LISTEN, I LIKE COFFEE as much as the next person. In fact, I probably drink between 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day. I love coffee because of the taste, the appetite suppressing qualities and, of course, the caffeine boost.
So many people, though, love coffee because they feel it acts as a social lubricant. They can’t have a conversation about business unless it is “over a cup of coffee.”
So here’s my question: If you want to get to know more about me and my business, why don’t you just call me and ask? I’m guessing it is because what you really want is to tell me about YOUR business. You can’t just say that, though, because if you do, you are afraid I’ll say “I’m not interested.”
BUILDING BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS
Good marketers, business developers and rainmakers will tell you that “marketing” is all about “relationships.” What they don’t tell you is how building a business relationship differs from a friendship. As a result, most of us go about approaching the two different types of relationships the same way–by starting out with a non-threatening date over coffee. While that may be great in personal relationship building where you have a genuine interest in become friends with someone, in business, it can come across as inauthentic, inefficient or just a waste of precious time.
Why inauthentic? Because, in real friendships, coffee leads to lunch, which leads to dinner or other activities. The end goal is to spend time hanging out with someone you enjoy being around. In other words, the date itself is the goal.
In business, “coffee’ is a euphemism for “feeling this person out to see if they are a good prospective client.” There’s a not-so-hidden agenda, and both parties know it. And here’s the thing: if the person you’ve invited to coffee is not a potential client, you’ll never call them again. Ouch. If you run into them at the next networking event (which you most likely will), you then have to continue your fake friendship with promises that you’ll “get together again soon.”
Of course, we know why coffee dates are inefficient. If this person turns out not to be a good prospect, then you’ve just wasted at least an hour, probably two if you count travel time, spending time disqualifying them.
So, if a coffee date is not the first step in building a solid business relationships, what is?
A LITTLE LESS COFFEE, A LOT MORE ACTION
Business relationships are based on mutual need. One person is offering a product or service that the other person needs. Going from unqualified person to unqualified person and saying “Hey, I’m selling this, do you need it?” just doesn’t work. You might occasionally have a random person say “Yes, that’s exactly what I need! I’m so glad you asked.” The likelihood is, though, that you are going to spend day after day wasting time meeting with people who don’t have such a need at this time.
Add to that the fact that they also are in sales mode and not buying mode, and it’s a recipe for failure for everyone involved.
Wouldn’t it be better if, instead of going from coffee shop to coffee shop trying to peddle your services to people who also are trying to peddle theirs, you could just sit in your office and have potential buyers call you and ask if they could hire you?
Of course it would. But how do you get people to call unless you’ve established a “relationship.” You don’t, but how you establish a business relationship is entirely different than how you establish a personal relationship. In business, a relationship starts with awareness and credibility. Potential clients must have heard about you, and they must have heard information about you that makes them feel they can trust you.
The best evidence of this, outside of personal experience, is social proof–hearing of positive experiences others have had with you or your business. There are many ways to create social proof of the trustworthiness and credibility of your business. If you want a step-by-step approach, get on the list for my upcoming book on the subject.
The best part is, you can read it in the comfort of your own home while enjoying a steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee–no awkward small talk required.