Making good introductions: it’s all about etiquette

We’ve made and received loads of business introductions over the years and formed some opinions about what makes a good one for both sender and receiver. Here’s our take.

Introductions are a key part of new business for many organisations. According to a survey from Smart Insights, referrals make up 65% of B2B business leads. More recently, research by Finances Online suggested that referrals as a lead source grew by a staggering 425% during the first wave of lockdowns during the pandemic.

So whatever your sector or industry, it’s highly likely that you’ll be intro’d to a new contact by email, or you may intro one of your contacts to another. All being well, it could be the start of a positive working relationship. On the flip side, some introductions can slip through the cracks.

Maybe the email wasn’t particularly clear, or you left it an embarrassingly long time to reply and ultimately brushed it under the carpet. This is where etiquette comes in, and with just a few simple steps, you can up your introduction game and turn them into referrals.

Sender etiquette

Sense check yourself

If you’re intro-ing two people to one another (arguably the trickiest of the intros) you should not only make sure both parties understand why you’re making the intro, but also give it a little thought up front to satisfy in your own head that the two parties will actually appreciate being introduced. This sounds obvious, but a little bit of thought goes a very long way.

We’ve probably all had some unexpected connections, and the conversation gets a little awkward if it’s not right for you, or you don’t even understand why you’re receiving it. 

Keep it concise

Write a short email cc’ing both contacts, and introduce them to one another with thoughtful details a la Bridget Jones. One sentence each usefully suffices. I find it helps to repeat the reason for connection and the relevance of the ‘connectees’. If you can’t think of what to say, is it likely to be a good connection at all? 

Receiver etiquette

Time is ticking

Sometimes intros can catch you off-guard. Let’s assume the sender has at least prepped you that it’s coming, as above, and maybe when it comes in you’re time poor or knee deep in something else. In any case, it’s polite to reply within a day, cc’ing the introducer and acknowledging the connection. This at least lets your sender know it’s been actioned and initiates contact with the third party.

You can use acknowledgement email as a buffer to buy a little time, and it’s a good opportunity to suggest a call, or promise to follow up ‘properly’ at a better time. Just don’t forget. Better still, set yourself a calendar reminder. Personally I like to offer a direct link to available slots in my diary and let the ‘connectee’ pick and choose. 

I’ve encountered various cool apps for booking calls:

  • Microsoft Bookings comes as part of your Office 365 subscription will schedule an MS Teams call for you
  • Calendly does a nice job too and connects with Google, Outlook, Microsoft Office and iCal
  • You Can Book me is also pretty neat 

Master the ‘reply all’

Stop hitting reply-all after the first acknowledgement – no one needs to be looped in after the ‘thank you’. If you want to avoid reply all altogether (as there’s alway the danger of leaving the sender on CC for the next 500 emails), then simply reply directly to the sender acknowledging the email, and then send a separate message to the third party. This technique, whilst a little more direct, does save you getting into a three-way chit-chat which could slow the conversation down.

Congratulations, you’re now an introduction pro.

Honestly, it does sound very basic when you break it all down like this, but as we said at the beginning, we get busy, things can slip off our radar, or we can misjudge a message, whether reading or receiving.

What’s important is that a relationship starts on a good foot. Much of our work is optimising our clients’ customer journeys, and that initial contact is where it all begins and where first impressions are made.

Get it right off the bat, and good things will follow.

Read next:

Work life balance – a simple way to determine if you have it.

You’ll be great, you just have to go for it!

Home working and enjoying it – a practical guide.

Build custom business applications in Excel with UserForms

Person using an Excel UserForm on computer

UserForms are an incredibly powerful data capture tool.They are basically boxes which help you ensure that anyone putting data into your spreadsheets understands exactly what is needed in a simple, easy-to-use format.

This protects your data integrity by ensuring that the information that people supply is:

  • Put into the correct cells 
  • In the correct format
  • The full set of data required for the spreadsheet. 

UserForms also reduce the risk of inexperienced users accidentally damaging the functionality of the spreadsheet. 

In short, they help you control, protect and manage your data. A well thought out implementation, will enable you to achieve sophisticated, database-type functionality, from within an Excel workbook.

How UserForms make Excel more user-friendly

Unless you’re an experienced user,  spreadsheets can be daunting and it can take time to get to grips with how they work.

Even more experienced users can find complex workbooks confusing and this can lead to mistakes that can totally undermine the integrity of your data and lead to serious errors. UserForms provide an interface between the user and the spreadsheet which helps remove that risk. 

UserForms are incredibly versatile – allowing you to create interfaces that are really easy to use. They can feature drop-down menus, responsive functions, command buttons and a host of other features to make them simpler and more pleasant to use than entering data directly onto a spreadsheet. There’s a wide range of styles and designs to choose from to improve the user experience and you can even use pictures, when necessary, to make the process even easier for the user to understand. 

Designing effective userforms in Excel

a real art to doing this well. UserForms can be as simple or as sophisticated as you need them to be and some good VBA code behind the scenes will do all the heavy lifting for your users, making business administration a breeze.

Key factors to consider will be:

  • Data structure – your underlying data will still be sitting in a spreadsheet, so getting this well laid out will make it easier to link together and report on.
  • Data validation – or checking the form for input errors and giving users clear feedback on what they need to correct before the form saves data
  • Use cases – considering what tasks a user needs to complete will instruct the different components you need to build into the form
  • Optimisation for speed – if you’re working with large data, making your forms quickly searchable will pay for itself many times over

So what’s the catch?

There isn’t an obvious one. UserForms can deliver an extremely cost effective answer to the data management needs of many SMEs. They can drive efficiencies and mitigate risks. They will make you and your employees more confident about the data you are handling. 

If you need multiple users to  access your spreadsheet at the same time, then you might be stretching the bounds of what can reasonably be accomplished with an Excel tool and it could be time to consider alternatives, like a web application

Excel UserForms have the power to transform the way you use spreadsheets

Well-designed UserForms can effectively turbo-charge the way you operate your spreadsheets and, ultimately, your business. As we start to exit from lockdown, digitisation and automation will be key factors in developing more efficient business practices. 

Embracing them, will help you take advantage of the return to normal and deal with the associated upturn in operational demands. 

We have worked with a number of clients to develop sophisticated UserForms and created software and algorithms that empower them to use the data collected to maximum effect. We’d be more than happy to chat with you about the difference UserForms could make to the way you run your business. Check out some of our case studies  or get in touch for discuss your needs.