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Go to Business & Management, Accounting & Finance, Risk

Is Your Business Card Harming Your Networking?

5th November 2014 | Simon Phillips

Complete Guide to Professional Networking author Simon Phillips on the dangers of relying too heavily on those pieces of printed paper

The Complete Guide to Professional NetworkingA version of this article was originally printed in Start Your Business magazine.

Many people think that business cards contribute to a win: win in networking – the recipient is getting accurate information about you and your business and, depending on the quality of the card, it can boost the image of your products and services. Right?

Not really…

Pet Hates

100% of the networking experts I have either interviewed or seen speak cite “people peddling business cards” as amongst their top three pet hates. One of my own personal experiences was of someone who interrupted a group conversation I was in to hand out business cards. It was at the end of the event and they had to leave. We did not know him before the incident and I am guessing none of us have taken any time to contact him since!

How about if you ask them for their card; that's all right, isn't it?

Nope! You lose again. If you’ve just met someone and you ask for their business card, you are signalling that the only value in the relationship, or at least the most important from your perspective, is the business. Of course, this is not quite as bad as thrusting your card into their hands, but be careful of your intentions. If you are asking for their card as a pretext for giving them yours, it will be spotted a mile off.

What is the potential lifetime value of a relationship, professional or personal?

 I hope you are saying “priceless”. I have seen many people squander the opportunity to get a potential relationship off to a great start simply because they were carrying a pocketful of business cards and had decided that their aim was to hand out as many as possible. The real problem here is that the business card pusher is too busy listening for the right opportunity to brandish their card than to listen for opportunities to help their new contact.

Is there a right time to give out business cards?

 If you need to, the following are three okay times to hand someone your business card: the first is once you’ve got to know each other better and they’ve asked for it, the second is if they have volunteered to pass your card on to someone they know who they think will be a valuable contact for you and finally, almost as an afterthought when you are parting company and you are agreeing that keeping in touch would be mutually beneficial. You can ask for their card is if you intend on writing on the back of it, as a reminder of any proposed follow-up actions.

Save the Planet

Personally, I rarely carry a business card any more, especially since the arrival of the smartphone. I can exchange my full contact details in an instant if required and, thanks to the cloud, it is backed up instantaneously. Even better, we can connect online through a variety of ready-made tools for the job. People don’t even mind an automated request on LinkedIn, if it is arriving at the end of a live conversation. The possibilities for strengthening new relationships immediately are significant and many experts are identifying an acceleration in the value exchange between individuals connected digitally as they share information, links and network connections simply and quickly. So, greater effectiveness, enhanced efficiency and at no cost to the rainforests!

Simon Phillips is author of The Complete Guide to Professional Networking: The Secrets of Online and Offline Success. To order your copy at 20% off with free shipping in the UK, just enter the code NETW203 at checkout.

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