The Five Secrets of Successful Business Card Exchanges
Photo by VivaNickDrake
I showed off my new business cards last week and made mention of the fact that now I have start passing them out. I made a deal with Mr. Right-Click that if I got the fancy cards I’d do my best to come back from BlogHer with none of them left . . . but it seems to me that there’s an art to the business card exchange. You don’t just mosey on up to someone and jam it in their face, right? I seem to remember working several places where I was in charge of reception, and having to deal with some new job applicant or salesperson, who would hand me their card as a means of introduction. That seems OK, although I don’t know if that’s the way the kids are doing it these days. I am fortunate enough to live with one of the great practitioners of that fine art of passing out business cards with élan, though, so I thought it might be time to list out some of his better tips for networking with fine paper products.
- Always have a card on you. Always. The most important rule of passing out business cards is to always have them with you, wherever you go. Seems simple enough, but I have it on good authority that it’s easier said than done. As a preventative measure, I’ve put cards in all of my purses, my wallet, and my car, so that I always have the cards when opportunity arises.
- Look at every card and/or contact as a seed that may or may not bear fruit. The key to making networking look natural is to look at every social situation as a potential opportunity to make a contact and give out a card. Now, this is not to say that you should always be trying to give your friends the hard sell. No–quite the contrary, you don’t want to be pressing your services on people all the time or else nobody will want to be your friend. But if you’re chatting with someone and getting along with them, then you should always give them your card so that you can get in touch with them again–whether the purpose is business or social. Mr. Right-Click is a master at this technique. I’ve seen it happen a million times and I never see it coming–he always seems like he’s just being friendly and getting to know someone, and then the card gets passed. I think the secret is just that: he really is just being friendly and getting to know someone. The card exchange allows for the possibility of future contact, but never expects it.
- Always try to get a card after you give one. This won’t work every time, like if you don’t have a long conversation with somebody, you might just give them your card and not get a chance to find out about them. But if there’s a card to be had, you should get theirs. Mr. Right-Click says he collects these cards from colleagues and will follow up with a letter a week or so later, just to acknowledge the conversation, say that it was nice to meet you. I think the blogging equivalent would be to write somebody an email after exchanging cards, or maybe swing by their blog a few times. It’s also really important to be sincere with these kinds of follow-ups: the more substantial the initial conversation, the more meaningful the follow-up letter will be. If you find yourself at a loss for what to say in a follow-up, then you probably don’t need to write one. But you might want to write down some kind of mnemonic on the back of a person’s card to remember where you met them, important things about them, assuming you got that far.
- Add your cell phone number to the card for special contacts. A good way to make somebody feel special is to go to the trouble of adding your cell phone number to your card (and make sure to point out that it’s your cell phone number) when there are special circumstances–say you meet Oprah and have a special moment with her, think she’ll feature you as the next crazy quack cure specialist on her show. Then you say, “You know what, I’m going to add my cell phone number to this card so we can talk about XYZ,” and then you write it down for them.
- Always say, “Let me give you my card, I think you might enjoy ____________,” rather than “Why don’t I give you my card,” or “Can I give you my card?” or “Can we exchange cards.” Mr. Right-Click says it is good to always be authoritative, like you know better than the person what they need/want. What they need/want is your card–they may just not know it yet.