How to get someone to help you network

A number of really smart professionals have written about the idea behind the “double opt-in” introductory e-mail approach when asking to connect people within your network. I won’t rehash what they’ve already written, but at it’s core it revolves around reaching out to someone first before connecting them to one of your friends within your own network.  I’m a big fan of this strategy as it gives others a polite and easy way to handle the request, and makes you look like a professional. In addition to the double opt in e-mail, one other networking hack I’ve been using lately that has gotten success when asking for connections is going through the process of writing an email that your contact can use to reach out to someone you want to talk to within your network.  So, let’s say you want to talk to Jane Doe, who is a colleague of your friend John Doe. With the templated approach, you e-mail John Doe via the double opt-in intro, and ask for his help in connecting with Jane, but also mention that you can provide an email template he can use to reach out to Jane if he feels comfortable connecting you two.

When you are asking someone for a favor, it’s generally imposing on either their time or effort (or both) so my general rule of thumb is to try to be as gracious and thankful as I can. One way to do that is to respect their time. One way I’ve been doing this is by saving my friend a step by offering to write the introductory e-mail on their behalf so they don’t have to spend an extra 10-20 minutes thinking of what they need to say when they reach out to the contact you want to talk to.

Yes, 10-20 minutes is not a lot in the grand scheme of life, but it might be a nice chunk of time during any given workday. Furthermore, I’ve found when you can decrease the burden as much as possible people are more willing to respond. Sending the e-mail helps in many ways. First, it gives your friend the context they need, so they don’t have to think of it on their own. Second, it saves them time from actually writing the e-mail, and third, it allows you to convey your message in a way that is more consistent with what you want to say.

Lastly, some people are pretty comfortable with making good networking connections, so don’t constrict them to just using your words. Feel free to give them the autonomy they need to do what’s best.

Here’s an example of a note I recently wrote:

Hi (Name)

Hope all is well. How are things going over in NY?

I’m reaching out today for a  networking favor. I see that you are connected with (PERSON X) over at (Company Y) I think what (Company Y) is doing in this space is really interesting and I’d love to hear more about what (Person X) is doing to help drive the companies’ success in that space. I wanted to see if you were comfortable enough with helping me with an introduction to (Person X) I think a conversation around (Topic 1,2 and 3) will help me significantly. Would you be comfortable with reaching out to Person X to see if they’d be willing to chat?

I know you have a lot going on so I appreciate your time and consideration. Furthermore, if you’re willing to reach out, I can actually put together a few sentences you can use when you e-mail (Person X) . Obviously please use your words where you see fit, but hoping it can help provide the right context.

Thanks again, and hope to hear from you soon.

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