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Don’t Give Them Your Business Card

Eric Byrd November 11, 2019 467 1

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How to find out who really wants to be talking to you and manage unwanted communications at the same time.

Episode #005: Exchanging business cards is a natural part of business networking. But do you give your card to people too often? This is the question we explore in this episode as Eric walks you through why cards get exchanged so much and what to do to make it more effective for you and for the people you meet. Building on the five steps model he offers a different way to think about the role of using the card exchange in the referral and prospecting process.

(see more information/tools below)


To better understand the concept of the when to give your card and when to hold back refer to this infographic while you listen to the episode:

Episode Text:

In 2013 as I was teaching a workshop on networking. a woman in the front row suddenly stopped me mid-sentence and said in an exasperated tone “wait! I can’t do that! what if they want to get a mortgage and don’t know how to contact me?” She looked a bit panicked.
I actually felt badly… I get that reaction often, though maybe not that extreme. What had I said that put her into such a state? I had just told the group, to stop automatically giving out their business cards to everyone they meet. I don’t know if you reacted that same just now… but she wasn’t the first to look worried when I shared that advice. Now to be fair, I knew what I was saying was radical to some. As a veteran salesperson with over 20 years experience I knew how important the business card exchange is supposed to be. I just didn’t buy it anymore. Because over the years I realized that wasn’t the key to success. Here’s why.
Back to our mortgage lender at the workshop. To help her understand I asked her a question- “how does your customer actually purchase from you? in reality, not how we wish they would buy?” I said “let’s play this out a bit”. Most of the people there had attended the local chamber networking breakfast. So I asked “of the 150 people there, how many are mortgage lenders?” “she smiled and said about 70!” we all laughed. I said “yeah, it seems like it right? but it’s probably more like 10” she agreed. “if an attendee meets all 10 and they leave with 10 cards, how are they going to determine who to call later?” she said “me!” another laugh. “yeah, but why? I’ve heard how people intro themselves, and there’s not much difference frankly.” she agreed with that too sadly. When this person gets home with the 10, how will he choose? But beyond that, if he decides to buy a house who will he call?” she did’n’t know. I asked the group… “a realtor” someone said. RIGHT! He’s not gong to call any of you. The real estate agent is the first person to get called. If they don’t know someone they ask a friend, mom, sister, cousin, neighbor who just sold a house. Right? She agreed. So the question now is who should you give cards to? Agents, she said, the light bulb visible over her head.
That’s our topic today… not only WHEN to give someone a card, but WHEN NOT to give them a card.

You want to give you card out to people you really want to talk to. That isn’t everyone. Not really. Like our agent in the story, we’ve all been trained the card is the critical thing. It’s not.
It’s actually what happens in the conversation. THAT is what makes them want to get to know what we do and maybe how we can help THEM. The card is just contact information.

So why do we exchange so many cards? I think there are a couple of reasons. One: it’s a carry over from a time when contact information was much harder to come by. Now we have tons of info at our fingertips. Two: I think it’s become, at least in the US, a social cue that the conversation is over. So we kinda we “end up” exchanging cards- that’s just how we end the initial conversation. Instead I want you to think about why you would both give one to the other person, and also why you would ask for theirs. What happened in the conversation to warrent a further conversation. Back to the 5 steps… if you’re just keeping in touch, maybe they don’t need your number and your email. LinkedIn would suffice for now. When there’s a true connection then it makes more sense. Here’s one reason that’s important to think about.
When you give them your card you are saying “contact me”. You’re giving permission to call or email you. And it would follow that you would respond. Cause that’s polite. But if you don’t really have an interest, why are you giving them permission? Or will you just ghost them and not return their call or email? You send them into the abyss. Not a great practice, but it happens all the time. You may not intend that… but it happens. And it’s preventable. It protects your time and their time until you’re ready for more interaction.

Sometimes they will ask as a reflex. Then you have to decide what to do. Sometimes I’ll give it to them because it would seem rude not to… since they asked. I have occasionally given them my card but said that I probably won’t have time to meet or call, but they can keep in touch. To set the expectation. Another technique you can use is to have two cards. One with all your contact info on it, and one with just your LinkedIn profile and an email… but no phone number. You can even set up a second email that’s just for those more superficial contacts. It can also protect your main email inbox from people who automatically add you to their newsletter list too. Just give that card to people who actually ask for your card, but who you aren’t really interested in fully engaging with yet.

This is particularly good if you are more introverted or you feel uncomfortable ending conversations. In that case saying “here’s my card, keep in touch” can be helpful to signal that “I need to stop talking to you and move on“. Leveraging the social cue aspect.

NOTE! Keep in mind you have then given them permission to contact you. So you may need to add the expectation of “let’s connect on LinkedIn and keep in touch” to prevent false expectations. AND you will want to check that second email box now and again to see who sent messages. You could even have autoresponse that you don’t check that email all the time but you’ll see it sometime soon. Just some ideas to play with.

You can also record a question and I’ll try and work it into a future episode. if it’s really good, who knows, you might get a guest spot. Thank you! Life is an adventure, so keep exploring.

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