Business cards still important sales tools

We sales people spend a lot of time talking about “sales tools”. More to the point, many sales people spend a lot of time complaining and whining about the lack of sales tools (or the lack of perceived quality of our sales tools) that our bosses provide us. When we talk about this, we’re talking about brochures, pretty folders, PowerPoint presentations and other fluff such as coloured lights and brass bands that salespeople hope will sell for them.

The truth is that all the brochures, sell sheets and presentations in the world are at best a distant third in the ranking of your sales tools. Numero uno is you. And that’s far ahead of any of the others. But let’s talk about sales tool number two.

This is far behind you in importance, but far ahead of number three. You should have it with you at all times. It’s the lowly business card. How do we make it something that really works as a sales tool?

First of all, let’s remind ourselves of why we use business cards:

* Business cards identify us – a business card is a very quick way to ‘place us’ in the business world. In a very small piece of heavy paper, we convey who we are, what we do and for whom we do it. We also let people know how to get hold of us.
Go to a networking event and you’ll meet a bunch of people. You’ll also collect a bunch of business cards. You may forget the faces – but the cards remind you of the people.
Business cards are the best leave-behind: Sales people love ‘leave-behinds’, those fancy brochures and packets that are supposed to remind our customers of why they should buy from us. About four out of every five of those brochures are in the trash before you make it out of the parking lot – but your business card is saved and filed. That means your business card is usually your only meaningful leave-behind. It’s also why you shouldn’t attach your card to stuff that’s likely to be thrown away.

* Business cards give us credibility – they establish you as a legitimate businessperson. They begin the process of establishing that you are what you say you are, and can do what you say you can do. And in sales, credibility is our main asset.

Make it work
With all that, it’s pretty easy to see that business cards are vital to a salesperson’s personality, but there are some easy ways to go right and wrong with them:

* Quality, quality and more quality – this speaks to credibility. A quality business card is a good business card. Quality means nice, heavy card stock, sharp printing and nice layout. Hand out a card made with some of those stock templates that come with the Microsoft products, printed on cheap detachable cards that they sell at the office supply store, and you lack credibility.

A good business card from a reputable printer only costs $100 or so for a thousand. If that is too much to spend in order to protect your image, get out of sales. And by the way, if your company supplies you with cheap, flimsy cards it’s still on you to get nice ones. It’s your career.

* Distinctive is good, up to a point – one sales author I like and respect believes strongly in the distinctive business card. In fact, his is a large coin. It’s distinctive as heck, and his philosophy is that people remember it (and you) and take care of it. I liked that philosophy for a long time.

The trouble is, I lost his coin-card. Since it wouldn’t fit with the rest of my card files, it ended up as part of the ‘stuff’ that rolled around my top desk drawer. Apparently, at some point it became part of the stuff that I cleaned out of my desk. The moral of the story? Distinctive is good, but remember what your customer is going to do with your card. My best advice is to stay within the same size as other cards.

* Be appropriate – the design of your card should reflect what you do. For instance, a card with an elaborate design and a riot of colours would be perfect for a printer or graphic designer, but a disaster for a financial planner. Make sure the design of your card conveys the image you want to convey.

* Include appropriate information – have you ever pulled out a card and tried to figure out exactly what the person (or company) does? Me too. So many companies have vague or similar names and that can make it hard to place you in the business world (and that, remember, is one of our objectives). If yours is like that, include a bullet point or tag line somewhere that says what you do for a living.

* Make it easy to contact you – in a recent online poll of Kansas City Small Business Monthly readers, over 60% of respondents indicated that email is their favourite means of communication (over methods including telephone and face-to-face contact). Yet about one third of the business cards I see have no email address on them. Why not? If you’re worried about spam, it’s too late. You’re probably getting it, regardless of your business card design.
Whether you know it or not, your business card is far more important than any brochure or presentation tool – in fact, in many cases, it’s all you have. Make it a good one.

By Troy Harrison for OPI.
Harrison is the author of Sell Like You Mean It! and a speaker, consultant and sales navigator.

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