I love when a business networking connection I’ve made goes well. The person to benefit most is appreciative and treats the one I’m introducing them to with respect and kindness. The person being introduced is accepting of the connection, pleasant and ready to be helpful (generally after I’ve gotten their permission to make the introduction).
What I truly dislike is when either person in the connection is rude, dismissive unresponsive or just plain unprofessional. Especially if that person asked for the introduction.
A colleague of mine, who we’ll refer to as Kathy to protect the innocent, was doing some business networking recently and got asked by someone we’ll call Mary Smith to make an introduction to Steven Jones (name also changed) who could be a good source of referrals for her business. Kathy was happy to make the introduction, and she first got permission from Steven to make the connection. Steven’s business is a potential client for Kathy, and she wanted to follow correct “introduction” protocol before making the connection.
Read the following exchange and think about what worked, what didn’t work and what could have been improved… we’ll discuss it further in a moment.
Hope your week’s going well! I’d recently mentioned connecting you with a broker in the office furniture industry, and I’m pleased to introduce you to Mary Smith, owner of Not A Real Company, LLC. She’s primarily working in local markets at this time, with desk units and office chairs being a major part of her business.
Great catching up with you recently. I’m happy to introduce you to Steven Jones, an account manager in commercial real estate. Steven is a valuable source of knowledge and is well connected in the commercial real estate world.
Hope this connection is beneficial to you both.
Kathy, what a wonderful introduction. Thank you very much.
Mary, it’s wonderful to meet you. I’m not nearly as knowledgeable as I’d like to be, but I do have a lot of great connections.
It would be great to meet with you sometime. I’ll be at the Commercial Real Estate conference in February (Arizona).
Let me know if there’s any way I can be of help to you in the meantime.
Thank you, Kathy.
Steven, I’m not very good at the messaging system for LinkedIn! Do you happen to have a connection for office renovation? Thanks, Mary
What went wrong?
What are your thoughts? Is this a disaster?
It doesn’t have to be, but there are some things that could be improved.
- Does Mary give the impression that the introduction being done on LinkedIn is an inconvenience to her? Yes.
- Does Mary come off as unprofessional? Yeah, she does.
- Is there anything Kathy could have done a little differently to make this more successful for everyone? Maybe. We’ll discuss that in a bit.
- Does it make Kathy look bad? That all depends on how Kathy handles it, which she did very well.
The first thing Kathy did was to message Steven to apologize for the rude response Mary had given and explain she’d expected a more enthusiastic response.
Steven responded to Kathy almost immediately telling her it was fine, and as a go-to person in his field and someone accustomed to business networking, he knows not everyone will respond the same. He told Kathy not to give it another thought.
Steven also responded to Mary’s message and explained he would need more information on the kind of connections she was interested in. Mary has yet to reply.
While Mary may not be very knowledgeable in the messaging system on LinkedIn, she figured it out well enough to send the message that she did. However, she made no attempt to build relationship and indicated no other suggested method to follow-up.
We already know she doesn’t like the messaging system in LinkedIn, so why not suggest a phone call? At the very least, she should’ve acknowledged Steven’s mention to try to meet.
But she didn’t.
Mary just went in for the kill. She was trying to eat her steak while it was still on the cow.
How You Can Avoid This Business Networking Mistake
That brings up the question of what Kathy could have done differently to make this more successful. Before making the introduction, Kathy could have asked Mary if LinkedIn worked for her or if she preferred a different method of connecting. Mary may have indicated that email works best because she has trouble with LinkedIn messaging.
That would be my response in a “NORMAL” circumstance. I say that to point out that Mary first approached Kathy by sending her a message through LinkedIn to connect with her, so I’m not sure that entirely fits here. Also, if Mary’s going to be working within corporate environments, she needs to become more familiar with LinkedIn’s popular messaging system and the rules of etiquette for business networking within the system.
When we get introductions in ways we don’t particularly care for, it’s important not to punish the one making the introduction and not to come across as unappreciative.
In this case, for example, I would’ve simply said something along these lines…
Thank you for the introduction Kathy. That was very nice of you.
Hi Steven. It’s nice to be connected to you. If you don’t mind, can we move this conversation off of LinkedIn to email? It’s easier for me to track the conversation there. Here’s my email address. firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing more about the conference in Arizona. Thanks. Joe