If you’re a founder that is raising VC for your company, you must have heard thousands of times (if not more) how you should get warm intros to your target investors!  And you – especially if you’re a first-time founder, might think such remark is only an elitism as you don’t have many good friends in the ecosystem that can bridge you to investors.

Well, I don’t (after ~15 years in the ecosystem on both side of the table).

I don’t think it’s an elitism first and foremost because as an entrepreneur you just got to be able to identify who you should reach out to (be this investors, future employees and most importantly customers) and to figure out the path to get connected with them!  This means getting a warm intro is not a nice optional play, but an absolutely necessary skill an entrepreneur has to master to be successful!  I also don’t think it’s elitism simply because getting warm intros is just easier than ever with the power of social media (especially LinkedIn)!

So, if you agree and want to master the skill to get warm intros, where should you start?

1. Get on LinkedIn

My observation on entrepreneurs – especially the ones outside the US, is that their use of LinkedIn is minimal.  Take entrepreneurs in Korea for instance, I’d say more than 80% of entrepreneurs in Korea don’t have a sufficient presence on LinkedIn.  This is probably because other social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram are more popular than LinkedIn in many countries outside the US (for example, Facebook is thought as a semi-professional version of LinkedIn in Korea – where the line between professional and personal life is blurrier.

Such platforms are great, but they just don’t provide the sufficient means to summarize who you are and what you’ve done, and professionally present it to your target audience.  Also, such platforms are not designed to provide you with the power to expand your professional network.  Lastly, there are cultural elements to them that disqualify them from professional uses – especially if you target someone in the US: LinkedIn is probably the only platform considered for professional uses by professionals (again especially based in the US).  This means, if you try to get connected with a VC on Facebook to introduce her to your company, it’s not wrong but it would just feel very weird and naturally she’d get much more reluctant to respond than on LinkedIn because she thinks her Facebook is very personal.

So, if you’d like to get warm intros like a boss, get on LinkedIn, invest time to have a professional presence on it (no, I’m not affiliated with LinkedIn in any way), and start getting connected with as many people as possible within your reach.

2. 1,000 Zoom Calls

They say sometimes it takes 1,000 coffees to get to that one person you really want to have a coffee with.  I do believe this goes the same to getting a warm intro on LinkedIn to that person that you want to connect as well – just Zoom calls instead of coffees (and hopefully way less than 1,000).  And more importantly, this implies two very important things:

One, you should absolutely know who you want to have a coffee with!  Many entrepreneurs just network to network, hoping one day a kind VC will just serendipitously pop up in their network. So, instead of having a targeted approach toward certain people they have to get connected, they’d say things like “Please connect me with anyone you think will be a fit with us.”   Well, again it’s not wrong and their friends (if they’re friends) would still be willing to be helpful, but you should know that it’s not the best use of your (and their) precious social capital (it’s not respectful for their time either).  Instead, you should definitely know who you want to get connected with and map the path to that person(s) – considering the person’s industry, position, affiliation with other parties, etc.

Second, you should invest your time to get to that person you want to finally get connected.  You should understand that every time someone makes an intro for you, the person is spending her social capital. And if you’re in that someone’s position where many intros are requested by others as well as needed for yourself, you’d only naturally be very cautious about the intros you make.  This means getting warm intros from your LinkedIn network requires way more than just pointlessly running a network of 1,000+ people.  You should make the person you’re asking for an intro feel comfortable with spending their social capital for you.  The easiest way to do that (the thing I’m doing) is to have a very quick 15 to 30 min Zoom call with the new people into your network.  Everybody likes a good meeting and a good story and it’s easier than ever to have quick intro meetings over Zoom so why not do it (it’s certainly way cheaper and far healthier than 1,000 coffees)?  My advice for this quick intro Zoom calls (or virtual coffees if you will) is not to be transactional.  Just let them know who you are and that you’re legit.  This way they’ll get much more receptive when you ask for an intro to their friends because they actually have met you.

3. Do Your Homework (feat. 2nd Degree Search)

Let me repeat: don’t say things like “connect me with anyone you think will be a fit with us.”  If you do this, you’re too junior so you don’t know who you should get connected to, or you’re just too lazy.  Instead, find someone that you believe you should get connected to and ask your network for an intro to that exact person!

On LinkedIn, you can search anyone on the platform by their affiliation, title or job description, and then narrow the search down to pinpoint the person’s geography, education and finally the degree of connection to you: if someone is of the 1st degree then the person is already connected with you and 2nd degree connections mean that you have mutual contacts between you and the target person.

When you look up for and want to get connected with someone new, search for the 2nd degree connection and LinkedIn will show you who you have between you and the person. Then reach out to those people in-between and and ask if they’re willing to make the intro for you (this is where your intro Zoom calls will shine and this is why you should have invested your time by this point).

4. Make it a ZERO WORK for them!

The final part of getting intros like a boss is to make it an absolutely ZERO WORK for them.  Let me give you an example (all names mentioned below were just randomly made up):

Let’s say your name is Jonathan and you want to connect with Michael Johns and LinkedIn says you’re 2nd degree with Michael via Thomas. Then you’ll send a message like this your 1st degree Thomas:

 

— Message to Thomas —-

Hi Thomas, I was hoping to reach out to Michael Johns of {{his affiliation}} to get his feedback on {{the things you want to connect with Michael for}}, and LinkedIn says you’re connected with him. I was wondering if you could make the intro to him for me.  If you could, I’d so much appreciate and quickly provide you with a forwardable.  Please let me know!

 

To this message, your buddy Thomas will respond whether or not he could make the intro for you.  Upon an agreement from Thomas, then you’ll send another message with a “forwardable” like below:

 

— Message to Thomas —

Thanks a lot for being so helpful, Thomas! Please (and freely edit) and use the forwardable below when making the intro to Michael.

Below is the forwardable:

Hi Michael,

I wanted to quickly ask if you’d like to get connected with Jonathan. Jonathan is the founder and CEO of {{company name}}, and would love to connect with you to get your feedback on his company. I’ve met Jonathan a couple of months back and followed him on LinkedIn ever since, and I think he’s working on something very interested!  Can I connect you to him?

 

As you see, a forwardable is the introduction that you’d like the person in the middle to pass to the target person.  Once you provide the forwardable, the introducer can simply copy and paste it in his email/message to the target person with no hassle at all.  With the forwardable, you’re being very respectful for the introducer’s time by making it a zero work for him to start a classic double opt-in intro.  Also with a forwardable you can guide the introducer’s message toward your intention so it reduces the chances of miscommunication.

 

It’s not an elitism.

By now, you should know that getting warm intros is not about how elite you are.  Getting intros like a boss is actually about being thoughtful and considerate in  running your network, identifying who you want to connect with and mapping out your paths to them, while being respectful and appreciative of the introducer’s time.  It’s also about your capability to identify the right people to connect and effectively move your network to get to those people.  This is a skill.  And just like any other skill, you can learn and master it with practice.  Get to it and practice.  I promise you’ll be so happy you’ve practiced.