You sit in front of your computer and see an email from Chris asking for an introduction to one of your many LinkedIn connections. If you are like me and are fortunate to have many wonderful contacts across a variety of businesses, it is not uncommon to receive a request for a connection. I recently received a request from a friend to make an introduction to one of my contacts. His LinkedIn note was well thought out:

“If you agree we should connect, could you please FORWARD this email to her? Thanks much!”

He then included a note for my contact:  “[name] – I’m honored that Ian is connecting us! I’d like the chance to speak with you so we can get acquainted, learn about each other’s companies and explore synergies.”

At first glance, this is a polite, professional request. In fact, you have probably received or sent similar emails. How would you respond? Candidly, I was not compelled to take immediate action. I feel it is my duty to protect my connections and to understand the potential fit.

The most powerful connection you can make and receive goes beyond a simple introduction. Ask yourself “Will both of these people thank me for the introduction?”  The answer to that question tells you whether to make the introduction or not.

Three steps to earn valuable connections for your business.

Do your homework: If you want an introduction to a specific individual, do some research about their organization and share some information about their business that demonstrates why your connection might be valuable to them. In commercial real estate, it might be “I see that you are connected to Chris. They are a tenant in a building that is being sold right now. This might present options for them regardless of their lease term. If they are open to a 15 minute conversation, I can determine whether or not we can help them.”

Focus on their WHY: I get it. You have something to sell, and you want to speak with them to see if they are interested in buying it.  Guess what… nobody cares. Focus instead on what could be going on in their business that would make your services valuable. If you were a cloud computing company it might sound something like “I notice that Pat’s company is growing quickly. For the right companies, we can save them money while making their systems more reliable and securely accessible no matter where their employees are located. One of our CEO clients noted that their new employees used to need several days to become billable, and now they are up and running (and generating revenue) on day one.”

Don’t assume: In my friend’s request, he said “if you agree we should connect…”  I know he is a solid citizen, but I was not sure where he would be adding value to my connection. So, to answer his question, I did not agree that they should connect. Don’t assume your connection remembers your strengths.

How can you fix a request you did not get right at first?

When I received this request, I sent a note to my friend “Can you tell me more about what sparked your interest and what you hope to gain from the intro?” He then explained why he saw a connection, explained where he might add value, and I shared his information with my contact. They’ll be speaking together in the coming weeks.

One more piece of advice

If you blindly share your contacts with anyone who wants to sell to them, then you reduce the value to your network. If you take the time to understand where someone can add value and make introductions where there is good mutual interest, then your introductions will have a certain degree of gravitas.

Follow the three keys above, and earn introductions and make connections that provide value to all parties involved.