You walk into a business networking event and your immediate instinct is to hand people your business card in order to build quick rapport and promote your business. Wait! Don’t do it yet! Why? They did not ask for it.

Why is that so important? What happens when we hand out our business card before they ask? It immediately becomes a one-sided conversation, announcing “This is what “I” am doing and I want your business” even though I do not know who they are and what you really want, like and need. This might boost our egos, but it is not good for creating and building new relationships. Although most people will politely accept the card, they will rarely call unless they feel some sort of connection was made with you during your first brief encounter.

What prompts you to keep someone’s card and actually connect with them later? Was it because they asked about you, your interests, and how they could help meet your needs? What do you think about earning the right to be in their contact list? That way, you will be asked for your business card, which is more preferred and productive. As a result of your extra time and effort, people are much more apt to keep your card for future reference rather than tossing it in the circular file with other unsolicited cards. Putting the other person in the spotlight instead of yourself is a smart way to attract new friendships and business relationships.

Another key ingredient is to actively listen. It is common for people to gravitate to those who are genuinely interested in their plans, problems, and values. If you encourage them to talk, it will often prompt them to reciprocate and ask “What do you do?” That is a clear cue to hand them your business card while briefly answering their question. When you “ask” for their card first, it opens the door to give them yours in return. Try a simple reply like “That sounds like an excellent product– let’s be sure we stay in touch. May I have your business card?” Usually, this prompts them to say “Sure, and May I have one of yours?” If they do not ask for your card at that point, save it for someone who truly wants to make a positive connection? Not everyone will want to receive a card. That is okay. It is quality, not quantity.

You can plan a little further by asking permission to contact them next week, next month, or whatever time seems appropriate. This allows you to take the first step in building a more substantial relationship. Make it a habit to follow up with a personal note, including your business card in the same envelope, for those associations you really do want to grow. Lastly, since you found out something that the individual is interested in or needs, be sure to send any relevant articles or names of others who would be excellent connections for them. They will see that you are not just interested in making a sale but in helping them achieve their goals as well. Word gets out that YOU are a quality, caring and knowledgeable person people should get to know!

Want to know more how to market yourself for success, check out the book A Guide to Marketing Yourself for Success

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