Do you sometimes find yourself with your nose pressed against the window of the latest five-star gastropub, longingly watching the business VIPs entertain their clients over hundred-dollar bowls of organic, grass-fed antelope stew?
Me too. I’m on a budget, so I focus on inviting clients to the perfect coffee meeting.
The Coffee Meeting Aesthetic
If you are like most new entrepreneurs, your client entertainment budget is limited, to say the least, and entertaining your clients in fancy restaurants is out of reach. However, there is a fabulous workaround: your local Starbucks!
You do this by showering your client with an authentic display of credibility, competence, and respect.
After all, it isn’t the fancy food or location that makes a business meeting successful; the magic happens when you make a meaningful connection with your client.
Here are 7 easy tips that can help improve your coffee meeting:
1) Choose a Convenient Location
The psychology of the home court advantage is real, so give the advantage to your client by choosing a location that is convenient for her. This gesture shows that you appreciate her willingness to meet with you.
She will also be in a better frame of mind for connecting and conducting business if she hasn’t had to fight traffic for 30 minutes beforehand.
2) Show Respect for Her Time
Most coffee meetings take place in the morning, and most folks, including your client, are on a tight schedule as they have a full day ahead of them.
A good practice is to arrive early so you can choose a table and get set up if you’re going to use documents or your computer during the meeting. You don’t want to waste precious time milling around for a table after your client arrives.
The simple act of being organized and ready to start the meeting as soon as she arrives will not only show that you respect her schedule, but it can also help to increase her perception of you as competent.
3) Pay for the Coffee
Your client is taking time from her day to talk to you about your business, so even if she protests, pay for her coffee (and her snack if she wants one).
It is a small gesture monetarily, but it shows that you understand the importance of give and take in business.
4) Dress Like You Mean Business
Even if the coffee meeting is the only business related event you have scheduled for the day, dress and groom yourself appropriately for your industry. It is settled by science and practical experience that our perceptions of one another are influenced by how we dress.
Make it easy for your client to think of you as a capable business professional by showing up dressed for business.
5) Show Interest Beyond Business
Demonstrating a sincere interest in someone is one of the ways we build trust and form lasting relationships in business. Prepare to make small talk with your client beyond the standard topics of weather, sports, and current events.
Research her company and her LinkedIn page before the meeting.
What did she study in college?
Has she traveled somewhere you’ve always wanted to go?
Everyone wants to be seen and heard and showing sincere interest in her will increase her goodwill towards you.
6) Be Fully Present
An easy and powerful way to show your client that you value her is to be fully present when she is speaking to you. You can’t be fully present while glancing down at your phone.
Research has shown that just the presence of a phone on the table can reduce productivity and trust between people engaged in an in-person conversation. Your goal is to grow your connection with your client, not diminish it, so putting your phone away during the meeting seems like the smart thing to do.
7) Don’t Forget to Follow-up
Deliver your promises. The meeting isn’t over until after you’ve delivered any promises you made to provide information, make introductions or perform a favor. Keeping your promises will increase your client’s trust in you and leave the door open for future connecting.
Don’t let a tight budget hinder your relationship building efforts.
The magic happens when you make a meaningful connection with your client, not when you treat her to a fancy meal…and remember, there’s always the coffee meeting!
Are you more of a Coffee Bean person? Tell us how you build relationships with customers on a tight budget!