You need that one one one coffee meeting if you’re a serious networker. Going to events is not enough. I’m not saying this to try to get you to buy more coffee. I highly doubt I can sway you one way or the other on that one. What I can tell you is that my business is based on two things: content marketing and networking. Between 2012 and 2019, over three quarters of my business came from networking, and that only happens because of the one on one coffee meetings.
Setting It Up
You met someone at a networking event that you think could be a strategic partner. Great! You’re going to want to follow up with him or her that day or the next at the latest. Don’t let the connection go stale. If they don’t remember who you are, they probably won’t agree to a one on one coffee meeting.
There’s always a little awkward dance deciding where to meeting. If your offices are far apart, sometimes meeting in the middle is best. I always prefer to recommend a place I know and like, but leave it open in case they’d prefer somewhere else. My go-to has been Bean Traders. Dave is awesome and runs a great company over there. If you’re meeting somewhere unfamiliar, fortunately there’s a Starbucks every couple of miles in the Triangle. There was a time when I had every location in the Triangle memorized (except the ones in other stores like Target).
Once you get it on your calendar, make sure you’re not late. This isn’t a social event. Promptness is mandatory.
What to Talk About at the One on One Coffee Meeting
I probably type this too much, but remember the golden rule. Give to get. In that spirit, try to keep the conversation about them. There’s always some amount of small talk, but you’re going to want to know a few key things:
- What do they do? This should be obvious, but honestly you’d be surprised. In this area, ask follow up questions. It’s hard to refer to someone if you don’t know what they do. I’ve met plenty of people who have a hard time articulating what they do. That’s usually fine. Just keep asking until you finally understand.
- Who do they serve? Everyone should know who their customers are. If they don’t, it is impossible to refer to them. B2C companies are hard because they often say “everyone,” so you’re left with the job of narrowing that down for them.
- Who are their strategic partners? This one is a harder one. People who network a lot know this answer and probably cycle through different ones at different times, making it easier for new connections to make introductions. If your connection doesn’t know their strategic partners, you may have to explain what that means to them.
- Anything that sets them apart. Most businesses have a niche. That’s great. This is where you get that information if it didn’t come out earlier.
- Anyone they’re trying to meet. This is a broad leading question. Usually you’ve covered who they want to meet, and they might repeat themselves. That’s fine. However, the question is broad as a way to lead them to ask you the same question.
If you’ve covered all of these topics, you have a great picture on how to serve them as a strategic partner. The final measure on whether or not you become their strategic connection is the gut check. Did this person seem like someone you want to have a business relationship with? If not, maybe you leave it at one meeting and be done.
I cannot stress it enough, but following up is the most important piece of the most important part of networking. For those who like football analogies, not following up is a fumble in the red zone. You have to follow up with:
- Anything you promised to follow up with like introductions or sending an article or whatever.
- Reconnection email in a couple weeks or a month.
- If applicable, a thank you email for meeting with you.
If you need help, put these things in your calendar. After all, this is a relationship. That means you’re only going to get out of it what you put in.