THE BLOG
10/09/2013 01:11 pm ET | Updated Dec 09, 2013

How to Be a Connector and Make Valuable Introductions

"What makes someone a Connector? The first -- and most obvious -- criterion is that Connectors know lots of people. They are the kinds of people who know everyone. All of us know someone like this. But I don't think that we spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of these kinds of people. I'm not even sure that most of us really believe that the kind of person who knows everyone really knows everyone. But they do." - Malcom Gladwell's The Tipping Point

Connectors typically know a lot of people and make a regular practice of introducing their connections to others. In business, making introductions is one of the best ways to build a strong professional network. This article provides tips and advice on how to become a better connector.

Why should you make introductions?

1.) Making introductions is a great way to be helpful to your contacts. Being helpful and leading with value is a highly effective way to build a network. There are many ways to be helpful, but making introductions is often one of the best.

2.) All introductions should be beneficial to both parties. If the introduction benefits both parties, then both parties get stronger. When two parties in your network get stronger, your network gets stronger, and therefore you get stronger. Enhancing your existing network needs to be balanced with forming new relationships.

3.) Per the law of reciprocity, in response to helpful actions, people feel more inclined to be helpful in return. By making introductions, you put yourself in position to receive more introductions.

Why do people need to be introduced?

You might be surprised by how often people you think would be connected, but are not. Below are three reason why introductions need to be made:

1.) There are a lot of people and companies in the world, and sometime people simply don't have the research to know that the other is there. Sometimes people need help to identify others with compatible business interests.

2.) Sometimes people know the person exists, but are uncomfortable reaching out on their own. Making an introduction helps otherwise avoid the uncomfortable act of reaching out cold.

3.) People don't always have as much time as they would like for making new connections.

When should you introduce two people?

A good connector is always looking for opportunities to make introductions. It's best to have an understanding of a business problem someone is seeking to solve, and or individuals they would like to meet. Think strategically and creatively about who might be a beneficial connection. Below are a few common scenarios where a connection benefits all:

1.) People who have shared interests and would benefit from trading notes, experiences, and expertise. For example, two entrepreneurs in the same industry or with the same distribution model (without competitive concerns) may be able to be help each other.

2.) People who have complementary supply/demand for a product or service. For example, if you know a company looking for product development help, introduce them to a development agency that's looking for new business.

3.) People who are interested in meeting the same kinds of people, but are not competitive to each other. For example, a lawyer and an accountant may have referral opportunities.

4.) A company who's hiring and a candidate who's qualified and seeking a new opportunity.

5.) An investor who's looking for investment opportunities and a strong company that's fundraising and meets the investor's criteria.

How do you make an email introduction?

1.) Make sure you trust the people you're introducing because it affects your reputation. If one person is not valuable to the other, or acts inappropriately, the other may be less inclined to accept future introductions.

2.) Ask both parties if they would like the introduction before making it. Ensure that you're not encroaching on anyone's time or privacy, or over-promising and under-delivering, by getting the double opt in.

3.) When separately asking both parties to opt in, explain why it would be mutually beneficial. Share information about the people being introduced, including links to their company website, LinkedIn profile, and/or other relevant pages.

4.) Don't pressure either party to take the introduction. Simply explain why you think it might be beneficial, ensure that they don't need to accept it, and ask if they would like the introduction.

5.) If both people opt-in, send an email with both people copied briefly re-stating why they should connect.

What should you do after making an introduction?

Follow up with both people about a month later, to remind them of the value you've added, to ensure that both parties were helpful to each other, and to re-connect with your contact if you haven't spoken recently. Here's an example of a very brief and simple email you could send in this fashion:

"Hey [name],

How did things go with [person I introduced you to]? I hope it went well!

Talk soon,

Mike"

Conclusion

Connectors are great people to know. Being a connector can help your career and business tremendously. I highly recommend being as proactive as possible about finding opportunities to make mutually beneficial introductions between people in your network.