#175: What to Do When a Prospect Wants to Meet for Coffee or Pick Your Brain

Have you ever had a prospect ask for an in-person meeting shortly after connecting?

You’ve barely gotten past “hello” and they already want to put something in your calendar.

I’ve come to believe that most prospects who request an in-person meeting from the get-go are either unsophisticated marketers, time wasters or (I’m sorry to say it!) weird.

And sometimes all three!

Many of them have no real intention of taking action by hiring someone to help.

(And others may intend to… but will never get around to doing it.)

Good clients, in contrast, are almost always busy. They don’t have time to meet without a really good reason!

If a prospect immediately proposes meeting for coffee, that doesn’t immediately disqualify them. But it does raise a red flag.

In addition, the level of commitment and enthusiasm they show should be proportional to where you are in the process of getting to know each other.

High enthusiasm and commitment too early in the process by EITHER side is not a good sign.

Today, I’m going to talk about how you can evaluate requests for face-to-face meetings to better protect your time and energy — without discouraging good prospective clients.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Before I go any farther, let me clarify that this advice won’t apply to you if you’re just starting out in your business. At that stage, you have to take a “say yes to everything” philosophy to grow.

But once you’re more established, it’s crucially important to guard your time and be more careful in these situations.

So before you commit a lot of your time and energy, you need to see if there’s value in meeting up — and HOW MUCH value.

If the value looks good after some initial screening, then you can commit more time and energy to exploring it.

Therefore, when you receive an inquiry, I recommend you follow this two-step process:

  1. Pre-qualify the prospect via a website form or email.
  2. Further qualify prospects over the phone or in-person if they pass the pre-qualification step.

This approach applies not just to “meet for coffee” requests. You can also apply it to other types of inquiries.

Pre-Qualifying Prospects

You can do this with a simple questionnaire form on your website. Make it the focal point of your contact page.

My suggested areas of questioning are:

  • Their contact info
  • How they found out about you
  • What they need help with
  • Timing
  • Budget range (use a drop-down list).

Alternatively, you could do this via email. But when using email, reduce the number of questions to remove “friction” from the process:

  • What they need help with
  • Timing
  • How they found out about you.

If it’s a definite “no,” decline politely and professionally.

If it’s a “maybe” or a definite “yes,” then agree to the meeting.

But here again, don’t agree to the terms of that meeting blindly!

You should consider:

  • Your schedule and how busy you are
  • Where are you in your business life cycle
  • How much TOTAL time the meeting will take
  • Whether it makes more sense to meet over the phone first
  • Where they land on the pre-qualification yes/no scale.

Meeting the right prospects in person increases the probability of landing them as clients.

In-person meetings are the best way to build trust and rapport. But that doesn’t mean you should accept requests to meet automatically.

And don’t base your decision on fear!

If an in-person meeting doesn’t make sense to you based on the above factors, then suggest a phone call first.

Qualifying Prospects In-Person or On the Phone

Schedule the meeting so it backs up against some other commitment you have, such as a meeting, appointment or other commitment.

Schedule in-person meetings so they back up against some other commitment. This gives you an excuse to wrap up on time.

Plan to meet for about 45 minutes. Thirty minutes is too short. One hour is too long.

At the meeting, be prepared to hit a few key points:

  • What they’re trying to accomplish
  • Why it’s important to them
  • What’s getting in their way (or why this has been a problem in the past)
  • Logistics (timing, components, how they’re looking to get this done, etc.)
  • Money (ATM = always talk money).

Create a cheat sheet of these points in your notebook.

Always leave the meeting with a next step:

  • Any other information you need to put a quote together
  • When you’ll get a quote to them
  • When they’ll make a decision … or when you can follow up.

Use Your Time Wisely!

Don’t automatically agree to in-person meetings with prospects. Make sure you use your time wisely.

Remember, you don’t have to give away a lot of free advice and time to demonstrate your value. That approach can backfire.

Instead, concentrate on uncovering what they need … and then explain why you’re well suited to meet those needs.


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