Here’s a quote from a column by Michael Port, the NY Times bestselling author of Book Yourself Solid, in the December issue of Entrepreneur magazine. The title of the column: “Keep Your Cards To Yourself.”
“Don’t share your business card. Take some contrarian sales advice: Never give out another business card again (unless someone asks for it, that is). Ask them for their card without reaching for yours. Simply ask permission to follow up with a call or e-mail on a specific date and/or time. Imagine what happens when on that very day (and perhaps even at the precise time) you follow through and do exactly as promised….Your first interaction with this new person is based entirely around an experience when you’ve made a promise and fulfilled it.”
Michael makes 2 critical points here that exactly match what I tell my clients:
1. It doesn’t matter how many cards you give out. People who wander around a networking event giving out lots of business cards rarely are effective networkers.
What matters is the cards you get, from people with whom you’ve had enough of a conversation to build some R&R (rapport and relationship).
How much R&R?
My guideline is that it should be enough that I feel confident this person will take my call and agree to meet with me.
2. Whenever you have an important interaction with someone (a 1-on-1 networking meeting, a job interview, a sales call, or even just sending a letter requesting a meeting), leave yourself with both an action step YOU will take, and an explicitly communicated time frame when you will take that step.
This lets you do exactly what Michael is suggesting above, build the opportunity for interactions based on you making a promise and then fulfilling it.
When you meet with me and tell me that you will call me on Monday to follow up on that contact you promised me, I may get busy and forget what you told me. However, when you do, in fact, call me on Monday as you promised, I will remember it. I will see you as someone who makes and keeps promises, the sort of person I want to work with.
Keep both of these points front of mind in everything you do.