5 Reasons Why Going for Coffee Is Bad Time-Management for Consultants

When you are a consultant, your time and ideas are precious and they have to be doled out selectively and carefully. Otherwise, you can give them away and end up feeling empty emotionally and financially.
A stranger called me up the other day and wanted to go for coffee. She had a website that wasn’t working for her, and she wanted to discuss her options. Here are five reasons why I didn’t go:
1) You’re giving your advice away for free when you go for coffee.
I have come away from coffee meetings with no promise of doing business with that person, but a feeling like I just gave all of my ideas away for free. This can leave me feeling resentful and cynical.
2) Time out for coffee, also involves time out for driving to and from the coffee shop and getting ready for the coffee meeting.
Leaving your office to go out to a meeting is a huge waste of time and gas. Plus, you have to buy a coffee. I would rather use that extra time to write on my blog, read something that will help me write on my blog, or actually get some work done for my current clients.
3) Coffee is on somebody else’s turf.
If someone wants to go for coffee, invite them to have one in your office. This is a more effective use of time and it brings the meeting onto your own turf.
I have a home office with a cozy fireplace, two large desks and all of the equipment you would normally see in a “real” office. When potential clients walk into my office, they know we are not only having “coffee”, but we are working on a business relationship which Consulting Support should result in an exchange of currency if I present a compelling offer to serve their need and close them effectively. Overall, my own turf leaves me feeling more in control, gives me more confidence and makes a more professional statement than a coffee shop.
4) Agreeing to go for coffee without qualifying someone can be disappointing for everyone.
In the past, if someone asked me to coffee, I would quickly say, “Sure.” Then, I would meet them and find out that they can’t even afford my services. This was a disappointment to me and to them. Recently, I have begun qualifying them on the phone before agreeing so quickly. I ask questions like:
“What is the problem you are struggling with?”
“Who are you using for your services now?”
“Why is your current provider not effective?”
“What are your Mckinsey And Company Careers objectives?”
“How did you hear about me?”
“When are you looking to do this work or make these changes?”
I also tell that person my hourly rates and give them a sense of what certain projects may cost on a project-by-project basis. Then, I ask:
“Do those rates sound reasonable to you?”
If the person hums and haws, or says, “That is something to think about.” It is a sure sign that my rates are too high for them and they are not a good fit for me as a client. If they tell me, “yes, that sounds good, let’s get together”, then I’m more likely to agree to a meeting.
5) If you can’t get down to business on the phone, a coffee meeting probably isn’t going to help you gain a new client.
Occasionally, there are those “touchy feely” people in this world who like to have face-to-face meetings before making a decision to do business with someone. And, if you have a good feeling that they might become a client, after pre-qualifying them on the phone, then I say, “Go for it. Go for coffee.” However, I have found lately that I can talk to someone by phone for the first time and we usually decide to work together, or not, within thirty to sixty minutes.
You might be asking….”how”?
It goes back to point four above. I ask them lots of questions. In addition to that, I also give away a bit of advice too. I provide a solution. I make a suggestion. I ask a question they may have never considered. I get to the heart of their problem and come up with my best solution as quickly as I if the solution is free and it doesn’t involve me at all.
Sometimes, someone doesn’t really need to pay me for my help. They just need a little free advice and a free solution. But, if they truly have a problem that I can solve, I can identify it within thirty minutes, tell them the process by which I can solve it, tell them how much it will cost and ask them if they would like to go ahead. If they say, “yes” then we discuss payment and determine our next steps for working together. Then, I hang up the phone, go to my kitchen and grab myself a coffee.

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