What Value is a Business Introduction?
Handing over a Contact is Like Handing over Cash
When someone asks you if you will introduce them to your friend John, do you hesitate for a moment to consider just exactly why they want to meet John? Maybe you should! Are you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other social media or jobs sites? Do you have people asking you to join them, particularly people you don't know? Are you wondering why? Your friends are valuable to others. The contact that is friends of yours is more likely to be able to become friends of someone else.
Value Your Contacts
You value your friendships, don't you? Value your contacts as well! In business, it is critical to know who you are introducing to each other. It is, at least can be, a knife that cuts both ways. It can be a boon to you and your future or can kill a relationship without any further effort on your part.
When evaluating whether or not to introduce someone to a contact or yours, consider these points:
- Why do I want these people to get together?
- Will they be compatible within the industry or business?
- What should I tell the contact I am introducing them to about the person I am introducing?
- Could this hurt my contact in some way?
- Why does the person want access to my contact?
Be skeptical from the beginning. Business is tough. Be thoughtful and considerate of your contacts. They will appreciate the fact that you didn't introduce someone almost as many times as they are appreciative of getting introduced. Contacts have gatekeepers that prevent association with people trying to get to them for whatever reason. If you offer to invade their sanctuary by allowing someone to go around the gatekeeper, you risk losing that relationship.
Evaluating the Introduction
Take a moment before you make an introduction. Think through why you are doing it before you do it. Sometimes it is a great play on your own ego to get to be the "play maker" putting together two potential business people and maybe playing a role in a big deal.
I have been sucked into several situations over the years. I tend to be a very trusting person and I always like helping other people achieve higher goals. I suppose I get some kind of ego boost from bringing two people together to make a deal, fill a job or find a product. Sometimes it leads to me being involved in a future opportunity and sometimes it does not. But I try to consider what are the options when I do get involved.
In one of Donald Trump's books, "Think Big and Kick Ass in business and life" Trump makes the point to hire the best but don't trust them. Approach introducing someone you know to one of your contacts in the same way, think it through on your own and don't trust them to be telling you the whole story as to why they want the relationship.
I have been in situations where individuals I was well associated with had great roadblocks around them regarding new contacts on a personal basis. Think about a buyer, a doctor/surgeon, a professor/researcher, even a star student; in each case there are individuals that are looking for an entry to that person so they can exploit the new relationship. Buyers at any organization are pursued endlessly because they have the money and the power to decide who they will buy from and what they will buy. It doesn't matter if it is just a small new something or another - it takes up the buyer's time to do it a reasonable service. To evaluate a new product against what is currently being used means, in some instances, significant time commitments. Sometimes others must be involved and coordinated into their findings.
A hospital buyer as an example, even on a small scale, must make multiple examinations on even the most innocuous items let alone something very complicated with life or death implications. I have called on companies that make everything from oriented stranded board (OSB) to research hospitals selling everything from gloves to cranial plating and it always amazes me who the buyer is in these organizations. In rare occasions, it is a seasoned person with a great understanding and knowledge of the products or new products in the market, what the need of the company is and what they are currently using - and why. That is truly rare. When it comes to government buyers - I have yet to find one that had a clue about what they were buying or why.
Doctors, particularly surgeons, are responsible for billions of dollars of purchases every year. If they decide to use product X, anyone who sells similar products wants to show why their product can do at least as good of a job yet do it for less or be less complicated saving them time, or even that it would be less of a problem for the patient if they used product Y. Sure, that is called competition and competition is good. The question, remember, is are you going to introduce Billy to Dr. Smith or invite him fishing/golfing/playing cards/ go to the football game together so they can have a relationship that may build into a business relationship? Doctors are held to new laws and regulations that are very strict and painful if broken based on something as simple as buying their dinner. So not wanting to cause an infraction, always ask the doctor if they would like the introduction before providing it.
Researchers are typically a different breed to begin with, often somewhat introverted or maybe just do to the work they do, less public. If you have researchers as friends or contacts, cherish them and ALWAYS ask them if they would like to meet so-and-so before you bring so-and-so over to their office for a shared lunch. As much as you can't believe it might happen, there are really people out there that would like to know how far along or in what direction your friends research is going. Depending on what type of research is going on, espionage is rampant and your best friend may well have been hired to find something out for some really bid dollars. It even happens in fashion!
Athletes, particularly good athletes, have rules about how coaches can contact them for a reason. It can mean big money! A full scholarship to one of the nations major colleges can be worth tens of thousands of dollars. Who are they dealing with? Too often, the ego and thought processes of teenagers that don't have a clue what is going on and how they are being played. You may have someone approach you because they saw a picture of you with this student in a high school annual, or in the newspaper giving them an award. If they can work through you to get to the kid, it is indirect and may not come under scrutiny of the national framework intended to guard against such influence. Always think of the kid first, not your own opportunity.
Now Here is a Twist!
I have over 3,000 contacts in my Smart Phone. Most are customers or prospects across the country. I have been approached dozens of times to sell the information. It is worth real money - when it hits $100 per I might cut it loose! But I respect those who thoughtfully offered me an email address for limited communication and only used it then. I didn't sell that information to the next web portal looking for it. Do you use "Jigsaw?" It is a great product and with those business cards I have that are public, I swap information and can often find a bit of information I need in return. If I use information I gain from this service it is only for an initial contact. If they indicate they do not want me to contact them in this fashion, I respect that immediately and respond to then telling them so. That has never worked against me .
The point is your contacts are valuable. Keep their value high by limiting their access. Rarity increases their value and not sharing it improves your value to your contacts.