By Philip Fornaro
Do you characterize yourself as a poor or excellent networker? No matter how you rank in the networking world, there are simple things that you can do to improve your networking skills.
For the first 11 years of my legal career, I did not drink coffee. Surprisingly, the best thing that I ever did for my legal business was to start drinking coffee 9 years ago. No, it is not because of the caffeine. I did not realize that I was missing out on the single best networking opportunities of all time.
YOU ARE THERE TO HAVE A COFFEE TOGETHER. WAITING TO ORDER THE COFFEE TOGETHER LEAVES A WONDERFUL IMPRESSION.
Before we get into the reasons why having a coffee with someone is great for your business, I would like to let you know the very number one rule of having a coffee meeting. If the other person has not arrived (try to get there first), do not order the coffee and do not sit down. Always wait and order when the other person has arrived and then find a place to sit together. That simple gesture of waiting says a lot about the type of person you are. It shows that you are courteous and considerate. It is an invaluable first impression. Also, if it is simple to do, make certain that you make the first gesture to the barista that you are paying.
THE COFFEE MEETING CREATES A LOW PRESSURE ENVIRONMENT.
Inviting potential clients and business acquaintances to meet for a coffee creates an unbelievable environment for discussion and connection. Some of my best meetings have been over a coffee at my office or at a local coffee shop. It is low pressure and people are willing to do it because the time commitment is less. People expect to spend 30 minutes on a coffee meeting. If the meeting is going well, it can always extend out. If not, the meeting can end.
MAKING A CONNECTION (ANY CONNECTION WILL DO) IS THE SOLE GOAL OF THE COFFEE MEETING.
The key to networking is to make certain you make a connection of some type with the person you are talking to or to determine if some synergy exists. At the coffee meeting, a positive connection with the other person is the sole goal. Examples of good connections are discussing people that you know in common or how your business relates to the other person or to the other person’s business or network. Always try to make a statement at some point that demonstrates that you will try to establish ways to help the other person.
Just remember, if you make a good connection, the other person will have a good feeling about you so that they will be interested in meeting you again. The coffee provides a quick opportunity to learn about the other person and to provide the other person insight about you. Long lasting business relationships need to be formed over a period of time and this first interaction helps create the initial step towards further discussions.
WHY THE LUNCH MEETING IS RARELY THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT FOR THE FIRST MEETING WITH A PROSPECTIVE CLIENT: A COFFEE MEETING IS BETTER.
Before I started having coffees, I was a lunch guy. What I realized is that for an initial connection, the coffee is better. Lunch is best for meetings after you have established a business relationship and have more of a history together.
Here are the problems with the lunch meeting on the first meeting.
- Do I have an hour and half out of my day to have this lunch?
- When do you stop talking and start ordering?
- What should I order? I really want the sloppy joe but I am stuck with the salad.
- When do you switch from personal conversation to business and back to personal?
- How do I grab the check without pulling it out of the other person’s hand?
- Do I tell the other person that there is a piece of food on the side of his mouth?
- What do I do about the lull in the conversation?
- When will the waitress bring the check?
- When do we get up and leave?
Here are the benefits of the coffee.
- Coffee is inexpensive.
- The expectation is that the meeting can be short.
- When you are done with your coffee, it allows you to end the meeting.
- It creates an opportunity to make an impression without getting into extreme detail and working so hard to come up with ideas on what to talk about.
Remember that becoming a great networker takes time. The coffee meeting is a great first step at learning how to network properly.