The Problem With Getting Introductions On LinkedIn

You were hoping for an introduction, but usually wind up meeting the brick wall.

Kind of a Franken-Post today. I wrote a guide to using LinkedIn for Introductions and Referrals, and as it clocked in at over four thousand words, I chopped it up into eight installments for my email newsletter. Today I thought I would take a couple of those pieces and post them on LinkedIn in order to illustrate how hard it can be to get introductions.

Asking for Introductions on LinkedIn: The Hard Target Method

I call this the hard target method, in that you have a specific person that you want an introduction to, and you usually have one mutual connection with your target that you have chosen as the person that can make that introduction.

Here’s why introductions are huge: Credibility.

The introducer bestows upon you credibility with the other person. It is just a sheen of credibility, a starter kit of credibility, and it is often more implied than said outright. Often just enough credibility is conveyed that the new person gives you the benefit of the doubt and agrees to talk with you. That credibility only lasts until you begin your conversation with them, but that’s all you wanted in the first place, isn’t it?

You don’t get this credibility boost via InMail, email, or cold call.

What an introduction on LinkedIn decodes as is “This is someone I know. He or she is not going to waste your time.”

What does an introduction take?

“Alan, I would like to introduce you to Barbara. I have known Barbara for seven years, since her company was a supplier to the last company I worked with. Barbara has some unique insights into the widgets.”

“Barbara, I would like to introduce you to Alan. I have known Alan since he was at Spacely Sprockets. Alan has been in the sprocket industry for over fifteen years.”

“I think you two would benefit from knowing each other. I will leave you to it.”

And you leave them to it. That’s it. This isn’t rocket science.

The Problem With The Hard Target Method  

So now you’re all excited about Introductions and you go try it out on a connection or two but the only real introduction you get is to our friend the brick wall.

Well, what happened? This seemed like a really good idea.

Let’s look at why introductions can be problematic.

When you ask for an introduction on LinkedIn, you are asking one of your connections to introduce you to your target, one of his or her connections.

But if you are like most LinkedIn users, you have a decent sized network of connections where you really only know maybe 20% of those people well. The other 80% are people you met at a trade show one time, or they are someone that you worked with three jobs ago, or you connected with them for any number of reasons, but the reality is that you never did have or subsequently developed a relationship with that person.

So when you go to ask for a connection to perform an introduction, there is an 80% chance that that connection is someone who doesn’t really know you that well. And they aren’t that comfortable providing the introduction. To them you represent risk: someone who may make him or her look bad. Of course you are not going to make them look bad, but as your connection doesn’t know you that well, they don’t know that.

Even worse, if you do find someone in the 20% you know well that seems willing to provide an introduction, there’s now an 80% chance that they don’t know the target person you want to be introduced to that well themselves! The same thing holds true for them as it does for you: they only know 20% of their connections reasonably well. The possible introduction you wanted falls flat because your connection has no credibility with the target person.

So you started off all excited because you discovered a pathway through a connection to someone you really want to meet. But the odds of this working out in the end are only 20% (that you know your connection that well) out of 20% (that they know your target that well).

That’s a measly 4% success rate. You could have likely done better with a cold call.

So what can you do about it? Lots actually. Because understanding the “why” sets you on the path to figuring out the “how” to work around the limitations, and even use these limitations to your advantage. Hint: most people focus on the 80% failure rate and just give up. They should be figuring out what makes up the 20% and how to find them.

Actually, figuring out if someone belongs in the twenty percent who would enthusiastically give you an introduction is pretty easy: when you come across someone who is a potential introducer, just pretend it was the other way around. If they asked you for an introduction to someone in your network, how would you feel about it? There’s your litmus test.

Obligatory boilerplate: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. 

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: