We all know that building a network of relationships is critical for your career success. And often, that involves connecting people in your network to each other through email introductions.

But while email can be the quickest, easiest way forward, it can also be tricky to get right.

So how do you make email introductions in a way that builds your relationships and makes everyone look and feel good?

I’m going to share with you four things:

  1. How not to make email introductions – I call this the Ambush Email
  2. The best way to make email introductions
  3. The second-best way to do it, and
  4. The ninja move that saves you time while adding even more value to your network.

How Not to Make an Email Introduction

The way to not make an email introduction is to send what I think of as an “ambush email”. Many well-meaning people do this without realizing it. In fact, I received one of these recently from a friend.

She sent one that said something like “You’re both awesome women, you’ve both worked in banking, you both went to college in the same place, you ought to get to know each other. And by the way, May has great connections that would be really helpful to you and your career.”

If this hadn’t come from such a close friend, I would have been pretty unhappy because I didn’t ask to meet this other person (let’s call her Lisa).

I really don’t know much about Lisa and I certainly don’t have a good reason to meet with her. I’m busy and having a few things in common isn’t as compelling as you might think, and doesn’t inject any urgency. In fact, it sounds like I’m going to be the one adding value to Lisa without getting any value back.

In this case, the person who sent the email is a very good friend of mine. She knows that I would do this favor for her every day of the year, so it’s not a big problem.

But it’s still an ambush email and I recommend that you don’t use that, even with friends.

When you send an ambush email, it can cause resentment from the person receiving it and that hurts your relationship, even if it’s just the equivalent of a paper cut. It also doesn’t help the other person get off to a good start.

So what to do instead?

The Best Way to Make an Email Introduction

The best way is to start with thinking through why you want to make this introduction. Why does it make sense for both parties to connect with each other?

Often you’ll have been asked by one party for an introduction. It could be “hey, do you know anybody in the fintech world?” In that case, one party already knows what’s in it for them and your challenge is figuring out what’s in it for that other party.

This step is very important because if you can’t sell yourself on why both parties should meet then you’re not going to be able to sell them either. And if you can’t convince yourself, then don’t make the introduction. It’s just going to make you look bad and feel bad.

Once you’ve convinced yourself that “yes, it does make sense – I can see that there’s something in it for each person”, then you want to get permission.

This means you write to that other person before making the introduction and explain why you want to make the connection and ask if it’s okay to go ahead.

So, my friend could have said, “I would love to introduce you to somebody I’m mentoring. Her name is Lisa. Would you do me a favor and just have a coffee with her?” And of course, I would. Then it’s no longer an ambush.

Once you get permission, you can write the email to both parties and make the introduction. That email should set out the context and the reason for both people, even if you’ve told them independently.

This process takes a little longer but it’s the best way to make an email introduction and come out of it with even stronger relationships than when you started.

Sometimes you don’t have enough lead time for that permission piece, or you’ve over-promised and can’t risk getting a “no” when you ask permission.

What do you do then?

The Irresistibly Intriguing Email Introduction

When you’re really crunched for time and truly believe that these two people would benefit from knowing each other, you can do the second-best thing, which is to write what I call an irresistibly intriguing email.

The best way to write an irresistibly intriguing email is to go back through the why:

  • Why are you introducing those two people? What in those two people’s backgrounds would be compellingly useful and interesting to the other person?
  • Why are they each extraordinarily special people? What do you most admire and respect about them?

Make sure you tap into this as you write those two sections (addressed to each person) in your introductory email. This is what will make it irresistible and intriguing.

Here’s an example of one I just wrote that was hugely successful:

Subject:  Introducing two inspiring women

Hi Sara,

It was great to see you in Paris for the [ABC] Conference, and congratulations on another huge success.

I’m writing to introduce you to someone who shares your desire to make an impact for women around the world, and who could be an inspiring speaker for future events.

Her name is Uma and I have cc’ed her here.

In terms of background:

Shortly after your Paris event, I attended another event where I heard Uma speak and move an audience of 1000+ people. In fact, it was a competition and she won the top prize.

But more importantly, she has a big mission: to empower 1 million women by 2025 so money is never a reason a woman is stuck in an abusive relationship.

Uma has become a friend of mine, so I know she is driven by an amazing backstory, which took her from Africa to arriving in the US with $5 in her pocket to running a multi-million-dollar business. She is passionate and articulate, and people love her energy, authenticity and presence. Her speaker kit is attached below.

Hi Uma,

Congratulations again on winning the Speaker of the Year competition, especially against such stiff competition!

I’d like to introduce you to my friend Sara, CEO of [XYZ] who I’ve cc’ed here. Sara has an amazing gift for creating events that move audiences to take action, working with executives to advance their thought leadership, and helping companies shape the debate on issues that matter.

Sara is a thought leader when it comes to thought leadership and is the inspiration and driving force behind one of the finest events I’ve participated in – the [ABC] Conference, which was attended by almost 2,000 people (men and women) last year.

She is passionate about helping women around the world and brings excellence and innovation to everything she does.

Both of you are amazing people who bring positive energy into the world, and I hope you enjoy connecting!

Best,
May

Both parties wrote back to say they were excited about meeting each other and thanked me for a “thoughtful” and “lovely” introduction.

The key is to make sure you clearly set out how they could be helpful to each other, and also say some genuinely nice things about both people. That way, everybody feels good and understands why they would want to meet. And you might get some brownie points too!

The Ninja Move that Saves Time and Adds Even More Value

Then there’s the ninja move, which is about paving the way for making awesome introductions with permission already baked into the process.

In essence, you’re getting pre-approval for making introductions as well as guidance on what kinds of people to introduce.

The way it works is this: When you’re going around and having conversations in the normal course of meeting people, whether you already know them or are meeting for the first time, make sure you ask them two questions.

The first question is: “Who would you really like to connect with? What kind of people would be really interesting for you to get to know?”

Maybe they want to meet people who are cyber security experts, or passionate about dance and theater, or some other specialty area.

Once you’re clear on what kinds of people would be helpful for them to know, then you ask the second question: “Would it be useful to you if I made those introductions when I come across those people and just sent an email to you both?”

If they say yes, then you’ve received “pre-approved” permission from that person. It’s like getting a pre-approved loan when you’re looking to buy a house.

This streamlines the entire process and makes it easy to become a master builder of your network of relationships. That’s what makes it “ninja”.

Use Email Introductions to Strengthen and Add Value to Relationships

Your network of relationships is a key asset as you build your career. And connecting people within your network is an ideal way to strengthen those relationships and add value.

To do it well, make sure you don’t send ambush emails, get permission, create “irresistibly intriguing” emails, and ask the “ninja move” questions.

So now, go forth with confidence as you make email introductions and build your network of relationships!

In the meantime, leave me a comment about your experience of sending or receiving email introductions. I’d love to hear what’s worked for you.