Making a referral or introduction is an important skill to have, especially in the professional world. A referral or introduction can help someone make a valuable connection and open up opportunities for them.
As a professional networker, I am often asked to connect or refer people. It’s second nature, and a daily event, for me to make email introductions. However, it wasn’t until recently when I was chatting with friends on the golf course, asking if anyone knew someone my job-seeking daughter could connect with, that I realized not everyone knows how to make a good introduction. My friend actually knew just the right person, but when I asked her to connect us, she was at a loss for how to do it.
Since others may feel similarly awkward about making an introduction by email, I thought I’d offer a few words of advice about how to introduce or refer people to one another.
Know the context of the connection
You will want to start off by understanding the context of the referral.
- Why do these two people want or need to know one another?
- How do both parties stand to benefit?
- What is your role in the connection?
- Do you know both parties and can you trust that you are the best person to introduce the two of them?
Only introduce two people who will be better off knowing one another
Make sure that you are introducing two people who would be a good match. It’s important to consider both people’s work, interests, skills, goals, and preferences. Do NOT introduce people just because one person has asked you to do so. It’s up to you to determine if the two people will benefit from knowing one another, but don’t introduce people simply because you’ve been asked, unless you believe they should, in fact, meet.
Take the time to provide relevant information in the introduction
Ensure that you provide enough information about each person in the referral or introduction. This will help to make sure that the connection between both parties is clearer. This can be done in a few ways:
- Provide some background on how you know each of them
- Provide links to the two parties’ LinkedIn profiles (or other social media, depending upon the nature of the introduction)
- Include another person in the introductory email who has information about one of them to give credibility to the introduction
Get permission to make the introduction, if necessary
In some cases, you may want to get the permission of one person before making the introduction. For instance, if you are referring someone for a job because you know the hiring manager, you may want to reach out to him/her first and ask if they are still hiring and if they’d be open to an introduction. That saves the other person from some embarrassment if the hiring manager is not interested in the referral.
Follow up on great introductions
If you feel you’ve made a really great introduction, you’ll want to know what became of it. It’s possible that someone was busy and forgot to reply or schedule time. Following up can be a way to remind someone to reply. It’s as simple as sending an email to both parties (or to one if you are making the introduction at the request of one of the parties) that says, “just following up to see how this connection went. ” Not only will you have the knowledge and satisfaction of knowing you helped two people, but you’ll get an update that may inform how you make a similar introduction down the road.
Make your introduction interesting
If you are lucky enough to know two people who should meet, have some fun making it happen. If you’ve been on the receiving end of an introduction, you know how it feels to hear your colleague or friend say something nice about you. Don’t just email two people with a simple, “Christine, meet JoDee.” Make it exciting so that both parties want nothing more than to meet one another.
Introductions are fun to give and to receive
Who doesn’t love to be introduced to another person in a positive way? New connections keep life interesting and vibrant. Knowing how and when to make them is a key to great networking and personal growth.
If you know people I should meet (coaches, trainers, consultants, or speakers who are running their own businesses), please don’t hesitate to make an introduction. I would be honored to get to know them and their work.
Christine Burrows is the Vice President of Strategy and Operations for Powered by Purple Ink. Although she is not an HR professional, she is definitely a people person. She spent the first half of her career in education as a high school history teacher and then in curriculum development for television and web, and then went on to become a content marketer – mostly for SaaS companies. All along, she’s been a consummate connector – whether between people and content or between people and people.