I recently delivered a keynote address on referral sales at a company sales meeting, and I met several interesting people with important positions within the company. I typically offer to autograph my book and I give it to the participants with my compliments. I include my business card with all of my contact information. And I always get their cards in return. 

Well, almost always. At this particular event, several people told me they didn’t have a business card (really?) and they would email me with their contact information.

I goofed: No business card, no contact. Well, you can guess the outcome: no email. Can I find these people’s information by using the company email convention or sources such as InsideView? Of course. But what if an individual is a senior resource who consults for the company or a vendor partner who happened to attend? What if these people are not on LinkedIn? Where does that leave me?

Focus and make contact. I was so intent on my presentation and on connecting with the audience afterward, that I got sidetracked. I was not focused on following up. I believed these people when they said they “didn’t have a card.” (What sales professional doesn’t have a card? I mean, really!) This was a huge mistake, my mistake. Surprise: I never heard from any of them. 

Connect and level the playing field. First, not following up with someone when you promise to do so—especially when I gifted them with my book and we shared some good ideas—is disrespectful. Saying thank you is always appropriate. Second, it’s an obvious tactic (aren’t they all?) to show they have the upper hand and that I’m just a “vendor.” Do they really mean it? I’m not certain, and I’ll never know. 

Be polite, be appropriate, be a sales winner. OK, I learned my lesson. From now on, I’ll have a different tactic. Don’t have a business card? OK, you should, but in lieu of that, I will write down your name, email, phone and address. I might even claim I ran out of books and would be glad to mail one when I get back to my office.

That will cost me a bit of postage, but saves on hauling books from place to place. And it means that those who stand up and are the real sales professionals will win—and so will I.

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Joanne Black is a professional sales speaker, sales webinar leader, and author of “No More Cold Calling: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust” from Warner Business Books. Visit www.nomorecoldcalling.com. © Copyright 2011 Joanne S. Black. All rights reserved.