First, let us clear a myth
It may be true that you may have only six degrees of separation from anyone else in the world. So, theoretically speaking, if you wanted to reach ANYONE all you had to do was to find the right six-degree chain and voila, you will be right in front of that person.
That rarely happens and for most part, will remain as a myth.
LinkedIn has made it easy to break the boundaries a bit. For starters, you can definitely see who is in your extended network. Again, mostly the power ends right there. Just because you can now see who is connected to whom does not make you entitled to be connected to them.
A new relationship, a new connection needs to be earned. That need for investment has not changed.
So, before you ask for the next introduction to someone you want to meet, think about these three things. To make it easy, let’s assume that you are asking your friend John to introduce you to Bob.
Trust is at different levels. First, John should have enough trust to introduce you to anyone. That is like an entry ticket to the show.
You might have experienced this in your own life. Someone reaches out to you on LinkedIn, you look at their profile. Everything seems good so you accept the connection request thinking you will build a relationship. In the next ten minutes, the person sends you a request to introduce them to someone in your network. You are stumped and shake your head
The stronger your relationship with John, higher the level of trust on you.
The second level of trust in your competence in the context of what is being discussed. John should trust that you have the knowledge and skills on the topics in question.
You might have experienced this as well. Your trust your childhood friend on a ton of things but may be not as an entrepreneur because you believe that he is yet to prove himself. You get an email from him asking for an introduction to your friend who is a big name in the Venture world. You are now in a dilemma.
The third level of trust is in the project in question. John should strongly believe that your project has merit. It is also your responsibility to sell the concept of this project to John first.
As in many things in life, timing becomes very important when it comes to requesting introductions.
Your project is super important and you KNOW in your heart that as soon as John brings this to Bob’s attention, Bob will be delighted and will meet with you immediately.
That’s all in your mind.
You don’t know Bob and what is going on in his life. Among all the available opportunities that Bob could pursue, you can’t tell where your project stacks up in importance. Because of the research you have done online and offline, you can make a guess but everything stops there. Your friend John can shed some light on this if John and Bob share a bond strong enough for John to get some additional insight.
The thing about timing that gets tricky is the element of luck involved in this. You can’t control this factor but one cannot dismiss the existence of that factor.
One thing you can do about timing is based on an old adage – “you must dig your well before you are thirsty.” In this context, it means that you MUST build the relationships way before you may need them. This leads to the next item – thoughtfulness.
Thoughtfulness is about showing REAL concern for the needs and feelings of other people.
This goes to crafting of the request itself. Rather than thinking what’s in it for you, you will start thinking about what is the mutual benefit that you and Bob will derive as you start a dialogue. In fact, how can Bob win BIG with your proposal?
As you start thinking about this, you have to REMEMBER that Bob has many options to invest his time, energy and mindshare and your project happens to be ONE of them.
There is no simple litmus test for thoughtfulness. It is your job to keep working on crafting the request until you are very sure that it’s a no-brainer for Bob. It should be a request that John would feel proud to present to Bob. If the request is such that John considers this as an opportunity because HE happens to be the one presenting it to Bob, then you have won BIG.
Note: When I am talking about crafting the request, I am not referring to the narrative part of the request. A good narrative is necessary but not sufficient. At the foundation of the request is an opportunity and that opportunity is what needs to be carefully crafted to make it meaningful to John and Bob both.
Hope this helps.
Lastly, if you can read about my own journey of how I learned to make 300+ introductions per year here.