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November 16, 2017

How to Build Social Capital: Asking for Introductions

Plebe year at Culver Military Academy is all about followership before leadership, which is how I found myself in Major Duckett’s Leadership course studying the art of table manners (among other things).

The leadership class teaches social etiquette such as how to properly set a table, position your body, and eat like a classy individual. For the first time I discovered how a spoon could be used for more than just pushing the last bite of rice up against your finger (you know how we Indians get down).

The course also teaches plebes how to properly greet people:

  • When addressing an adult: Sir or Ma’am
  • When responding to a question: Yes sir, No sir, No excuse sir
  • When greeting a Tactical Officer: Stop, salute and greet “Sir, good morning Colonel Shine, sir”
  • When greeting someone of higher rank: Stop, square your corner, and greet, “Sir, good afternoon Captain Bundy, sir”

And when it came to properly introducing people, there was even a right way to do that!

  1. Start with the name of the ‘higher-ranking’ person
  2. Then say “I would like to introduce” or, “please meet” or, “this is,” etc
  3. State the name of the ‘lower-ranking’ person being introduced
  4. Give some details about each person

Why is this important? At the time I really didn’t know, but now I do.

Mastering etiquette leads to better relationships.

This is more important than ever in today’s digitalized world, and it’s why I’m sharing this with you.

Master the art of asking for introductions and I promise you’ll see your social capital grow.

Building Social Capital: How Not To Do It

Just the other day I had coffee with a friend who asked if she could send me some material. She wanted me to use the material to figure out who – from my network – would be interested in contracting her.

This friend completely outsourced all of her work to someone else (me) in hopes that I’d make her life easier.


Essentially this requires the person on the receiving end, the person you’re asking the favor from, to do the following:

  1. Sift through all your documents / website
  2. Understand your offer
  3. Reverse engineer the sorts of problems someone might have who’d want your services
  4. Run through a mental Rolodex of people that would have the problem you’re solving
  5. Determine whether or not these potential people would be good introductions
  6. Carefully write and position an introductory email that sparks interest but doesn’t feel like a pitch
  7. Hit ‘send’ and hope that in making this connection they haven’t burned any social capital should you fail to follow up with proper etiquette

…and what if the introduction email winds up in the receiver’s trash box?

Don’t ask “who do you know that…”. Give me a name and make it easy for me to help you.

Worse than that is the understanding that all those steps are predicated on the assumption that the person you’re asking the favor from actually jumps through the hoops you want them to jump through. Many times the cognitive load is just too great for someone to take action. Behavioral science tells us that.

That’s the wrong way to ask for introductions. Here’s the right way.

Building Social Capital: How To Do It Correctly

Asking for introductions in 9 steps:

Step #1: Identify exactly who you want to be introduced to.

  • Go to LinkedIn and do a search for people who fit the profile of your ideal introduction.
  • Write down their name and copy down their LinkedIn profile address.
  • Note: if you don’t know what to search for or how to narrow down a list of potential introductions, then you’re not in a position to be asking for an introduction. You need to figure out who you want to speak with first. If you don’t know, how on earth is somebody else supposed to figure that out for you?

Never Miss An Opportunity to Build Your Social Capital 

Step #2: Find somebody in the middle.

  • Look for a connection point: someone who can connect you with your ideal introduction.
  • This person should have a first level LinkedIn connection with both you and your ideal introduction.

Step #3: Send your connection point an email asking if they would be willing to make an introduction to someone you’re trying to build a relationship with.

  • No need to mention any names yet, just ask for permission.
  • Your goal in this step is to get the person to say yes to you. In behavioral science we call this consistency bias. When someone says ‘yes’ to making an introduction for you, they are more likely to make the introduction after you give them the name of the person… even if they don’t know that person very well.

Step #4: Once the person confirms that they’re willing to make an introduction on your behalf, give them the name of the person you’re looking to connect with.

  • First: provide them with a quick thank you response.
  • Second: provide them with the name, company name, LinkedIn profile link, and email of that person you’re wanting to connect with.

Step #5:  Write 2 draft emails and embed your connection point in the response.

  • The purpose of these drafts is to make your contact’s life easier. Instead of them doing ALL the work, you’re pitching in by giving them email drafts that they can quickly modify and send.
  • The first email is for someone your contact knows well.
  • The second email is for someone your contact might not know very well or hasn’t actually met in real life.
  • In both emails, make sure to say something nice about yourself along with a very high level of what industry you’re in. Your job in the introduction email is not to sell, it’s to build a relationship.

Step #6: Refer to this example to get inspiration for your email drafts.

“Hi friend,

I’d like to introduce you to a personal friend of mine here in Denver, Andy Seth. He’s an accomplished entrepreneur and philanthropist and works in the personal branding space. Although I’m sure you already have marketing resources, I wanted to connect the two of you because I thought you would both enjoy being connected.”

If the last sentence in the example sounds strange to you, don’t over think it. Behavioral science tells us that the word ‘because’ is a positive trigger that leads us to believe in whatever reason follows. If you simply tell people you want to make an introduction and don’t offer a reason why, they are skeptical.

Step #7: Immediately respond to the introduction email by thanking your contact person.

  • Move your contact to BCC. This is a courtesy so that you don’t flood their inbox and shows a level of sophistication — that you’re an expert in being introduced and will handle communications with the white glove.
  • No need to provide additional information. Simply suggest a brief call and that you look forward to connecting and learning more about them and sharing a little bit about yourself.
  • Offer up 3 very specific days and times and include time zone.
  • Let them know to suggest different times if the times your provide don’t work.

Step #8: Follow up with the person as soon as they respond with a time to meet.

  • Thank them and get their phone number.
  • Confirm the date and time that you’ll be meeting in an email as well as a meeting request.
  • Make sure that the meeting request is only 15 minutes long. This shows respect for their time and puts you in a much better position to strengthen and build a relationship.

Step #9: Thank your friend who gave the referral.

  • The whole point of why that person made the introduction was to feel like they made a valuable connection, so let them know if anything materializes between you and the person they introduced you to.  

So there you have it. The 9 step process on how to make introductions the right way. Follow this method and you’ll be on your way to building, not burning, your social capital.

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