I Threw Away All the Business Cards on my Desk: Now What?

I had a few people who made the comment, “OK, I have thrown all the business cards away that were on my desk, now what do I do?” or “Now that all my cards are in the trash, where do I get more leads?” Another comment came from an associate of mine, “I did what you said and threw all my business cards away!”. I of course reminded him that this is not what I said at all. Thinking about it now I realize this may not have been such a bad idea for him… I have been in his office a few times and I know half the cards on his desk are over a year old! What if anything can business cards which you have had on your desk for over one year, most likely not followed up on at all, do for you now?

Ideally we have all removed our business card collection from our desk or at the very least are working through the stack by calling, making connections, adding them to our data base and slowly throwing those business cards away. I know this week I had some great conversations and reacquainted myself with those people behind the business cards! In fact right now I am skipping the first day at Blog World Expo just to catch up on calls. I have been regretting this decision at times today but the reality is following up with contacts is more important to me.

You are not alone if you threw away all of the business cards on your desk! Many people realize the cards on their desk were just too old to follow up on. The next step is to change how you follow up with them in the future! In my previous post, 7 Steps to Follow Up Success, I discussed my approach to following up with new contacts I meet at networking events, chamber mixers, trade shows, and expos. I also just read another great article by C.J. Hayden in the Entrepreneurs Blog section of About.com titled A Pocket Full of Business Cards. C.J. offers another perspective on following up with new contacts.

My challenge to you is to attend a networking event this week, collect new business cards, and implement the 7 Steps to Follow Up Success with them. Just don’t start another business card collection!

Why are you collecting business cards on your desk?

Today I was sitting at my desk scouring the internet looking for the allusive driver for my laptop which I had just wiped and reloaded with Windows XP.  Between what seemed to be hundreds of downloads trying one driver after another I was frightened by a small stack of business cards which seemed to be accumulating on my desk.

You know that stack of business cards that seems to grow and grow by your stapler, next to your pen cup, at the corner of your desk, or possibly a neatly 3 inch stack under your monitor…  Depending on your networking and social activities you can easily add another inch to your stack every month!  If you are anything like I used to be, this stack moves into some type of container or drawer.  Eventually all these business cards will end up in a box to be saved forever or at least until you find the box and realize you have business cards from people you met one time at a networking event three years ago whom you have never contacted.   Unless of course you have some strange desire to sell them on ebay 20 years from now there is no point in this.

Don’t worry you can save yourself from this tragedy!  How do you do it?  First look at the cards on your desk.  Is there 25, 50, or 250 business cards?  Using 50 for an example quickly look at each one and decide if this is someone you would like to connect with to explore a more meaningful relationship.  Once this is completed pick up the phone and explain to the contact your new found mission!  At this point you might be thinking to yourself mission, what mission?  The mission is to not collect business cards, keep them on your desk for months, and then finally years later throw them away.  Why not call them and say something like “Hi Alan, we met last month and a networking event and I have decided to take a new approach on the business cards I collect.  What I would like to know is how I might help you in your business?”  Or you can say something like I discussed in my previous post “I have to talk to the person again?”.

Imagine what you can create by simply engaging the people whom you have collected all these cards!  Jordan Adler, a networking master and expert in collecting business cards talks about the value of one business card in his recent book Beach Money.  Jordan Adler discusses how he turns one little square piece of paper into thousands of dollars.  How much business could you expect from one lifetime customer?  The answer will depend on your type of business.  In the book he asked a group this same question and the answers ranged from $2,000 to $300,000.  Jordan believes when he collects 100 business cards it is his job is to turn some of them into lifelong customers.  Each time he takes action the chances of one or more of those business card contacts turning into lifelong a customer increases.  Examples of actions to take are making a quick phone call, sending a greeting card, buying each person lunch, sending a gift, sending the contact business, staying in touch, and with some contacts doing all of these things.  So what is the lifetime value of YOUR customer?  Jordan does not look at a business card as just a card.  He looks at them like $100 and $1,000 bills.  Would you ignore $100 bills stacked up 3 inches high on your desk? 

