next Tuesday? [Active question with a question mark] I’d be delighted to come by your office to chat. [Lower status individual offering to come to higher status office.]
This is the most common type of introduction. You believe two people in your network would benefit from knowing each other, so you email each person in the same email, making the connection. Here’s how the email thread would look:
To: Ryan Anderson
CC: Michelle Jones [You can put both on the “to” line, or if you want to be very clear about who should do the follow up, put higher status person on the “cc” line.]
Subject: Ryan, meet Michelle. Michelle, meet Ryan
Ryan, I want to introduce you to Michelle Jones. She’s been a partner at Venture Capital Inc. for the last 2 years, and I know you’re looking for a quote from a venture capitalist about nurturing young entrepreneurs for an upcoming article you’re writing. [Be instantly specific about who she is and what she wants]. She’s probably too modest to mention it, but she was in Time Magazine last week and her fund has produced 30x returns last year. [Trumpet their achievements. People like to work with winners]. She’s been my good friend since college. [Personal connection makes it more likely they will trust the other person and respond to maintain the friendship with you]
Michelle, Ryan is a journalist at The San Francisco Business Journal, and is looking for a quote for his article. As I mentioned to you, he’s the rare breed of journalist who doesn’t twist quotes to fit a pre-written story. [Don't forget to highlight why the other person is special, too].
You both grew up in California and are now based in Los Angeles. [Demonstrate commonality and also note that both are in the same time zone, to make next step logistics easier.]
Ryan – will you follow up with Michelle over email to set up a phone call? [Specify what’s supposed to happen next. Suggest the appropriate medium. For example, if you don’t think michelle should necessarily meet, proactively suggest they have a phone call.]
Now, if you are the busy person, you get tons of emails like this every week. Fortunately for you, you get the luxury of waiting for the non-busy person to send a followup. (Since so many people don’t, this is an effective filter to screen out people who won’t even respond to an introductory email.) Here’s the next part of the email thread:
BCC: Neil [Notice how Ryan has moved Neil to the bcc line – this allows Neil to see the follow up without having to be copied on all the future back-and-forth.]
Thanks for the introduction, Neil. (Moving you to the BCC line.) [The recipient should always thank the sender. Then they should focus on the person they were introduced to]
Michelle, it’s great to meet you. Neil has told me a lot about you. My article will be published in the Journal of Entrepreneurs, and I’d love to get about 10 minutes of your time over the phone to ask you a few questions about your experience with working with young entrepreneurs. Do you have any time this week (e.g., this Tuesday at 10am or Wednesday at 2pm Pacific Time)? I can work around your schedule. [Ryan knows that Michelle is busy, so he suggests multiple specific times.]
Bonus points to Ryan for mentioning exactly how much time he’d need on the phone, and for suggesting two concrete times that work for him.This makes the busy person happy, because he she can just reply and say “Sure, Tuesday at 10am works. Give me a call at (XXX) XXX-XXXX.”
If one of the people involved in the introduction is especially busy, or the recipient of lots of introductions (like a VC who sees lots of deals come across his or her desk), ask each person first whether they would be open to receiving an introduction. This a) guarantees both parties will respond affirmatively once the introduction is finally made, since each party has pre-committed, b) avoids creating awkwardness when one party is on the receiving end of an introduction that they don’t want (and this makes you, the introducer, look bad as well).
Subject: Do you want an intro to Brad?
Good seeing you again last night. Good luck with your upcoming fundraising process. Are you interested in an intro to Brad, the VC I mentioned? He might be a good resource for you – at the least, for feedback, and who knows, maybe he’d fund your company!
Let me know.
Assuming Jake responds positively….
Subject: Open to being introduced to Jake?
I hope you are well. I wanted to check to see if you’d be open to being introduced to my friend Jake. Jake is a serial entrepreneur based in Palo Alto who I had dinner with last night. Sharp fellow. His new company seems pretty interesting – it’s in the email space – and they’re going to start fundraising soon. [Be upfront about what Jake is probably looking for – VC money!]
I know he reads your blog and is a fan.
Would you be OK if I made the email intro? No worries either way. [Give him an easy out – he gets tons of deals sent his way and statistically must say no to most.]
Thanks and all best,
Assuming Brad responds positively…
To: Jake, Brad
Subject: Introducing you two
Hi Jake and Brad,
I’ve told each of you about each other already.
Brad – Jake is the entrepreneur in the Bay Area starting a new company in the email space.
Jake – Brad is the VC who’s funded over a dozen email-related companies.
I recommend you two find a time to talk on the phone and have Jake explain what he’s doing to Brad. Brad’s on mountain time; Jake’s on pacific time. Jake, can you suggest some times that may work for you to Brad and his assistant? [Again, be clear on the next step.]