I meet a lot of entrepreneurs.
Some knowingly, by nature of the fact that as a serial entrepreneur I engage with like-minded people often, and others by happenstance -- while traveling, shopping, at events, and at local coffee shops.
Inevitably, I've learned a lot along the way and through observation of "entrepreneurs in the wild."
One of the most distinct behaviors I've observed is that of "newbie" entrepreneurs and the wild abandonment that accompanies networking -- and a tendency to dole out business cards like raffle tickets.
It's in these moments that I remember what it was like when I was first started a business. And while I know better today, I didn't always.
For example, I would tell anybody with an ear and a pulse about how I had started a business. I was blissfully ignorant to the idea that not everyone was interested in my heroic story or what I was selling. But, through experience I thankfully learned why I shouldn't hand my business card to everyone with a pulse -- at least not so quickly.
So, before you hand out one more business card consider this:
1. Never fail to qualify.
Before you hand out another business card, qualify. This simply means: Is the person you're attempting to connect with a potential buyer (target audience)? Are they remotely interested in what you're selling?
Start by developing a dialogue that is meant to qualify sales leads. It shouldn't be scripted or impersonal, but it should help you meet your objectives.
Yes. It's methodical. But unless you're in business for the "fun of it" and don't really concern yourself with "a profit motive," it's wise to be thoughtful in your approach.
If your business model requires low levels of customer interaction, with a short sales cycle -- the way you network and connect with potential buyers will be different from that of an organization with a longer sales cycle and high-touch (involvement) opportunities.
2. Build a semblance of a connection.
Imagine if I walked up to you, announced my title, and handed you my business card and said, "Call me."
In general, this type of interaction is deemed impersonal and off-putting. While this approach may work at a sporting event or convention, it's important to assess the situation and if time permits -- attempt to build a smidge of a connection, instead.
Sure! You can play the numbers game and shoot proverbial arrows in the dark (hoping to hit your target) -- for some business models it may make sense. However, the truth remains. Business is about building relationships.
Once a quick connection is built, then engage and offer: "We should keep in touch; can I give you my business card?
3. Never beg for a sale.
Do you truly understand the value of your company's offering?
If you did then you wouldn't beg for one more sale or hand over a business card to someone who is not at all interested.
Believe me. If you have to beg them to buy you'll have to convince them to stay. And that sale could easily turn into the customer from hell.
Truthfully, high maintenance customers can curtail your profit and give your team insomnia. In reality, if I have to lead you to water and force, manipulate or compel you to drink, our business relationship has become unproductive and unprofitable.
Many successful entrepreneurs realize that "sacrificing revenue is inconceivable to many business owners. But dealing with difficult clients can end up costing much more than the money they bring in."
"Bad clients happen to good people. If you find yourself faced with a client from hell, join the club. Every small business person I've dealt with and counseled has a war story to tell. But understand that you do not have to tolerate it," says John Ghegan, COO at Willman & Co., a Jacksonville-based advertising and public relations agency.
Great business relationships are built upon mutual respect and the fulfillment of a need. If you know the value you bring the table you're less likely to beg for a sale and more selective about who receives your business card.