Simply commit to call 3 or 4 of these cards each day until the stack is gone.  Once you have made this connection add these people into some kind of database.  You can use Outlook, ACT!, GoldMine, salesforce.com, or even index cards.  The database you choose is not important.  What is important is that you take notes on what you talked about and add them to your database for future reference, referrals, or business opportunities.  Once these cards are in your database THROW THEM AWAY or GIVE THEM AWAY!  Just don’t leave them sitting on your desk.

Please… Stop Going to Networking Events!

Last week I spent a day making my fourth contact with people I met at a networking event the previous month. It was a great event filled with what seemed to be highly motivated professionals who truly wanted to grow their business and referrals. The strange thing is 90% of the people have yet to make a single contact with me. Should I take this personally? Maybe I present myself in a bad way or don’t say the right things. Could it be that most people simply don’t followup after a networking event? The question that comes to mind is why would you go to a networking event, meet 20 new contacts, and not followup? What is the point of that?

It reminds me of a conversation I had recently with Bob Civello owner of Smarter Small Business. I met Bob at the same networking event I was following up on from last month. He made an off handed remark at a later meeting about the lack of any followup after networking events. Bob estimated in the last two years he has attended over 50 business expos, tradeshows, and networking events. Bob has shook hands with over 2,000 people at these events. With that many people I would think at least half of them did some kind of followup. I mean how hard is it to followup with an email or a phone call?  I outlined my followup process in my post 7 Steps to Follow Up Success.

Sadly the rest of the story is only 14 people did any kind of followup. 14 out of 2,000! If you are one of the 1,986 people my hope is you are reading this! The part to really think about here is at this point Robert has so much value on followup that he is very open to meeting with anyone who engages him after the event. He knows if a new contact actually follows up they are well worth adding to his network. Imagine how easy it would be to stand out to Robert… Simply picking up the phone or sending an email would give you the opportunity to connect, make a true new contact, and create a new referral source.

I think most businesses and sales professionals want to stand out from their competition. It seems with Roberts experience it could be as simple as just picking up the phone and reconnecting.

Making New Contacts: 1 contact or 250?

Yesterday I talked about the value of networking and how it can be so much more than just business, contacts, and referrals. Each day you are given the opportunity to meet and connect with new people. Last night as my friend and I walked into his surprise 50th birthday party I had a great feeling. How cool was it for him to stroll into what he thought was going to be a small gathering of people and to his surprise see 100 of his closest friends, clients, and family.  It was a great time full of laughs, food, and of course cake! Throughout the evening more people seemed to be stopping in. I knew a few of these people but many I did not. Everyone knew my friend, everyone knew, liked, and trusted him. Seeing all these people celebrating in my friend’s birthday reminded of the Law of 250.

What is the law of 250? The law of 250 has been talked about my many of the best marketers including Joe Girard. Girard is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Greatest Salesman. World’s Greatest Salesman, there has got to be something to be learned from him! Girard sold more cars than 95% of all the dealerships in North America. He did this not just for one year but for 10 plus years! How did Joe do it? Girard believed in the law of 250 and knew if he could get everybody he made contact with to refer him into their network of friends, family, and colleagues that he could multiply his marketing efforts by 250. Michael McLaughlin the coauthor of Guerrilla Marketing for Consultants, trusted advice on successful consulting from the authors of the bestselling Guerrilla Marketing series goes in more depth on the law of 250 in his Guerrilla Consulting blog.

Everyone one of us have close friends in our life. If it was your 50th birthday who would you invite to attend? Who would you want to celebrate with? These are the people who are in your network of 250. These are the people that know, like, and trust you. You have a choice with each new person you meet; you can count them as one or invest in the relationship and tap into 250.

Networking: New Clients, Prospects, Referrals, and Lifelong Friends

Friday night I spent some time at a good friend’s house. My friend is turning 50 today and I have been tasked with keeping him out of the house while his wife gets things ready for a small gathering of friends. Still not sure what I am going to do for three hours but I am confident we can figure out something!

