Home – New Forums Get productive Coffee meetings with clients – yay or nay?

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  • #998884
    Lucy Kippist
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    Before I became a soloist wannabe, I imagined that running your own business involved lots of client meetings in cafes.

    Now a little older and wiser I wonder if that’s the most effective use of a person’s time?

    Having had two chats recently with people who run very divergent businesses, they both told me they avoid coffee meetings at all costs.

    “It takes up the whole day and costs me money,” said one.

    “I only ever do it if I know they are good client/worth my time. Wherever possible I sound them out on the phone or Skype for a couple of sessions first,” said the other.

    What do you think?

    #1216557
    Peter – FS Administrator
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    Hi Lucy – I fell into that trap when starting up too. It seemed that “Let’s grab a coffee” was a default way to start things off with prospects. But often 15 minutes in you might find that there is not a good fit. And it can take half a day by the time you get respectable and travel :)

    Now I almost always suggest a quick phone call as the first step. Also, I generally like to get an idea of budgets etc early on as this too can be a filter that things may not progress. Best discover that early on!

    #1216558
    Lucy Kippist
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    The budget factor is an excellent point!

    #1216559
    LucasArthur
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    Hi Lucy

    Personally, i feel any meeting requires the same effort of establishing if it is worth while of both parties (or all parties) time involved. WIIFM and more.

    Although i am yet to answer the coffee point, i established the need or need nots really quickly with my client bases to ascertain if meetings were warranted or not and it is a trap i see people fall into time and time again in their own business. As well as seeing time wasted in other areas of their business as well, not just meetings…

    Guess what i am meaning to say is that it will always come down to your client, your relationship with the client and the ultimate goal you are trying to get out of the client in the meeting. Example, lets say its an existing client already contributing healthily to your revenue and you just want to catch up to ensure all is working smoothly and to potentially tweak (increase revenue or not is irrelevant at this point due to the relationship already) existing processes, i personally have no issue with coffee or other relaxed environment as long as the outcomes you set before the meeting can be achieved in this environment.

    And yet, if it was a new client that was yet to hit the books and required some more in depth conversation – i would feel that a cafe may not be the best choice, unless you are travelling and meeting half way to discuss opportunities although then there could be other better venues to hold such a meeting.

    Its all about setting boundaries, understanding your outcome wants and the wants of your client and then matching the environment to that situation. For me, happy to do existing client meetings in cafes and happy to contribute my time to do this as well as cover the costs (even though my clients tend to pay or we alternate – yup we do them regularly)… Although if new clients, i am a little more sceptical, unless i developed and understanding on the phone about what we would cover and feel comfortable with this.. It is also important to note, i am VERY casual in my approach and like to be very open with my clients so a cafe is no hinderance here for me.

    Overall, each client and situation will warrant an assessment of viability as to whether its suitable.. Most of my colleagues also do cafes, or restaurants and we are talking about professional services as well as product specialists.. In fact, several of my previous roles (blue chip management) had me performing client meetings, performance reviews and more in cafes or restaurants and had not heard any negatives about conducting business this way. Albeit, maybe that is the key, its about the individual who calls the meeting and their comfort level with their own client/s that could alter the perception of viability…

    Not sure if you can tell by the length of this post, but i am currently sitting in a cafe – caffeine hooked up to my veins, beer on order and burger ready to be consumed – do i like cafes for business purposes

    Great question though..

    Jason Ramage | Lucas Arthur Pty Ltd | E: [email protected]   P: 61 3 8324 0344    M: 61 412 244 888
    #1216560
    Lucy Kippist
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    Jason it sounds like you have Friday priorities sorted!

    And totally agree it comes down to the type of client and the relationship and the long-term investment.

    #1216561
    acaska
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    Haha! Love this… “i am currently sitting in a cafe – caffeine hooked up to my veins, beer on order and burger ready to be consumed:):p

    Great points Jason. In general I don’t have an issue with meeting in cafes as a location… I was more focused thinking about assessing whether a face-to-face meeting is warranted at all.

    Having said that, some cafes are way better than others. A noisy spot in full sun near the door can make for a horrible meeting.

    Like you though… a ‘meeting’ by myself at a cafe on a Friday afternoon is right up my alley :)

    #1216562
    ModernDayPA
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    This is interesting to see people’s opinions on this topic. Great question Lucy.

    I’m a new soloist, and feel that F2F coffee meetings are beneficial to build rapport and see if I’m the right fit for the potential client. As a support person/assistant, this is key.

    Having said that, I also feel that an initial phone call with a few key questions is worthwhile.

    #1216563
    bb1
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    Nay.

    Number one reason is privacy of any conversation you may be having.

    Did I read staff appraisals, they are meant to be done in confidence and in private not where every man and his dog can hear or gripes.

    I have listened to new staff being interviewed in a café, how professional is that, how uncomfortable would the prospect feel been grilled in public.

    From my corporate life I found that far more could be achieved in a meeting room or office then a coffee shop with all the distractions, plus you have access to any facilities you require.

    I remember flying to QLD when I was looking at a master franchise, and the head man took us to macca’s for a coffee and chat to discuss the figures. Not very professional really with kids running around and I think I even saw Ronald Macdonald at the table next to us.

    If you are doing business keep it professional, you don’t know who is next to you at a coffee shop, or what other things could happen around you.

    Portray a professional image.

    #1216564
    Johny
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    For actual business – office/private space
    Networking/getting to know you chats – coffee shop/bar

    #1216565
    elissa.doxey
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    I use cafes for networking meetings only (which I now limit, because at one stage they were almost weekly).
    Generally, I meet at client’s offices, but have access to a meeting room at my co-working space if I need it. It’s beneficial for me to see the client in their ‘natural environment’ so I can get a better idea how they operate.

    #1216566
    JacquiPryor
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    Going back to Lucy’s original post, which included recent experiences about others avoiding ‘coffee meetings’ because:

    “It takes up the whole day and costs me money,” said one.

    “I only ever do it if I know they are good client/worth my time. Wherever possible I sound them out on the phone or Skype for a couple of sessions first,” said the other.

    I think those views would exist whether the meeting is in a cafe, a board room, a client’s office or a golf course?

    F2F meetings can take up a lot of time irrespective of where they occur, and a lot of us will prefer to sound out via phone, email, skype etc before the F2F occurs. For me, this rings quite true. I am in a profession that is often found in CBD locations – only, I am not in the CBD – rather, some 45-60 mins out if I want to drive in to see a client. So, for me the F2F coffee chat could involve 2 hours of travel + the hour or so of chat to see a prospect, which is a big chunk of the working day, to potentially determine that we don’t mesh or that prospect is not likely to engage my services. That does, as per Lucy’s message, take up time and cost me money. BUT, in contrast, I have a client operating in the CBD (Melbourne) – one of my best and biggest client’s… I’ve traveled the 45-60 mins in (repeated to get back out again) for 10 min chats with them… more than once – making the second experience Lucy shared also ring true – I’m willing to do it when I know they’re a good client.

    However, if I know the client (or prospect) is local to me, I am probably more willing to accept a coffee meet-up to chat without as much concern. It’s all time in my view. Definitely certain things are better discussed in private environments than the local McD’s for sure, but time is definitely a factor.

    We all run different businesses, so the need for F2F will differ from business to business I am sure. Interesting post Lucy! Already differing responses coming in..

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