Using Business Card Etiquette to Build Sales

Barbara Weltman Business cards grew out of the custom of leaving visiting cards when making social calls. Starting in the 19th century, business cards were carried by anyone with business to conduct.

Basic etiquette
Presenting. Having cards doesn’t mean you can properly shove them in people’s faces. There’s a time and place for handing them out. In the United States, business card exchanges usually follow personal introductions and conversation at business functions. Business cards can be a parting gesture rather than a way to facilitate introductions. Handing out a business card at social functions is poor form unless one is requested. Hand the card face up, so that the recipient can easily read it. Don’t use cards that have information that’s incorrect or crossed out – both leave a bad impression. Always have a supply of cards on hand. Come prepared to networking events and conferences so you won’t run short. Keep the cards in a convenient place, such as your pocket, where they’re easy to find. Receiving. When handed a card, take time to peruse it, making sure you know the pronunciation of the person’s name and company. Since the person has given you a card, make clear that you take it as an invitation to follow up with contact in the future.

Foreign customs If you do business with foreign companies, make sure you know their customs. There’s often a pecking order for exchanging business cards, with the most senior executive extending his or her card first. But in China, for example, presenting your card first is not viewed as impolite. If you frequently do business with a particular country outside the United States, it may be advisable to use bi-lingual business cards. Reprint your information in the other country’s language on the reverse side of your card.

Using cards for future marketing efforts What do you typically do with cards you collect? If they sit in piles on your desk, you’ve wasted valuable contact information. Here are some suggestions for maximizing the use of business cards:

  • Enter information in your computer and toss the card. Maintain a contact list and revisit it on a regular basis. You may meet someone with whom you see no immediate opportunities, but think there may be some future potential; make a note in your contact information about how you foresee future business.
  • Follow up with anyone you’ve promised to get back to. The longer you delay, the greater the chance that the person will forget your meeting and what was discussed.
  • Toss cards that have been handed to you but in which you have no interest. If they take up space, you’ll waste time wading through them when you want to find a serious prospect.

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