Are You Coffee-Worthy?

When we meet someone at an event and want to explore the opportunity to collaborate, the typical go-to is to schedule a coffee. Recently, one of my clients came to me frustrated because people weren’t making the time to have coffee with him, even though it would benefit them. This made me realize that a coffee meeting is a huge withdrawal from someone’s time.

Even if you’re connected, inviting someone to coffee might be too big a leap. To them, taking 3 hours out of their schedule to meet you may feel like too much for this stage of the relationship. They may have a lot of other people asking them for a coffee (such as clients or existing referral partners), and they may only have time for a few coffees in a week.

In other words, if you’re new to them, you’re sort of at the bottom of the line in their priorities! This puts the burden on you to look at other ways to move up on their priority list and earn the status of being “coffee-worthy.”

Below are some tools that may increase your status: 

  • Be sensitive to the fact that others may use a different networking language than you. Coffee may be your go-to networking tool, whereas others might prefer a phone call. What you see as the right way to pursue the follow-up process may not be the language the other person speaks. It’s your job to be flexible, adaptable, and to assess their receptivity to what you’re offering.
  • Be prepared to find out why they declined your coffee invitation: This takes a lot of confidence. Maybe they don’t want to hang out with you! Realize that networking is like dating—not everybody feels the chemistry. They may not be feeling the networking love or the networking chemistry. There’s also the chance that you haven’t offered the steps of courtship that resonate with what is right for them, their lifestyle, and their schedule.

These are important pre-coffee, warm-up activities, because it shows the person you’re courting that you were listening. You were paying attention to the nature of their business and the doorways they’d like to open.

Keep in mind, however, that subtlety is important, especially when it comes to courting referral partners. Courtship is an elegant dance and involves honor and respect of the other person, while at the same time winning them over in a delicate way. If someone declines your coffee invitation after the courtship dance, that’s okay. Focus on those “Power Partners” where you’re feeling the networking love!

Cynthia Greenawalt

Cynthia Greenawalt

1 Comment
  • Charlie Garland
    Posted at 20:02h, 31 January Reply

    Cynthia – great article, I really get where you’re coming from, and you’re spot-on with your recommendations. In my experience, I have found that a few extra “thinking steps” are worth taking, before even reaching out to someone to invite them to coffee. Here is a sampling of the questions I ask myself, and the rationale for each:

    1. You may think that the time you spend with them will be of benefit to them…but are you sure that they believe this? Why would they? Do you know their highest priority needs, wants, fears, aspirations? Have you made clear to them their WIIFM (what’s in it for me?). If they aren’t completely convinced that the time spent with you is far more important than that time spent with a colleague or a prospective client (or their own family member), then why would they ever bother?

    2. Have you thought about making the coffee meeting as convenient as possible for them? Do you know what times they typically commute in the morning and evening, as well as where to/from? If they live in NJ and take a bus into Port Authority, then walk 5 blocks east to Park Avenue and 33rd Street, have you bothered finding a nice cafe that opens at 7:00 am, is close to and along the path to their office, and quiet/conducive to a comfortable conversation? If you suggest a specific time and place that they’ll immeidately recognize, they’re much more likely to agree to something that’s well-known and liked by them already.

    3. Have you suggested a few different days/times for a meeting? This gives them the feeling that they have the power to choose, rather than feeling that you’re the one in control. Also, have you mentioned that you are very interested in receiving their advice around a topic that’s important to them? Doing this strokes their ego a bit, and everyone enjoys being put on a pedestal every now and again. These tiny “emotional” triggers are tremendously important to keep in mind when communicating with a prospective referral partner, client, or other busy individual.

    This is just a handful of the sorts of new “critical thinking” tactics that anyone can use to create a more compelling outreach to those you’d like to follow up with after a great networking event.

    All the best,
    Charlie G.

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