There aren’t a lot of original thoughts in startup blog-land, so this has surely been written before. But since nobody cares about primary sources anymore, feel free to treat this as if it were the first. 😉 (It’s still applicable if you don’t have anything to do with startups.)
I send a lot of emails where the whole purpose of the email is to ask the recipient for something on behalf of someone else. You probably do, too.
Sometimes those emails feel great, like connecting an awesome job candidate to a founder. Sometimes, they’re tricky — like when someone I don’t know super well asks for an intro to an investor I have good but infrequent contact with.
My goal is to make it easy for the recipient to respond, regardless of their answer, because I always want them to be happy (or at least interested) when an email arrives from me.
My solution to make it easy for them to say no and easy for me to send the email is that I make it clear in the text that I’m not asking for or calling in a favor.
Here’s the basic template:
Subject: Interested in this?
YYYYYYY asked to connect with you. They run a company that does ZZZZZZZ. There’s a blurb below. Absolutely no sweat if it’s not a fit. LMK if you’d like the intro and I’ll connect you.
It’s easy to add to that template. If I think that a founder is excellent, I’ll say so in the subject line or in the body. I sent an email a month ago with the subject “Impressive operator asked for an intro to you” that I really wanted to be accepted, but I still said “No sweat if not” in the body. They took the intro. And if they hadn’t wanted it, I made it an easy pass.
This works even if you’re asking for something for yourself. Make it easy for your contacts to say no and they won’t resent you for asking, because you’re making it clear that it’s their decision. It’s under their control. If you really are calling in a favor, be explicit about it, though you’ll still be better off if you say “no sweat if not” in those emails too.