Judging from my last networking event, business cards are truly a staple of sales professionals. Every sales person is likely to hand them out and/or collect them by the hundreds if not thousands each year.
I know I’ve personally had large stacks of them on my desk, rubber banded together in the hopes of reaching out.
Did I do anything with all of them. No not really. I kept them in the hopes of going through them for prospecting reasons. That happened less often then I’d like to admit.
That is pretty common for EVERY PROFESSIONAL, not just those in sales. And if I’m wrong, and you religiously follow up with your business cards, then please tell me in the comments below. I’d love to hear how you do it.
But like I said, even the best sales person will find themselves with a stack of business cards that are either thrown away or otherwise lost in the expanses of their desk.
So that begs to ask the question. Do you really need business cards? Do they provide a real value? Are they helping your or hurting you? Friend or foe?
Perhaps another way to look at this and question the use of business card, are they becoming obsolete with the invention of sites like LinkedIn?
Disclaimer: I am a hypocrite when it comes to this discussion. Yes I do think that business cards are obsolete. And yes I do still use them.
What is the reason for giving someone a business card or getting one? To get contact information right?
Well with sites like LinkedIn and company websites it is not very hard to get the contact information for someone.
If you met someone at a networking event but lost their business card what are you likely to do?
Often times knowing a person’s first or last name and one small detail is enough to find what you are looking for.
When I’m prospecting I often have very little to go off when I’m looking for the appropriate contact person and their contact information. But quite often I am able to find at the minimum a phone number and email address.
Some are harder to find than others, absolutely. But it’s still there. And because of that a business card is not necessary.
“But Johnny, I follow up with everyone who I get a business card from when I go to a networking event”
First of all, then you are a better sales person than I am. Because as many times as I have said I would do that, life happens and something else comes up that is “more important”.
I’m not saying they always are more important, I’m just saying it happens.
But lets assume that you are one of the few people who do this, great. I have to ask myself, if you have a stack of business cards did you make real connections with all those people? Or did you simply collect business cards?
If you made real connections, then you likely in no way NEED a business card. If you made a real connection you probably got that persons phone number or email address on the spot. And they should already be expecting your call.
But if you did simply collected business cards, what reason do those people have to respond to your contact? They probably don’t even remember who you are.
And if that’s the case they’ve probably already thrown your business card away….sorry to burst your bubble.
“But Johnny, I run networking events and I collect business cards”
Okay…so do attendees not have to register before the event? And do they not have to again sign in when they arrive at the event?
You should have all the information you need well before the event even begins. Business cards wont provide you with anything more then you already have.
The information on business cards are so limited. Often only contact information. You can look at a business card and still have no idea what someone does.
Now I know there are some people who just plain like business cards. That’s ok too. My point in this post is to bring attention to the fact that in the current world they are not necessary.
But as I mentioned, I still use them and am ok with others using them. And there are a few reason for that.
First of all when I’m at networking events and I meet someone, after we’re done talking I write notes on the back of their business card, or one of mine if they don’t have any.
As a software sales person I would write notes about who they are currently using, any notes about their history that we both share (e.g. both went to UCLA? Both martial artists, etc.), when they may be looking around for a new property management software program, so on and so forth.
Small notes that I want to remember. That will benefit me in our next encounter. And by using their business card I know exactly who the notes pertain too.
An alternative to writing this on their business card? Use your phone or tablet if you have one. All current phones have some form of notepad. Worse case scenario you can email yourself the notes you took.
If you are dead set on continuing to use business cards that’s ok. But I’d like to suggest a few actions whenever you collect business cards.
First of all you’ll want to segment the cards you were given. Whether that’s putting them on a prospect list, competitors list, partner list, whatever it may be. Have an organized document (or better yet a CRM) that helps you track contacts. DO THIS FIRST!
Next you’ll want to add that person to your contacts list. This usually means into your Outlook or Google Contacts.
Lastly you want to actual reach out to them. Unfortunately this seems to be the one activity most sales professionals do the least. Are you one of them?
Nothing too fancy. An email will suffice. But if they are a prospect i hope you will start them on your prospecting cycle.
Something simply like “Hey Jill, it was great to meet you last night. If you ever need help with your property management software be sure to let me know. I’ll also keep a look out for any partners looking to get into the multi-family industry so I can introduce you.” Then include some call to action that’s appropriate, “Click here for more info on that module we were talking about.” or “Here is a link to the article I wrote about software sales I thought you’d like. Check it out and let me know your thoughts. I’d love your input for my next article.“
A call is always a good option but it’s a little more intrusive. And if they don’t remember you they may not take the call at that moment.
My top suggestion? Write a letter. A good old fashion hand written letter. When is the last time you wrote one of those? Writing letters seems like a lost art which is a shame.
I recommend you get some nice letter cards with your company or professional brand on them and send them a “Nice to meet you letter”.
Maybe invite them out to lunch in the next week or two. Something personal and be sure to include a call to action.
How many other sales professionals do you think do that? Here’s your chance to stand out from the crowd.
Let me know your thoughts. Yay or Nay for business cards?