Stop Taking Part in the Most Absurd Business Ritual
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
At the risk of angering a group of holders of a great tradition, today I'd like to kill another sacred cow.
And it's this: the great big "business card transfer game." I give you mine; you give me yours. Unless you are in a place like Japan where there is an entire "business card transfer procedure" akin to signing an armistice, it's nothing more than it was trading snacks or lunches with another kid back in the day in elementary school. We've done the deed, fairly, and in-kind. We now have "equally" shared information about each other, and now we have to follow up.
Hey, wait a second. Yes, "we" need to keep in touch. But the following-up part has to be done by one of us, reaching out to the other. And who should that reacher-outer be, me or you?
Psychologically speaking, whenever there is a situation where one person reaches out to another, the one at the receiving end of the request is the one who occupies the higher rung on the ladder. The requester is reaching out, to someone they want something from, and hoping to be allowed onto the higher level of turf of the person they want something from. (Think of this as in olden times, approaching the monarch and asking for his favor and allowing you to... whatever.)
So, when two people meet at any sort of event, be it a social setting, on an airplane, or anyplace else, do not ask anyone for their card -- unless you really need it and are willing to overcome the extra level of distance and "lower rung" upon which you have now set yourself vis-a-vis the prospective partner, client, or vendor.
If they ask for your card, give it to them, of course, and you can even offer it to them, without their asking, if you feel that would be beneficial to them based on the conversation.
But do not -- I repeat, do not -- ask them for their card.
Why? Isn't that leaving money on the table?
Well, it would certainly be a good idea to remember their name and reach out to them afterward, say a week later, if you haven't heard from them. This is especially true at events or settings where you can easily get their information elsewhere (say from a friend who was also at the meeting point, who hasn't read this article, and who has gone around doing "business card collecting").
But when you meet someone, you want the onus of follow up to be on them.
When they get back to the office, or empty their pockets at home later that evening, the cards go into two piles (just as they have done by you in the past in this time honored tradition): those people who I need to follow up with go into Pile A, and those people who I met, but who will probably follow up with me, and who want something from me, go into Pile B. (After all, they want something from me? Let them run after me!)
By not asking them for a card, you have placed the responsibility of following up on them, instead of on you. Therefore, when they do so, the sale is much easier because they have initiated the contact with you, and have pre-sold themselves on working with you and buying from you!
(Another related old-timers technique involves long-distance calling. Although today, companies offer what essentially amounts to free worldwide long distance via VoIP, people still feel that "the one who made the call sets the tone and agenda for the conversation." So when you want to have a better conversation and be able to better manage the call agenda, it's always better to let them know you will "call them right back." When you do, you are the "caller" and thus have the right to guide the conversation.)
Don't leave room for doubt in whose job it is to follow up. True, this sounds counterintuitive, but by taking fewer cards home, you are setting the tone for the way you truly should be seen if you are delivering something of true value to your customer. You are seen as a beacon of light, a trusted source of good information that will help your client go further ahead and be more successful and profitable.
And, when that's the case, isn't it apropriate that they reach out to you? You are "above" them in wisdom and in bringing them up to the next level... and assisting them to get ever higher!
And one more note: look in your own wallet. What business cards of others do you have inside? (And now is a good time to put more of your own cards into your wallet.) What is special about those cards? For many folks, it's an eye opener to realize that many of those cards may have something written on it by hand -- perhaps the cellphone number of the person who gave it to them, or some other writing. But putting a human touch on your cards will help you in that when you do give your cards to others, they will keep them around more often.
It's time to stop the swapping. Delivering value is where it's at.