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The Strategy of Introductions as Selling Opportunities

This is the second of three posts on the value of effective introduction skills. Read the first one, The Importance of a Good Introduction, here.

Twenty years ago, I was working as the business development director for the Portland Office of Cooper & Lybrand, the international accounting firm that merged to form PricewaterhouseCoopers. The office at the time consisted of approximately 100 timekeepers, including six young partners. To strengthen current and initiate new business relationships, the partners invested a significant portion of the office business development budget in a shared suite at the Portland Rose Garden, then home to the Portland Trailblazers, for somewhere between 12 and 15 games.

Each game was devoted to a specific client or target organization. Crucial to the success of the evening were the group introductions. One partner was responsible for identifying and extending invitations to potential invitees with a coordinating partner (or executive) at each target.

The suite hosted 24 individuals—12 from each organization. All were expected to arrive at least 60 minutes prior to the game. Once in the suite, we gathered all 24 into a circle to “meet.” Introductions plant the seeds of friendship, and each Rose Garden introduction was designed to scatter plenty of seeds. Each introduction took between two and three minutes and contained both professional and personal characteristics and accomplishments. Without fail, the detailed introductions led to many more connections than we’d anticipated.

From that experience, we memorialized the “principles of an effective introduction.” The principles serve as a simple model easily applied to group and individual settings:

  • Prior to making any new introduction, confirm with each participant that he/she is interested in the introduction. Ask for information to include in the introduction. For example:
    • An interesting client experience, leading to unique expertise
    • A family achievement
    • Personal passions
  • Each introduction should:
    • Establish professional credentials, along with some good-to-know anecdotes about each recipient.
    • Explain how the introducer knows each of the recipients. Noting connections between the recipients is even better (similar background, complimentary experience, same school, activities enjoyed by both).
    • Whenever possible, share something “out of the ordinary” about each recipient.
    • Enumerate potential benefits from this new connection.
    • Clarify your continued involvement: “I leave it to the two of you to take it from here.”

Many introductions take place electronically. The same rules apply to those introductions as to in-person introductions.

One additional note about introductions. Remember that in a group setting, self-introductions often devolve into a simple game of “follow the leader.” If, for example, the first individual introduces himself as “Bill from the Seattle office,” there is a high probability that everyone else will imitate Bill’s meaningless introductory information in their own introductions. So introduce yourself first and set the example. The connections—and business opportunities—will quickly follow.

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