If you're a budding entrepreneur, it's a lucky thing if an established, successful entrepreneur shows interest in being your mentor. One of the most important things a seasoned businessperson can do for you is to make introductions to fellow entrepreneurs who might be able to help you, the business hopeful, on your way.
A first-time introduction can be a delicate dance that allows the introducer to size you up and see how you handle the interaction. If you make him or her look good, you'll most likely receive a stream of follow-on introductions -- a great start to building your professional network. But if you blow it, you’re unlikely to get a second chance.
Here, some tips for acting like a pro from the get-go and, consequently, receiving further introductions:
1. Respond to an introduction within minutes
World-class entrepreneurs always seem to be dialed in. If you can't respond quickly when selling yourself, one can only imagine how your communication habits are lacking during other, equally critical situations. Don't try to play it cool by waiting hours or days to respond.
2. When the introducer requests information from you, respond promptly
I keep a running top 10 list encompassing my entire professional and personal life, and my priorities change daily. I’m not unique in that respect -- everyone’s priorities evolve, which means you have a limited window before falling out of someone's top 10.
If you’ve been offered an introduction, but they require more information from you before making it, it’s in your best interest to act quickly.
3. In your first reply, put your introducer in the bcc line
Nothing's worse than being cc’d in a back-and-forth thread, particularly as other parties firm up a meeting time. Clogging up someone’s inbox with irrelevant emails not only makes you look like an amateur but also wastes people’s time.
4. Proof your response before sending
Sloppy emails create a negative first impression. Demonstrating superior writing skills, however, is a great way to make yourself look professional and capable.
5. Be concise and specific
Introduce yourself, include a specific ask and provide any pertinent details -- all in a few sentences. Getting straight to the point demonstrates that you know how to be efficient.
6. If you’re offered a time to meet, take it
Remember that you’re the one selling -- not the other way around. Punting on meeting times demonstrates it's not a top priority for you and shouldn't be for them either. I skipped a party the night before my own wedding which resulted in my first investor check.
7. Don’t drop the damn ball
Remember that your reputation -- but also that of the person who stuck out his or her neck getting you the meeting in the first place -- is at stake. Be willing to go to extremes to follow through.
8. Follow up
Once there's something substantive to report, send an update email to the person who made the introduction. Maybe even say thanks. The update doesn’t have to be long, just a few sentences describing the outcome. A positive report will likely land you another introduction.