In the years that I’ve been networking, I’ve noticed a practice that I once used myself. In retrospect it seems kind of strange. I would be at a Chamber lunch or a member reception — the exact event wasn’t particularly important. I had just met someone and had a nice, short conversation with them. They would politely ask for my card.
I would hand them two.
Someone somewhere had told me that this was a good idea. After all, that way they would have one for themselves and one for someone else, right?
Let’s think that through.
A referral by its very nature is the act whereby one person effectively lends another person their reputation. If I tell you that Bob Smith is a great accountant and you decide to use him, you are doing so because you trust my judgment. If Bob screws up your taxes. Not only do you distrust Bob, but my reputation becomes tarnished.
So what are the chances that someone you just met and spoke with for a total of five minutes is going to be willing to lend you their reputation?
Now, after you’ve met for coffee a time or two and you wait until they ask, then you can pass them two cards (and when I say “they ask” I mean they specifically ask for more than one card). Remember, passing more than one card implies that you are expecting that other person to refer business to you. If your relationship isn’t at that level yet, then you are only succeeding in making them uncomfortable and that’s not good networking practice.
So, keep the extra cards in your pocket. Your printer might not thank you, but everyone else will.
The only thing worse is when someone I just met gives me a PILE of business cards. I often wonder if their boss is counting their cards at the end of the day to see if they gave enough out.
So, how do you deal with someone who does that? Do you just smile stiffly and wait for them to turn their back so you can dump the cards in the nearest trash receptacle?