As a member of various networking organizations like BNI, I make an effort to create referrals for people in my trusted networks. One of my favorite ways to create connections is through an email introduction.
So much of the time, I see attempts at referrals take the form of someone saying “call so-and-so… I told them about you” or “I told so-and-so to call you” or perhaps your referral source just throws a phone number at you (which is really just a cold lead).
While the phone has its place and is certainly a great communication tool, it also has some disadvantages. If you start off a connection with a phone call, you are in danger of getting sucked into playing phone tag since we are all busy and more often than not we get voice mail. Also, calling someone out of the blue can catch them off guard and might not be as well-timed as you would like. Finally, while not really a cold call, it does have a certain element of chilliness in that a phone call does not give you a chance to prep the referral with any background information about you. You are forced to start off with a verbal introduction which limits the depth to which you can teach the referral about your company or what you do.
For this reason, I prefer an email introduction. The first thing you need to do is ask for permission to do the introduction. This shows respect and sets the right tone.
If you are the one making the referral, a good email introduction starts off with you (the connector who is making the referral) sending an email to the referral (the person that you are connecting your referral partner to - we’ll call him “Bob”).
The email should explain that an introduction is being made, should also contain an endorsement or testimonial for your referral partner (we’ll call her “Mary”) that highlights something unique about her services (for example “Mary specializes in providing marketing services for chiropractors that typically increase incoming patient volume by 70%”), and a call to action encouraging communication (”I would encourage you to give Mary a call to see if there are any opportunities for her to help you”). You then include Mary’s contact information in the email (phone, email, website, etc.). One final but important point is that you should CC Mary on the email.
Following that, Mary has the responsibilty to click “Reply to all” in her email program and create a followup message that includes you and Bob. This way, you are able to easily see that Mary followed up and can rest assured that the handoff has been made.
Mary should thank you for making the referral, should thank Bob for his willingness to connect with her, and should request further communication. Mary should use this opportunity to send Bob a link to her website and perhaps explain a bit more about her service. She should then attempt to set up a phone call or a meeting with Bob based on a few times that she provides. This way, Bob can plan for the meeting and both parties can be prepared. At this point, it is an extremely warm referral that has given all parties involved lots of background information and has set the stage for a comfortable conversation via phone or meeting.
Note: Mary should follow up right away. Failing to act quickly can make you look bad and causes the referral to lose momentum. If Mary doesn't follow up quickly it may seem like she's not all that interested in (or grateful for) the referral.
Also, keep it short. Long emails tend to get ignored and deleted.
It may seem like more work, but it’s a much better way than simply calling out of the blue. Next time you want to facilitate a warm referral for someone in your network, try an email introduction. It may lead to a more successful connection.