This morning I was thinking about where this friendship started. We first met through a networking group called LeTip. Each week we saw each other for a few hours and then would go on to the rest of our day. Early on we chatted and he let me know someone he knew represented my company and if he decided to use my service he would use them. I mention this because I really had written this person off in regards to networking. I was still nice, talked to him, and looked for ways to refer him, but I had zero expectations of ever receiving referrals or business from him.

Networking for me is not about what I can get from someone, it is about what I can give. Each time you give someone a referral, help someone through a business challenge, or connect two contacts together without expecting anything in return you are giving. Ivan Misner the founder of BNI often talks about this with his givers gain philosophy. The theory here is if you are always looking for ways to support your network then in turn your network will support you with business, contacts, and referrals. Ivan also talks about this in his new book The 29% Solution, 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies in week 5 and has a recent article about the book on his Networking Now blog on entrepreneur.com.

I really live this givers gain philosophy in all areas of my life. So many examples of wonderful things coming to me when I have least expected it. One of them is the lifelong friend who I have the pleasure in celebrating his life and birthday today.

Making Life SWEETER than you Ever Imagined

So did you meet someone new over the long weekend? Striking up a conversation with someone you have never met or reconnecting with someone you have met previously is pretty simple right? Now what? What do I do with this new contact or new person I connected with? Many times I have met a new person or made a new contact at a social event and felt pretty good about the connection. Many times I have thought to myself “wow, that person is really great and I would love to meet with that person again!” More often than I care to admit the relationship has ended just as fast as it has started.

It does not have to be that way! You can change this so easily! Simply call the person and let them know you enjoyed talking to them and would like to take them to lunch or coffee. You can also email new contacts or mail them a nice to meet you greeting card. Do which ever feels right but make sure you take some action to keep the relationship going! If you did not get the persons contact information it’s ok! Just call the host and let them know you really connected with someone at the party and would like to get their information. Remember you have NOTHING to lose by taking this action! NOTHING!!

Over the weekend I received a great QuoteAction that reminded me of this process and why I tend to shy away from this action. Here is the quote:

“I will guarantee you that the day you step outside your comfort zone by making success your goal is the day you discover that adversity, risk, and daring will make life sweeter then you ever imagined.”

-Mark Burnett, Founder of the Eco Challenge

Your action for today is to do something that is outside of your comfort zone.

So what do you think? Is it worth stepping out of your comfort zone to add a new relationship that might just propel your business or network to a new level?

Labor Day: Family, Friends, Food, Networking?

At some point today most people in the United States will be hosting or heading off to some type of social event for the holiday. It’s a great opportunity to see family, friends, and meet potential new customers. Don’t get me wrong I am not suggesting you should consider your friends party as a business networking event however I am recommending that you meet someone new if possible. Go ahead and strike up a conversation with the person you have never met or reconnect with someone you met previously. You just never know where those relationships will go.

If you are the host for today’s party think about picking up the phone and inviting a few of your best customers or vendors. (It may be too late for today depending on your relationship, but you never know) Inviting customers and vendors to a relaxing party with your family and friends is a great opportunity to improve on your relationship.

It’s not just about Labor Day! Think about this for all parties and events you may attend in the coming months. Each day we have many chances to meet and connect with new people. We just need to be open to explore the opportunities that are placed in front of us. Enjoy your day!

Landing the next BIG client: Just a Flip of the Coin?

Today I was thinking about some of my large sales successes. The high of landing a large account can really begin an unstoppable momentum in your sales journey.

I have always been in sales and marketing and have had many great highs. A large amount of my super highs have come from landing large accounts. One I often think about is Bi-Lo, a 220 store grocery chain based in South Carolina.

I remember like it was yesterday… I had been working with the buyer for over 5 months, flying back and forth from San Diego to Greenville, South Carolina too many times to count. At the time we were a relatively small entertainment distributor at about $10 million in sales and I was competing against 5 other vendors ranging in size from $100 million to just shy of $1 billion. Just who did I think I was competing against these goliath companies? Blind to anything that may have been in my way! I had lost count on how many times I had followed up via email, phone calls, letters, and notes trying to close the sale.

