Making the Most of Get-to-Know-You Meetings

Article by Donna FeldmanWhat do you do when a networking acquaintance invites you to meet for coffee? Do you find yourself saying yes, because you’ve been told that networking is about building relationships and getting to know people? At the same time, do you find yourself wondering if this is the most effective use of your time?

Coffee meetings can be a hit or miss affair, and with time being a limited resource for most business people, it’s important to use your time well. Here are 5 tips to help you make the best use of your time.

  • Just say no. That’s right, it’s perfectly okay to say no if you don’t want to meet with the person, no matter what the reason is. It’s your time and you get to decide how to spend it. You can simply say you’re completely booked right now and don’t have time for a one-on-one meeting but perhaps you’ll be able to connect at some future networking event.
  • Take charge. Schedule coffee dates yourself with people who interest you. Looking for referral partners? Who shares the same target market you do? Who did you click with at a recent event that you want to get to know better? Pick up the phone and invite them to meet. (And don’t take it personally if they say no; see #1.)
  • Have an agenda and a time limit. What’s the purpose of the meeting? What’s your intention? What do you want to know about them? What do you want them to learn about you? How will you accomplish what you want to get done in the time you have available? Prepare your questions and your answers.
  • Location, location, location. If they asked for the meeting, they should be willing to meet at your convenience, and vice versa. If your time is limited and they asked for the meeting, ask them to meet at your office. That will save commuting time, and time spent ordering or getting seated at a cafe.
  • Give value. Networking meetings are more fulfilling when both people see some return. If you’re not sure how you can help them, ask! Ask them who would be a good prospect or referral for them, or what resources they might need. Or you can ask, “What can I do to help you?” And if they ask you first, be prepared with your answer of how they can best help you.

If you choose your meetings wisely and prepare in advance, get-to-know-you meetings can be an effective means of building relationships, which ultimately will grow your network and expand your business.

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