The business card is the most abused tool of business networking. At a recent expo here in the World Golf Village, I had the opportunity to meet many new business folks. Many people would walk up with their business card held out for me to take before we had even spoken — then they would say hi and the conversation would begin.
Here’s the thing, business cards are great, shoot, we even design and sell them. It’s an easy way to share key contact information in an affordable fashion, but it’s also easy to abuse them. When someone shoves a business card at you before you’ve even had a chance to talk, it feels a bit like someone on a street corner trying to hand you a flyer or coupon for their restaurant or club. That is NOT the first impression you want to give when networking.
Although we normally say that it’s more important to give than to receive, in the case of business cards and networking, that’s not true. It’s better to be the one to ASK for a card than it is to give yours out. Think about it, when you give someone your card without them requesting it, what are they going to do with it? They’ll probably stuff it in their pocket or bag along with the 50 others that have been shoved at them. Later, they will do one of two things with those cards: 1) drop them in file 13, or 2) set them on their desk for “later follow-up” and then never connect.
Instead of that, first get to know someone. I don’t mean have a 3 hour conversation with them, but ask a few key questions, who are they, what do they do, how long have they been doing it, what do they love about their job, etc. Then, if you want to connect with them at a future date and feel like it could bring value to either of you, and then ASK for THEIR card. In return, they may say something like “Sure! May I have one of yours as well?” Now you’re onto something. You’ve made a connection, and you have an easy way to follow-up with them later, rather than to hope they might contact you.
Don’t get me wrong, as a printer of cards, I’m happy for you to hand out as many cards as you can and get some more printed. But in reality, I also want it to create value for you and your business.
If you’re looking for some great networking and for a way to improve your networking skills, I’d recommend checking out your local BNI chapter. Here in Northeast Florida we have plenty of great groups to learn from, grow with, and that’s been a huge plus for our business over the years.
I hope these tips help and would love to hear your comments.