You walk into a networking event, throwing the doors wide open. As you walk confidently by the scores of people in attendance, you stop to mingle with every person and group within sight, winning new business connections with your charm. The business cards practically fly out of your hands. By the end of the night, you leave with your card supply depleted–a hundred new leads in the bag.
That’s how to network like a pro, right?
Not exactly. In fact, if you do it as described above, you’ll probably do yourself more harm than good. Business cards remain one of the most effective tools at your disposal. They make you look professional and they get your information out there. Putting your cards in the right hands can result in an exponential growth of your network, which is great for driving referrals. But in order to enjoy the benefits, it’s important to use the proper etiquette.
These are the tips you need to wield those business cards effectively.
At Networking Events, Focus on Quality,Not Quantity, of Contacts
The reason you’ll only find failure if you network like in the scenario above is because you’re bound to come off as pushy, pretentious, and impolite.
People don’t like “in your face.” That’s why spam folders for email were created. Interrupting people’s conversations to shove cards down their throats, all the while showing obviously feigned interest will only result in your cards being tossed out at the end of the night.
When at an event, look for people or groups who aren’t engaged in an active conversation. Approach and be genuinely friendly. Ask questions, give your new acquaintance the chance to talk. Find common ground and look for ways to help him or her.
Once you’ve given a good impression and you’re both ready to move on, exchange cards upon direct or indirect cues that the other person wants that to happen. Either they explicitly ask for your card, or they demonstrate interest in staying in touch. By following this method, you’ll come off as a delight, not an annoyance.
Follow Up With Your Contacts
When you exchange business cards with someone, that’s a golden relationship opportunity that you don’t want to let slip away.
Make a list of these contacts. Set out in a calendar when you’re going to follow up with them.
Give Friends and Complementary Businesses your Cards-They’ll Network for You
The beauty of business cards is that they can land you leads without any effort on your part, something like a domino effect.
All you have to do is identify some close business connections who are familiar with your work, hold you in esteem, and are willing to vouch for you. Give them some of your cards so that they can refer you to potential clients.
Obviously, you should return the favor. Ask for some of their cards and send leads their way when you have a chance.
You can also team up with a complementary business. Say you run a DJ business for parties. Find a caterer and work together to grow each others’ network.
Be Prepared to Share your Business Cards at Unexpected Places
You never know when you’ll find yourself face-to-face with an important connection. Make sure you have a good supply of cards with you at all times. Keep them in your wallet, your briefcase, and your suit.
Look for inventive ways to put your card out there. For instance, after eating at a restaurant, leave a card with the tip and a letter for the owner.
Communication technology is constantly changing, but good old-fashioned business cards are still an effective way of grabbing clients. By focusing on establishing quality contacts, following up, working to get referrals, and being prepared to share cards at unexpected locations, you’ll find start to see much more desireable results.