Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Keep the Ball in Your Court

Andy Ellwood’s secret to success
By doing this, not only has Ellwood gotten the information of a lead, but also ensured that he will have a second meeting to continue to build a relationship.

There is a common philosophy regarding situations where networking or business dealings can occur. Bring as many business cards as you can and spread them out to as many people as possible. Maybe, just maybe, with all the information out there, you will snag a sale. Although this philosophy makes a lot of sense, Andy Ellwood, a contributor at Forbes Magazine, thinks otherwise. In an article called, “Why I Only Carry One Business Card”, he explains why — you guessed it — he only carries one business card. Many of us, who network frequently, balk at this idea. What? How will people I talk to get my information? How will they contact me? The answer is deceptively simple. You will contact them. By only bringing one card, you force possible connections to give you their information, thus ensuring that the proverbial ball stays in your proverbial court.

In the article, Ellwood explains that to execute this, you must make the emphasis on building a relationship and then following through with your promises. He says, “When I walk into an event, I give my lone business card to the first person I meet. I’ve given it to valets, coat checkers, receptionists and bartenders before.” When the time comes to exchange information, Ellwood confesses that he already has given away his last card and then asks for the information of the person to whom he is speaking. He then stores that information and promises to contact them in the next few days. By doing this, not only has Ellwood gotten the information of a lead, but also ensured that he will have a second meeting to continue to build a relationship.

This strategy is pretty genius. It allows for you to network, build relationships and also establish value by making yourself appear to be in high demand. However, this may not always work, and it’s important to determine what situations call for this type of interaction and what situations may cause you to look unprofessional and unprepared by deploying this move.

As a sales rep, you have many responsibilities. Those responsibilities range from one-on-one meetings to conferences to job fairs. In this article we will help you determine when it’s best to be prepared with all your business related materials, and when it’s better to play it cool to ensure that you can be in control of the situation.

The One-on-One

In this type of meeting, it is absolutely necessary to have all possible business related materials on your person. Since you are not networking, but pitching your services to a possible client, being without information will not only come off as unprepared, you will also look unprofessional. So, make sure any folders or other items you might bring with you to a meeting are jam-packed with any contact information your possible client may need. It is important in these situations to both take the lead, but also demonstrate to your prospective clients that they have a say as well. Any interaction you have with them must contain a level of reciprocity.

The Meet and Greet

For networking purposes, the meet and greet can’t be beat. It allows you to mingle with others in the business and share both industry secrets and contact information. Although you may pick up a number of leads at this type of event, it is important to not only follow through with those leads, but also show that you are in control. This is the perfect type of event to deploy Ellwood’s strategy of carrying only one business card. Not only will the absence of cards make you look like the most popular person in the room, but you also have the ability to make sure that you get the contact information that you need from your leads. This will also allow you to set up a time to call back, ensuring that your contact with your leads will not end at the meet and greet.

The Conference

While conferences are essentially glorified meet and greets, you may still want to have extra copies of your business card, as conferences will likely span multiple days. Many conference goers will expect you to have contact information on you and failure to do so may result with possible clients having an unprofessional opinion of you. Conferences, however, often have extracurricular activities that range from wine tastings to karaoke nights. The extracurricular events or fun nights at the conference are the ideal time to “run out” of cards and simply make plans to discuss possible deals or further business partnerships. By saving this strategy for the appropriate time, you allow yourself to come off as professional and put together during the day, but sought after and successful at night. It’s a win-win.

The Spontaneous Sale

You may have to attend community events or other types of non-professional gatherings. While it’s great to be prepared, in this case, it’s important to take it case-by-case. Use your best judgment about when to say, “You know what, I left my business cards at home,” or, “Sure! I’d love to exchange information!” Generally, the tone of the conversation and the type of community event should help be an indicator. If you’re at a job fair or another professional event, it may be more appropriate to have the information, whereas, a more family-oriented even can excuse unpreparedness and also give you the opportunity for a casual follow up.

While these guidelines can help you navigate the nuances of professional and social interaction in regards to your contact information, it is still important to judge every situation as an individual event. Ellwood’s idea only covers one way to navigate these situations, and while it is well thought out, lacking the necessary items when you really need them could cause you to lose clients. So, for safety’s sake, carry a handful of business cards wherever you go, just hand them out strategically with Ellwood’s strategy in mind.