Imagine handing your business card to someone at a networking event and having it handed back to you with, “Thanks, but I don’t need your card.” How would you respond in this situation?
Business Card Etiquette
- I do not recommend giving someone your business card right away when you first meet them. I would wait until after you have had a good conversation with them. Listen to them talk about their business. Ask questions about how you could help them. Then, ask yourself if you believe that you have made a good connection. Think about if you can help their business, or if they can help you with your business. Decide if you are willing to build a strong relationship with them. If yes, I recommend asking the person if they would like to receive your business card because unsolicited cards are rarely kept.
- A business card is a tacit invitation to make a future connection. How you handle that connection afterward will determine how responsive your new contact will be. So be respectful with what you do after someone gives you their card. Set a date to follow up with them. Find their preferred method to be contacted, then use it.
- You should always have plenty of business cards with you when networking. It still amazes me that people go to networking events and knowingly don’t bring cards with them. Bring business cards. It is a “networking” event.
- Just passing out your cards and collecting cards from others at a networking event is not networking — it’s card collecting — which is not a profitable way to build your business. Networking is about having conversations with people and making good enough connections that you can actually follow up with people. If you don’t make a meaningful connection, you might as well still be cold calling, no matter how many business cards you collect.
- It is good manners to ask permission to add someone’s email to your distribution list. Unsolicited emails are rarely kept and can quickly lead to your email address being registered as spam. If you did not request the email newsletter, then reply with a request to be unsubscribed from their distribution list. If they ignore your request, use your spam filter. I use it regularly with unwanted emails.
Refusing to take someone’s offered card is just plain bad manners. What do you do if this happens to you? Realize that some people just have little or no people skills and move on to someone who does.