Meeting new people isn’t about an agenda, it’s about a making a connection.
I’ve been in professional sales for ten year’s now. While that’s a drop in the bucket for many sales professionals, that number – 10 years – is significant to me; that number represents a third of my life. I can wax poetic about the virtues of this career path, but that’s for another day. Suffice it to say that I love professional business sales. One of the main reasons I enjoy it so emphatically, is it allows me to constantly meet new people.
In ten year’s I’ve shaken thousands of hands and exchanged even more business cards. The lion’s share of these interactions have taken place in a decision maker’s office or in a conference room. These meetings serve their function in conducting business and advancing a sale, but too often do too little to really make a connection with the person (or persons) I am meeting with. There is something almost sterile about the conference room setting. Sure there’s some rapport that’s built and perhaps a joke or two exchanged, but in the confines of an office it feels constrained.
The most rewarding business relationships I have ever had weren’t formed in a conference room or in someone’s corner office. In fact when I reflect back on the many people I’ve met over the years, its the conversations over a cup of coffee that I recall most vividly. Funny enough, it’s not even really about the coffee. It’s the setting. Being outside the confines of the office alleviates the formality and constraints of a “business” meeting. I think, and have experienced, that people can be more their authentic selves taken outside of the office setting.
That’s really what I love the most about meeting people “over coffee”: I get the chance to know them beyond just budgets and business plans. And, if I’m lucky, I get to establish a true connection that will outlast any contract or sale.