There are a few things in life that most of us will admit to struggling with: speaking to a crowd, interviewing for a job, cooking dinner for twenty-five people. (Maybe only chefs find the last activity struggle-free!) But you wouldn’t think that I find writing a letter (or more likely an email) of introduction a struggle. But often I do.
I regularly find myself in the position of having to email someone I don’t know because a business colleague or a friend I do know has suggested that I contact the person regarding my company’s services. I always ask the colleague or the friend who made the referral if I can use her or his name. At least it gives me a clear point of connection. Yet, when I sit down to write the email saying “so and so thinks you would be interested in a business conversation with me,” I still find it challenging. The person at the other end doesn’t know me. It feels awkward and I’m not always sure how to grab their attention. It’s almost like making a cold call.
But I’ve come to realize that a well-structured email or letter of introduction can work beautifully. It can lead to a fruitful meeting with someone who may become a new client. Or it may just turn out to be an interesting networking experience. Either way, a good email of introduction can get you the meeting you want. It’s worked for me. So, I recommend the following steps as a guideline to achieving your goal:
1. Essential research: First, take a good look at the company or organization you want to do business with and try and get a clear idea of how your services or products might meet their needs.
2. Simple subject heading: One could dither for hours crafting an elaborate subject heading, but what I find works best is simply to use the name of the person who recommended me. That person is your bridge; he or she is familiar to the recipient. The recognition factor of his or her name means your email is more likely to be read.
3. Clarity of purpose: After reiterating that “so and so” has suggested you make contact, clearly (and briefly) explain what you do and how it could respond to the company’s particular needs.
4. Critical supporting documents: Attach a bio, and possibly a brief PowerPoint about your business, one that outlines three key points that differentiate your approach from your competitors. Provide specific indicators of success with previous clients, whether it’s statistical proof of increases in productivity and profits, or testimonials from satisfied customers.
5. Define the next step: That’s usually a meeting, whether by phone or in person (preferably the latter). But don’t leave it with a vague, “I’d really like to meet you sometime.” Suggest a specific time and date. If that particular date doesn’t work out, at least you have a starting point for determining a date that will.
Writing an email of introduction is a little bit like knocking on a door and hoping the person on the other side welcomes you in. And a cordial, professional email of introduction will certainly make the chances of that door swinging wide open, all the greater.