Why I never hand out business cards

For a lot of people, business cards and the more modern equivalents like direct messaging and social media are vital to make connections. Here's why I never hand out mine.

When I was starting out in business, I became fixated on collecting business cards. Yep, those little bits of cardboard that would sit in your bag or in a pocket before being thrown away.

Not by me. Business cards were my secret weapon.

It happened when I realised adding value instead of adding clients was the key to making millions.

So when I networked, I figured out how to get, and not give, business cards.

I didn’t want to hand someone my details and wait for them to maybe call me, maybe not.

I wanted to have them on my desk so I had the opportunity to contact people, start a conversation, say let’s do business. So I had the opportunity to build a relationship.

My mission was to value add rather than convert. It’s the old story. Two axemen are in a race to chop down trees. One person takes an axe and starts chopping immediately. The other takes the time to sharpen the axe before starting to chop.

The second person wins the race.

The significant difference is one is an implementation and the other an investment and an asset. One might get you income. The second will get you an asset that produces income.

It’s the secret to wealth creation.

Sharon Pearson

To me, business cards are leads, and every lead is an asset. Every contact is an asset. So whatever the equivalent is now of a business card—LinkedIn connections, social media, someone has DMed you—that’s where your profit is.

The profit is in the list. Get a list to market to.

When I started out I was making $1000 a lead. I got a thousand leads. That’s a million bucks.

To introduce you to what to do with a great list, you need to understand I am working out how to convert, not how to coach.

I want a choice: not am I doing this one-to-one but am I going to convert them into a group program, an online program? I am not aiming for every lead to become a paying client with me individually. I am looking to funnel them into what’s appropriate.

Then I had to work out how to message it in a way other coaches weren’t.

Here’s how I did that. If I went to a function and someone asked what I did, I never said “I’m a coach, I coach people who want to go to the next level, I really want to coach so I can make a difference.”

That’s not what value-based marketing is. Instead, when I was networking it wasn’t to talk about me or get clients.

It was to be memorable.

Pathway to Purpose

So at functions I only showed interest in people.

I would aim to meet only two people in a two-hour event. That was it. My goals were to get to know them, what they were about, what they cared about—and to be memorable.

People who care about people are memorable. People who try to flog their services are not. So I’d have people wanting to talk to me because they wanted to talk about themselves.

I’d say, “Tell me what you care about.” That was me as a coach. They’d tell me about business and I would mind read and I’d say, “So the biggest problem you’re facing right now is hiring the right people without ruining the beautiful culture you have created. What are you doing to solve that? Have you thought about x, y, z?”

So that was me being an expert. Then I’d be a coach again, then an expert, then a coach, and by the end of the conversation I had positioned myself as a communicator.

I was positioned as an expert, not a coach. This is key.

When we were wrapping up after about 40 minutes they would say, “That was really interesting—what is it that you do?”

And I am never going to say I’m a coach. Depending on the niche I had at the time, I would say, “I work with business owners who are at the turning point of moving from seven employees to more, who want to maintain profit but also develop a lifestyle.”

I’d tell them my list was full right now, and ask for their card, tell them I’d send them a few ideas that might help based on our conversation. I’d contact them a week later, say we need to talk, that moves into needs analysis and conversion.

I became valuable because I was thinking, ‘How can I help them?’ I might say, “I know an expert in the States who might be worth hooking up with”, then I become a connector, and I stayed in their lives and got referral after referral.

In the end I had a 30 client waiting list. Thanks to business cards.

Award-winning businesswoman Sharon Pearson is the CEO and founder of The Coaching Institute and the bestselling author of seven books including Ultimate You. A global entrepreneur, Sharon is the host of the Perspectives podcast and has trained thousands of people to become life coaches since 2004.

Sharon Pearson
Sharon PearsonThe Coaching Institute