"Never hand out your business cards just willy-nilly -that is a waste of money. Pass your business cards out only to those who ask you for one -- you get them to ask you for yours by asking for one of their business cards first!"
Using this idea, here is a simple 7 step way to make using your business cards one of most effective ways to build a great network of business contacts and friends.
1. When you meet someone, at a network gathering, business meeting, social gathering, or on the street; after you say hello and engage in little conversation, always ask them for their business card. They will be delighted that you asked and proud to give it to you. After this it will be very natural for them to ask you for yours, but if they do not ask, never offer it. When you think about it, putting your card in the face of someone who did not ask would be perceived as being a little pushy at this point. But not to worry, you still have their card and so you can still stay in contact with them. 2. When you receive their card, always thank them for it. Read over what it says front and back. Ask them any questions that genuinely interests you about them or their business after you have looked over their card. Make sure all the contact information is there: name, business name, phone number, address, and email. If there is a piece of information that is missing, ask them for it so that you can add it to the card. 3. Ask them for their permission to contact them. It is good professional manners to ask their permission, even though it is assumed that they would want you to contact them. It is a way of being respectful and you will be remembered for it. 4. When and if they ask you for your card, politely hand them one of yours and be ready to respond to any questions that they may have. If you have coined your own "opener" then this might be a good time to use it. However, never try to sell them anything at this point unless they flat out tell you they want to buy something from you. Remember, the reason why they asked you for your card was probably more out of politeness because you had asked for theirs. There is no need to go into selling mode here, you really only want to connect with the person at this point. 5. Within 24-48 hours send them a direct-mail note or e-mail to show appreciation.