… and I don’t even drink coffee.
Well, not much, I far prefer tea, but it works just as well, you would just use the word coffee and replace it with tea when you get there.
Let me explain.
The consultant’s secret weapon is in fact, pretty much the word “coffee”.
As in “Do you fancy a coffee?” or “Can I buy you a coffee?” (I prefer the first because it sounds the least formal and in my view has ‘the lightest touch’).
“Do you fancy a coffee?” is in fact a secret code.
Both parties know what this code means, but it reduces friction, it oils the cogs, paves the way, legitimises and makes more attractive the proposition of a meeting which otherwise may just be declined.
As a consultant I drank far more coffee (tea) than I should have, but I also did a lot of networking via these coffee meetings and got a fantastic amount of opportunities as a direct or indirect result too.
Let’s just quickly clear up the tea point – I say coffee but I drink tea, that’s just because “Do you fancy a tea?” doesn’t sound as good. It doesn’t sound as normal, as corporate, as interesting or perhaps as generous and expansive as “Do you fancy a coffee.” Tea, though marvelous, is at risk of being quaint and small, subdued and therapeutic, rather than fast, peppy, exotic and business-like. Poor tea. It’s a better drink but it just doesn’t sound the same (or maybe that’s just me). In any case, when we get to the establishment I always order tea – often both parties do even though we would both discuss it as going for a coffee. Go figure. Words eh?
Back to the point.
“Do you fancy a coffee?” is secret code for: a meeting.
Networking, tapping someone for information, proposing something, broaching a tricky subject you want to discuss in a more relaxed environment – whatever the meeting is about, the easiest route to getting that conversation for a business or management consultant is often via the coffee/catch-up meeting.
By the same token “We should catch-up” is another informal ‘in’ to a meeting rather than simply asking for a meeting, but coffee usually works best as you’re actually offering something, even if it’s just a coffee.
Think about it, doesn’t “Do you fancy a coffee?” sound a lot better and more appealing than “Can we have a meeting?”, “Can I try and sell you some work?”, “Can I have some of your time?” or “I need to talk to you about something?” – though achieving the same objective.
The interesting thing about it is, both parties usually know exactly what it means.
Nevertheless, it works.
So if you want to improve your networking, get more meetings and build better relationships, get yourself out for more coffees (or whatever you drink, just call it coffee).
P.S. Just don’t offer to take someone out for a coffee then order beer, that won’t work.
Here’s a slight aside for consideration too: At times in the past, even when I have had a scheduled meeting in a meeting room or office, I have deliberately moved the venue to a more relaxed environment over coffee (tea) as this can change the dynamics of the discussion significantly (e.g. moving someone from their office where they may feel like “the boss” to a more neutral environment where they don’t).