One of the last times I followed up I finally had the buyer on the phone. He stated it was between me and two of my largest competitors. I asked him where he was leaning and his exact response was “I don’t know Alan, it’s really a flip of a coin!”… A FLIP OF A COIN?!?! I was so taken back by that comment at first but then quickly started thinking about what I could do… OK, a flip of a coin… I can take care of that!

The following day I sent a coin Next Day Air with our company logo engraved on each side with a note that said “Here is the coin to use when you are ready !” The next week I received the call letting me know our company was awarded the contract! My consistent followup was a major factor in landing the account and I also know the coin pushed my buyer over the edge in my direction. For more creative follow up ideas check out Scott Ginsberg’s article 7 (more) Unforgettable Follow-Up Strategies.

How many times have you been presented with a challenge at some point in the sale? Are you listening for the opportunities to take that one extra step? I find a lot of times in the sales process it comes down to a few companies and the customer goes with the company that feels right… Look for those opportunities to insure you stand out amongst your competitors and realize sometimes it just comes down to a flip of a coin.

Savoring the Investment IN a Relationship

This morning I was up very early and decided I wanted a cup of coffee. My first thought was to take a quick shower, grab my laptop, and head over to my local Starbucks. As I was getting out of bed I realized I wanted something different… I really just wanted to enjoy a cup of coffee outside in the cool morning air. Some of you reading this may know I am a goal oriented, multi tasking, crazy scheduled, always going in multiple directions type of person so getting ready and starting my day running is pretty normal for me.

Something about this morning, at this moment was a bit different… I was looking for a different approach or a different experience this morning. It hit me… where is that French Press that I used to love making coffee with? As I entered my kitchen in search for my lost press I started to remember why I love it! Boiling the water, grinding the coffee, pouring the hot water over the coffee, letting it sit for a few minutes, finally pressing the plunger down to pour my perfect cup of coffee. Sitting outside I realized why I love this process so much.

So what the heck does this have to do with followup and why would I post my morning coffee experience here? Well as I was sipping my coffee listening to the morning sounds I realized how the process of my morning cup of coffee is very similar to the process of followup. It’s not always about the quick cup of coffee or the quick meeting of a new prospect. It’s about the process! When I take the time to really get to know a person, learning about them and their business, I get to enjoy the result.

Following up and building relationships is just like making the perfect cup of coffee. When we take the time and go through the entire process we can enjoy the result.

Tomorrow is the start to a brand new week. I might just start with another perfect cup of coffee.

The Thank You Card: Personal Nicety, Business Necessity? or Both?

Can closing YOUR next million dollar deal really be as easy as sending a thank you card?

I was really going back on fourth on today’s post. I kept thinking I just posted about following up with greeting cards last week. This step is so important that I had to write about it. You just spent your valuable time connecting with a new referral source or possible client. Of course you know you should send a thank you card. So why do so few sales people and business professionals send them?

I decided to discuss how some of us justify skipping this step. Here are the common reasons and myths that I hear from people who skip writing thank you cards and notes:

They say things like I have poor handwriting, no time, do not know what to say, no value, and the best is cards and notes do not make any difference.

To add a little flavor and honesty to this post as well as shattering the above… No one cares how bad your handwriting is! As long as I can read it, I appreciate it! Every time I receive a note or card it makes a positive statement. Time should not be an issue! Either keep cards on hand for every occasion or use an exceptional service like SendOutCards. Don’t know what to say? Start by saying thank you for their time, mention something you talked about during your meeting, and end with something like, you are looking forward to talking or helping them in the near future. The value of a personal note or greeting card and whether or not they make a difference is very well documented.

Personally I have closed millions in sales that can be traced back to a simple follow up card. The next time you are in a competitive sales environment and win the business ask your new client why they chose you or your company. Many times I have heard “well, you were the only one to send a thank you card and that showed me you valued our business!” Thank you cards work!

Happy card sending…