How Not to Come Off Ungrateful, 3 Principles for Replying to an Intro Email

I sent an intro email to connect Larry with David. Larry was interested in getting a referral to a role at David’s company. My intro email was something like,
Hey David,
As I mentioned, Larry is interested in a role at [COMPANY].


David is a good friend who has been at [COMPANY] for two years. He’d be a great person to field your questions. I’ll let you take it from here!
A few hours later I got this reply from David:
Ugh… This was the last thing I wanted to hear. Larry’s follow up reply to the intro left a bad taste in David’s mouth.
David was willing to refer Larry, but it probably wasn’t a strong endorsement. Needless to say, Larry’s application got rejected on the spot, even with a referral.
This situation made me feel hesitant to intro Larry to any of my connections in the future and David is probably warier of being introduced to my contacts.
I gave this feedback to Larry and of course Larry didn’t intend to come off ungrateful. He just didn’t know the best way to present himself when asking someone he never met for a referral.  

3 Principles for Replying to an Intro Email

As a baseline, remember to keep in mind that if your friend introduces you to one of his contacts, in a way, he’s vouching for you. Don’t take that for granted.

1. Be the first to reply

If you’re the one that’s going to be asking for a favor e.g. a referral, be the first to reply to the intro email. You don’t have to respond within minutes, but when you first see the email, go ahead and reply.

Don’t wait for the other person to offer to connect with you. Chances are, if you don’t reply, they won’t reply. Plus, if you respond quickly to the intro, it shows enthusiasm. If days go by without you replying to the intro, it just comes off as you’re not very interested or this intro isn’t important. Of course there are situations when you can’t reply quickly, but if you ask for an intro, make sure you follow up, sooner the better.

2. When you ask for something, give them an out

Generally, if you’re getting introduced to someone, you’re going to be asking them for something. Make sure you make a very specific ask, but also give them an out. Give them an easier or less time consuming way to help you out.

For instance, a common ask is to “meet up for 30 minutes over coffee to learn more about ‘Company X'”.

This is a perfectly reasonable ask, but understand that while 30 minutes isn’t that much time, there’s travel time to get to and from the coffee shop, there’s context switching in the middle of the day, and there might be some hesitancy to meet up with a stranger that you’ve never met before.

If your primary ask is for an in-person meeting, give them an out to connect over the phone, which is less of a commitment:

Would you be up to meet for 30 minutes over coffee so I can learn more about Company X? If coffee doesn’t work, happy to schedule a time to connect over the phone. Either way, if you’re up for a coffee chat or a phone call, I can send over a few times to find a time that works best for the both of us.

This is a very considerate way to ask for someone’s time. Notice that I not only give an additional, smaller commitment ask, but also, I first ask if they’re willing to connect at all. I then follow it up by saying I’ll take on the burden of scheduling if they agree. I’m trying to make it as easy as possible for them to help me.

As a rule of thumb, when offering an out, suggest the one level down from your primary ask in terms of commitment. So if you’re asking for an in-person meet up, give them an option for a phone call. If you’re asking for a phone call, give them an out for you to
“send over a few specific questions via email.”

3. Show that you’ve done some research

Include a sentence about why you’re excited about the company you’re asking about. Maybe it’s a recent product launch or a business partnership. Look through the company’s blog or search for recent press articles. You can say something like,
I saw that [Company X] just launched a new [insert feature]. That’s super exciting, I think it has a lot of potential to gain traction.
Even though this statement is generic, it goes a long way to at least demonstrate you’ve done a little bit of digging to find what’s currently going on at the company.
Putting it all together, here’s a template you can use to reply to an intro email when you’re looking to connect in order to ask for a referral or more information about a company.
Hey [Name],
Nice to meet you! Thanks for offering to connect. It looks like [COMPANY] has been doing a lot lately – I noticed you all just launched a new product/partnership [INSERT ANY COMPANY NEWS]. Would love to hear more about that and any other big initiatives [COMPANY] is look to tackle this year. Would you be free for a quick call during any of these times? [INSERT AVAILABILITY]
If a call doesn’t work, happy to send over a few questions over email.
Thank you!

Remember, your friend is vouching for you!

Keep in mind that both your friend and his connection are doing you a favor. When you reply to an intro email, set a tone of gratitude and excitement. Being gracious and enthusiastic goes a long way, especially when you’re asking for something!