Last weekend I was walking with my best friend and we were talking about work, careers and what it means to be a better female leader (a frequent topic between us) when something she said hit me like a pile of bricks.
“You know what I’m completely sick of?” she said. “I’m so frustrated with people who make networking introductions via email without asking first.”
And my light bulb went off — I do this ALL THE TIME. And she’s completely right. I also get frustrated when people do this to me and I didn't even realize it until just then.
As an example, I often get email introductions without any explanation as to why I’m being connected with this new person and without first being asked if I even have time to meet someone new. As a result, I’m often faced with the uncomfortable (and sometimes awkward) challenge of figuring out…does Contact B want to hire me, pick my brain, ask me something specific, take me to coffee, be a potential partner/collaborator, or do they just want to be my friend? Should this be a phone call, a coffee, a lunch or a happy hour? Do I even have time for this connection? And now I'm on the spot and not sure how to proceed.
So here's what you do -- make the ask before you make the introduction.
Here's why this matters:
- Shows R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Asking Contact A if they’d be willing to meet with Contact B implies a respect for their time. You’ve spent time developing your network (your networth) and so you should respect it, protect it and preserve its integrity at all cost, even if this requires extra effort on your part.
- Sets Expectations. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to explain the reason for the introduction in private and it gives Contact A the chance to consider the value of the connection. When making this initial request, you can elaborate on why you are making the introduction and what you are expecting Contact A to provide to Contact B.
- Provides Pause. This gives Contact A the opportunity to politely decline the connection request. I’m busy, you’re busy, we’re all swamped to the max so sometimes you have to decline connection requests due to your commitment to work, productivity and results. It's nothing personal, but maybe Contact A just doesn’t have the time and that’s okay. Now you’ve given them an easy out.
- Gives Opportunity. This can be a touch point for you and Contact A to reconnect and strengthen your relationship. In this initial request, now you have an excuse to touch base with Contact A and see how they're doing. Use it to grow your relationship.
So do yourself and your connections a favor — make the ask before you make the introduction. I’m guilty of not doing it on occasion to cut corners and save time, and I know you are too, but let’s change the tide and step up our networking game. What do you say?