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Keep Your Cards to Yourself

4 ways to build your reputation and expand your network--without business cards.
November 12, 2009
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/204010

Getting noticed in business is about making others feel special so that you are the person they want to do business with. It's about being the kind of person and professional you appreciate having in your own life. These four simple strategies will do more to increase the size and influence of your network than any breakfast meet-and-greet could ever offer.

Share your connections. The most successful standout people in business never hoard their relationships. They are natural connectors. You can and should be the same.

Make it a habit every day to introduce two people in your network who don't yet know each other. This is not a referral or a suggestion that someone hire the other person (although that may happen down the road). Rather, it is just an introduction of two people who share an interest. It could be personal or professional. Make it as simple as, "Jane, meet John. Jane's into this, and John's into that. I thought you might enjoy meeting. Chat soon."

This 30-second networking strategy not only brings people in your network together, it gives you something to talk about and follow up on later. You create another value-added opportunity to call or write, "Did you ever. ?"

Five signs that you can't rely on your business card

. You witness a contact giving your card (instead of theirs) to someone they don't care if they ever hear from again.

. At a neworking event, you find your card abandoned in a restroom.

. You notice a venture capitalist you recently met writing his lunch order on the back of your card.

. You see a client absent-mindedly using your card as a gum receptacle.

. See above, but replace "gum receptacle" with "toothpick."

Share your knowledge. We all want to be doing business with those in the know--smart, well-read and attentive professionals.

If you aren't already doing it, make it a daily practice to review the most relevant journals, publications and blogs in your industry. Set aside 30 minutes each day to not only bring yourself up to speed but also to e-mail them to at least three people in your network who may find these articles interesting, relevant and important.

Attach a note that says, "Hey, have you seen this piece on. ? I read it and thought of you. What's your take on it?"

This strategy not only allows you to be seen as a leader in your industry, it also demonstrates that you are thinking about people, which makes them feel great and makes you emotionally attractive to do business with.

Share your compassion. Too often we ignore personal feelings and only focus on professional ones. Call me sappy, but sometimes someone just needs a hug.

Show professional compassion. Every day, send a card to someone in your network or someone you'd like to be doing business with. No sales. No marketing. Nothing asked in return--just an old-fashioned, handwritten note.

Buy a stack of blank cards, and each day write a quick hello, offer congratulations, sympathy, greeting or friendship, depending on the situation. Instantly, you communicate not only that you care, but also that you know what's going on in their life. This builds trust and makes you incredibly special and memorable.

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. In today's world filled with slack thinking, lazy habits and flexible principles, it's far more enchanting to prospects than you might imagine.

If you buy into the philosophy that trust is the primary ingredient of relationship building and sales making, and that trust is developed through commitment-making and fulfilling, then you start to understand why this is so powerful. Your first interaction with this new person is based entirely around an experience where you've made a promise and fulfilled it.

Imagine how you will impact your network and community if you use every one of these strategies and touch just six people a day. That's 30 connections in a week, 1,500 in a year. It won't be long
before the talk about town is how your thoughtful, memorable, trust-building experiences touch the lives of clients, prospects and professionals.

Michael Port is a New York Times bestselling author of four books: Book Yourself Solid, Beyond Booked Solid, The Contrarian Effect, and his latest and most provocative, The Think Big Manifesto. Learn more at michaelport.com.