Are business cards dead? Build a network of connection that support your sales.

Aleksander Góra
by Aleksander Góra on April 17, 2019
Polish-Anglo networking & culture (FOUR)
March 24, 2019
How many connections do I need?
May 14, 2019

In terms of business development are paper business cards dead?

I recently attended a John R. Spence workshop regarding networking. He is a regular speaker of this at ASBIRO, recently at Wyszyński University & on the 8th April at the Kozmiński University. At this event he was taking feedback from the floor regarding the question: ‘How important it is to exchange business cards’?

This went into the thinking that you should make sure that everyone had your contact details as people never know when you maybe relevant & the law of averages that a well designed business card is retained & at some point referred too. Spence put forward the argument that perhaps: ‘Paper business cards are dead’!

When he was questioned further around that statement he expanded that the exchange of a business card is not the 1st step to a long-lasting fulfilling commercial relationship or any measure of business development. He went on to talk about the importance of building a network of connections that supported your sales & to consider: ‘where does exchanging business cards fit in with that’.

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As the CEO of a software company I think you do need the contact details of a potential connection. There is no question that a well presented piece of stationary is more engaging & probably says something about you & what you ‘might’ represent. However, without the dialogue to go with it & a defined follow through strategy which includes engagement where it is appropriate then mostly what is happening is that printers are being kept in business!

For those of us that are in the software industry let me answer the question: ‘to give or not to give’? (I am referring to business cards). If you do hand over your business card I would suggest that you consider a series of actions connected to the handover.

Thinking this through further I read this article in Entrepreneur.com

Make the handoff memorable.

The physical act of exchanging your card can be more valuable than the card itself. Use it as a conversation starter to better understand where the person’s needs, interests or hobbies lie. As you hand out your card, mention when you will follow up and also reinforce a message about the value of your business.

Business card exchange needs to be linked to an action that is an opportunity to reinforce why people connect with you
Without that feature the most likely outcome will be yet another piece of cardboard amongst many others in someone’s briefcase en-route to the shredder!
My company 5next is very focused on the USA market so I reviewed the USA thinking. This opinion is from Lydia Ramsey

Hand them out with discretion. Those people who believe in doling them out in multiples of 12 send a message that their cards aren’t worth much

~ Lydia Ramsey

What is your expectation to handing out your business card?

When you do engage in this ritual exchange what exactly are you trying to do?
Is this person truly a connection that you hope to hear from or a connection that you can help?
If that doesn’t appear to be a possibility then what is happening here, accidentally’ are you devaluing yourself as a professional connection?

I then considered the importance of follow through.

If the connection would appear to be strategically valuable to both of you then how should you engage? There is the additional ritual beyond the business card exchange that would suggest some type of connectivity via social media platforms. So my question became: how will this business card exchange convert into the key social capital of ‘know like & trust’?

Beginning with Mark Twain’s effort to sell the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, two important contributions to sales as we know it emerged. First Twain understood one of the most critical elements in the psychology of sales: People buy from people that they know, like & trust.”

Know like & trust is attributed to Mark Twain & the key currency, the most valuable currency you can use in your network of connections is that people:

  • Know you
  • I would not necessarily say they have to like you; it helps if they do not dislike you
  • Certainly trust your competence

Now here is the question. Beyond the casual exchange of stationary & the click of a button on the Internet how do we begin the journey of creating these three assets? The argument is that if you are unlikely to create those three assets, regardless of the circumstances of your exchanging cards then the paper business card ritual will not take your sales effort a step further!

Download FREE ebook - Strategic Networking

Learn how to build a network of connections to meet
the strategic & immediate needs of your enterprise.

If we are trying to make more sales via our connections then the importance of evaluation of connections becomes a priority as this is no longer a numbers game. The evaluation is:

Are you truly a valuable connection for that person?

If you are not it is highly questionable whether the connection will do anything apart from become yet another meaningless commercial connection in a sea of them. The second part of the evaluation is that if they are a valuable connection for you:

How do you escalate the relationship in a professional manner?

To do that is not easy in essentially the time poor environment that we are all working in. If we take more time to evaluate our new connection opportunities it would release the time to truly focus on the connections that make a difference.

The paper business card exchange has to be linked to return on investment.

5next shared a small article called ‘Pareto squared’. It questioned some typical business development thinking that 80% of our success comes from 20% of our effort. I also question that those ratios are accurate for SaaS as it is a sophisticated offer. It requires evaluation from the potential purchaser & the only evaluation that most purchases are able to do with any confidence is price comparison. If your offer is evaluated only on price then there is only one journey & that is the route to the bottom!

This sector has been described as actually 80% of the 80% which is 64%
That 64% is generated by 20% of the 20% which is 4%

So 4% of your actions generate 64% of your revenue is possibly closer to the business development return in this sector than the Pareto model.

Constantly evaluation regarding ‘Return on Investment’ on connections is critical because unfortunately activity & enthusiasm for that activity can mislead. Measuring the number of business cards &/or brochures given out is not a measure of potential client acquisition. The paper business card may not be dead but unless it is linked to evaluation exchanging it is certainly dead time.

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Are business cards dead? Build a network of connection that support your sales.
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Are business cards dead? Build a network of connection that support your sales.
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I recently attended a John R. Spence workshop regarding networking. He is a regular speaker of this at ASBIRO, recently at Wyszyński University & on the 8th April at the Kozmiński University. At this event he was taking feedback from the floor regarding the question: ‘How important it is to exchange business cards’?
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5next
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Aleksander Góra
Aleksander Góra
Aleksander is co-founder & CEO of 5next. He is the author of Open Heart Website Surgery - An ultimate guide for leads generation for medium and small businesses. Featured in Rafael Dos Santos book - "100 Inspirational Migrant Entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom." Aleksander is also a product manager and Lead UX Designer in one of the leading conversion optimisation platforms Convertize.io
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