I encounter a lot of people who want to “get coffee sometime.”
A lot of them are younger people I haven’t met or brief acquaintances looking for advice or help.
If you fall into this category (vs. a friend/colleague), there are effective ways to go about asking for coffee that make people more likely to meet with you as well as elicit a greater sense of respect for their time.
I’m breaking this down into two parts.
1. How to increase your odds that a busy, cool person will meet with you
2. An effective way to ask for a coffee meeting
Increasing the Odds This Person Will Meet For Coffee
You’ve identified the person you’d like to grab a cup of joe with. Let’s just assume they’re an ass-kicker who’s super busy. Remember “getting coffee” is asking for a chunk of their time which is probably their most precious commodity. Thus, it’s always beneficial to precede this ask by delivering some sort of value to them first.
There is much higher probability that they’ll give you their time if you’ve taken the initiative to lead with value. It becomes an interchange vs. pure take interaction. A few ways to lead with value:
The digital landscape is filled with opportunities to support someone. Do they have a blog? Demonstrate that you read it by consistently providing thoughtful commentary or sharing it. Are they hiring? Share their job postings in a public setting or even introduce people to the company that might be a good fit. Are they speaking at an event? Rally people to go check it out and then let that person know what you learned from them. You don’t have to meet someone in order to do any of these things – and trust me even busy people notice.
Provide Thoughtful Feedback:
Whether we’re talking an author, startup founder, or artist, no professional worth their salt doesn’t appreciate thoughtful, genuine feedback. You should just assume this. Don’t wait for someone to ask for it. Grab the bull by the horns and shoot them a thoughtful feedback email. Don’t know their email? See here.
I’ve had a lot of young bucks approach me seeking advice. When someone provides value before asking for my time, I’m much more likely to make it a priority to get together with them.
These are just a few things you can do to increase your chances that someone will meet for coffee that don’t require connections and a ton of social capital. I’m sure there’s many more.
2. How to Ask
Here’s how I’d ask a business development badass I’d want to meet for coffee. Key elements of this email to keep in mind: context, a specific ask, recognition of their time/gratefulness, limited time commitment, convenience, signaling you’ll provide value. I’ll flesh each one out afterwards.
Hi Joe Awesome,
My name is Scott Britton. I stumbled across your blog three weeks ago and wanted to let you know that I’ve found it to be some of the most compelling content I’ve read recently. Your post on “How to Build Your Network” has literally been a godsend for me. The notion of always providing value and expecting nothing in return that you mentioned has had such a positive effect on how I’ve thought about networking. Thank you so much for helping me grow.
Anyways, I just moved to New York City after graduation last year and have been really trying to build my skills as a business development professional. Currently I’m focusing on learning more about how to approach retail brands. I know this is something you’ve done at X company for the past year and was wondering if you were up for me treating you to a cup of coffee in exchange for some insight. I know you’re a super busy guy, but I would be very grateful for 20 minutes of your time and am happy to meet you at the most convenient location/time for you.
Lastly, I saw your company is hiring inside sales reps and have passed the opportunity along to some friends who I think would be a good fit.
Look forward to hearing from you,
Key elements of this email:
My name is Scott Britton. I stumbled across your blog three weeks ago and wanted to let you know that I’ve found it to be some of the most compelling content I’ve read in a long time.
I just moved to New York City after graduation last year and have been really trying to build my skills as a young business development professional at Y company.
Give the reader context of who you are and how you found them. It’s always beneficial if the context of how you “found” them demonstrates support I.E. reading their blog.
Specific Context Why You’re Reaching Out
Currently I’m focusing on learning more about how to approach retail brands. I know this is something you’ve done at X company for the past year and was wondering if you were up for me treating you to a cup of coffee in exchange for some insight.
Asking for someone’s time without indicating why doesn’t make anyone want to help you. It makes you come off like a taker.
When you specify why you want to get together someone it does a few things:
- Provides context on how you can help them. People are more apt to get together when they know they can help.
- Signals that you’re not out just to take someone’s time.
- Makes that person feel valuable. No one minds having their ego stroked.
- Gives them the option to help via phone or email. This can be a happy middle ground that is much better than no response at all.
Recognition That They’re Giving You Their Time
I know you’re a super busy guy, but I would be very grateful
When a busy person receives this kind of email, they probably start thinking about whether they have time for this. That’s what I do. When you signal to them that you acknowledge their time is very limited and valuable, they appreciate it. It indicates that you recognize they’re giving something up and that you’re likely to grateful if they did.
It also puts them at ease if they can’t get together which yields a higher response rate. “This kid gets it. I’ll respond to them and schedule a call.”
Limited Time Commitment
I would be very grateful for 20 minutes
Manage the expectation that you’re not looking for this person to commit 2 hours of their time. Establishing a limited commitment makes people more likely to meet with you. Everyone has 15-20 minutes to give. Use that 20 minutes as a launchpad to sit down with them for an hour at a later date.
Make it Convenient
[I’m] am happy to meet you at the most convenient location/time for you.
Don’t make this person jump through hoops when they’re doing you a favor. Make it as easy as possible. If you signal that you’re willing to work with them, they’re more likely to make time for you.
Signal That You’re Going to Provide Value to Their Life
Lastly, I saw you’re company is hiring inside sales reps and have passed the opportunity along to some friends who I think would be a good fit.
The best way to get someone to make time for you is to demonstrate that you can add value to their life. I always like to close these emails by indicating just that. In this example, taking the initiative to source potential employees to their company demonstrates that I care about their success and that I’m willing to help them.
That’s it. This framework by no stretch guarantees that someone is going to meet you for coffee. It does however give you a chance by signaling all the right things…definitely a big improvement from the vague “let’s get coffee sometime.”
If anyone else has any observations about increasing the odds of getting someone to have coffee meeting with you or specifically how to ask, it’d be great if you could share in the comments.
Other Good Coffee Meeting Articles:
*If you’ve pulled the let’s get coffee sometime on me with little to no context, don’t feel bad! I simply thought I’d share what I find to be a more effective practice for everyone involved.