More By This Author

Current Issue

Current Issue

Posted: September 11, 2012

Nine ways to make the most of your coffee meeting

Otherwise, all you get is Starbucks and a lighter wallet

John Heckers

Getting someone to agree to a coffee meeting is only the first step in obtaining leads. Your coffee meeting is an opportunity to build trust and exchange information. If you do it right, you will begin a long-term networking relationship. Make a major mistake, and all you get is some Starbucks and a lighter wallet. Here are some tips for making this meeting count.

1). Remember that it isn't all about you. Many people think "networking" means pumping other people for information to help them. It isn't. It is a two way street. Start the coffee meeting off by asking your networking partner what you can do to help them first.

2). Don't go for the jugular. You're not going to get everything you want in the first coffee meeting. Your first coffee meeting will give you a few things and establish trust. But too many people get frustrated if they don't get 10 new names and 5 job leads out of their coffee meeting. But, remember, this person has just met you. You could be Jack the Ripper for all they know. They're NOT going to open their Rolodex to you.

3). Have a concise synopsis of your career. Now is the time to give something resembling an elevator speech. But rather than the rapid and often insipid "fly-over" of your career, you have the opportunity to give a bit of detail. Notice I said "a bit," not "War and Peace." Your networking partners don't need to hear your whole career life from the mail room to the board room. Keep it under two minutes and just hit the highlights. Make it conversational, and more like a "war story" than an elevator speech.

4). Ask the "who do" question. At the end of a brief synopsis, and, then, again after some conversation, ask the "Who do you know to whom I should be speaking" question. DON'T ask IF they know anyone. Of course they know people. But if you ask if they know anyone, the answer will be "no." Assume that your networking partner does not live under a rock and actually knows people. Also assume that they're willing to share with you.

5). Laundry list. You'll often get the absurd response of "Gee, I don't know anyone." Resist the temptation to say, "You don't have any friends? I'll be your friend," and help this person out. Give a laundry list of people they might know, including old co-workers, bosses, and subordinates, people they've met in networking, vendors, places they've interviewed who turned them down and so on.

6). Close the meeting. At the close of the meeting, thank your networking partner for their time and set things up for later. Exchange cards if you have not already done so. Ask your networking partner to keep you informed of their progress, and ask if they'd like to be kept informed of yours. If the networking partner has been helpful, suggest that you two meet again in a couple of weeks.

7). Leave an open door. As you're closing the meeting, let your networking partner know that, if you think of more information, you'll be happy to give a call and ask for the same courtesy. This leaves the door open to more contact.

8). Don't be too nice, though. It isn't bright to open your Rolodex to someone you've just met. You might be referring your friends to Lizzie Borden for all you know. Refer at most a couple of people and job leads that have been openly advertised. Then check with your networking contacts you've referred and see how your new networking partner handled things. If everything is good, you can then, at the next meeting, refer a couple more people. But don't just give away the farm. Make your networking partner give you something for your generosity.

9). Be willing to broom a networking partner. If it has been two meetings and you still are not getting any reciprocity from a new networking partner, broom ‘em. Don't waste your time continuing to meet with someone who is stingy or unhelpful. It may sound harsh, but your time is valuable, especially in a job search. Don't be explicit, but just don't "have time" for another meeting if you're not getting help, too.

The coffee meeting can be the most valuable meeting you take, or a complete waste of time and good coffee. Use the above tips to make your coffee meetings count.

John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Hi Lindsey. This is a "best of CoBiz" so it was run, I think, in January the first I don't know if you're reading this. But you are welcome to give me a call for coffee and networking at 720.581.4301. I welcome calls and emails from my readers and will meet for networking as I am able. I am usually out by I-25 & Arapaho now. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2012 09 11
Good one! Its funny that I actually need to do more of the type of meetings you are referring to... I am young and just returned to my home town so I have coffee with my parnets friends. I wish I had more to offer them in return but I feel like maybe older people like to help out young people... My rolodex (what ever that is) is small, so I cant share too much. Unless you have suggestions for that? Thanks! Lindsey By Lindsey Mooney on 2012 01 26
Thanks Julie. I don't really like Starbuck's coffee....tastes burned. For the very best coffee in town, though it is not a good place for a professional coffee meeting, I like Pablo's on Washington and 6th. Yummy. But it is pretty bohemian! By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2012 01 19
I had to laugh as I was at Starbucks waiting for a client when read your article. Good pointed advice. At 5 bucks a pop, you better have your game plan before you go! Most people are either too vague about their networking goals ("hopefully they'll be able to help me") or too fixated (I'm not leaving without 5 names!"). Good suggestions on clarifying your expectations and next steps. Thanks John. By Julie Hansen on 2012 01 18
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

ColoradoBiz TV

Loading the player ...

Featured Video