By Lydia Ramsey
Business cards are a staple of business success. Nevertheless, I am constantly amazed by how few professionals pay attention to the etiquette of exchanging cards. These are the very same people who seek information about the rules of networking, making positive first impressions, and dressing for success. You may know how to work a crowd with ease, offer an impressive handshake, and dress with finesse, but if you don't know the fine points of giving and receiving business cards, all the rest can be a waste of time and effort.
Following are 10 basic rules to follow for the profitable and productive exchange of business cards:
- Never leave your home or office without your cards and plenty of them. There is nothing more unprofessional than the business person who has to say, “Oh, I'm sorry. I just gave out my last card.” or “I'm sorry. I didn't bring any with me.”
- Keep your cards in a business card case or in something that protects them from wear and tear. A crumpled business card makes a poor first impression.
- Know where your business cards are at all times. The person who has to go through every jacket and pants pocket or every nook and cranny of a briefcase to find those business cards loses credibility immediately.
- Hand them out with discretion. Those people who believe in doling cards out in multiples of 12 send a message that their cards aren't worth much.
- Give and receive cards with your right hand—the hand of discretion. This can make a big difference when doing business internationally.
- Present the card so the person who is receiving it can read it without having to turn it around.
- Always make a comment about a card when you receive it. Note the logo, the business name or some other piece of information. This shows that you place value on the card.
- Keep your business cards up to date. When any of your contact information changes; run, don't walk, to your nearest printer for new cards. It is substandard business etiquette to hand out cards on which you have crossed off an old phone number and written in the new one.
- Don't write notes to yourself on someone else's business card during the exchange unless they appear relevant. For example, if someone asks me to send a copy of my book, Manners That Sell, it makes perfect sense to write “Send book” on the back of that card. However, that would not be the time to write “good lead to ABC organization” on the card. I do that later and out of sight.
- Avoid appearing aggressive with business cards. Wait to be asked for yours. If that isn't happening, ask the other person for a card. Reciprocity generally follows.
Knowing the rules of business card etiquette is just one more way to add the polish that builds profits. Here's to better business card etiquette!
About the Author(s)
Lydia Ramsey is a business etiquette expert, professional speaker, and corporate trainer. She is the author of Manners That Sell—Adding the Polish that Builds Profits. For more information, visit lydiaramsey.com