How About another Cup of Coffee?

Author: Anders Christian Hjort

I think most of us have used this frase to get a meeting where you can sell your products and services.

However most people don’t like being sold – they wanna buy!

So what more compelling to the one you would like to meet.

A sharing mindset:

I found this mindset to work very well when setting up meetings either meeting in a network meeting, writing a meeting invitation or doing a customised cold/warm/hot call – I never script – you have to stand out and sound authentic:

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas…”
– George Bernard Shaw

Putting yourself into the other persons mind:

I design a compelling message that answers the question:

“What compelling insights and values can I share with this great person – both business and personal?”

And below in his blog this morning, Steve blank adds some brilliant ideas from his experience in meeting and prioritising meetings and getting such conversations that are truly, deeply engaging and valuable to both parties meeting and will initiate friendship relationship building based on true value creation, as both parties capture real value from the sharing mindset.

It’s win/win, it’s common ground.

Note that the rule of reciprocity is in play as well – so who’s going to take the initiative?

But have a go, and enjoy the inspiration from Steves blog below:

How to Get Meetings with People Too Busy to See You

Asking, “Can I have coffee with you to pick your brain?” is probably the worst possible way to get a meeting with someone with a busy schedule. Here’s a better approach.

——

Jason, an entrepreneur I’ve known for over a decade, came out to the ranch today. He was celebrating selling his company and just beginning to think through his next moves. Since he wasn’t from Silicon Valley, he decided to use his time up here networking with other meetings with VC’s and company executives.

I get several hundred emails a day, and a good number of them are “I want to have coffee with you to bounce an idea off.” Or, “I just want to pick your brain.” I now have a filter for which emails get my attention, so I was curious in hearing what Jason, who I think of as pretty good at networking, was asking for when he was trying to set up meetings.

“Oh, I ask them if I can have coffee to bounce an idea off of them.”…Sigh.

I realized most entrepreneurs don’t know how to get meetings with people too busy to see you.

Perfect World
Silicon Valley has a “pay-it-forward” culture where we try to help each other without asking for anything in return. It’s a culture that emerged in the 60’s semiconductor business when competitors would help each other solve bugs in their chip fabrication process. It continued in the 1970’s with the emergence of the Homebrew Computer Club, and it continues today. Since I teach, I tend to prioritize my list of meetings with first my current students, then ex-students, then referrals from VC firms I’ve invested in, and then others. But still with that list, and now with a thousand plus ex-students, I have more meeting requests than I possibly can handle. (One of the filters I thought would keep down the meetings is have meetings at the ranch; an hour from Stanford on the coast, but that hasn’t helped.)

So I’ve come up with is a method to do meetings with.

What are you offering?
I’m not an investor, and I’m really not looking for meetings with entrepreneurs for deal flow. I’m having these meetings because someone is asking for something from me – my time – and they think I can offer them advice.

If I’d had infinite time I’d take every one of these “can I have coffee” meetings. But I don’t. So I now prioritize meetings with a new filter: Who is offering me something in return.

No, not offering me money. Not for stock. But who is offering to teach me something I don’t know.

The meeting requests that now jump to the top of my list are the few, very smart entrepreneurs who say, “I’d like to have coffee to bounce an idea off of you and in exchange I’ll tell you all about what we learned about xx.”

This offer of teaching me something changes the agenda of the meeting from a one-way, you’re learning from me, to a two-way, we’re learning from each other.

It has another interesting consequence for those who are asking for the meeting – it forces them to think about what is it they know and what is it they have learned – and whether they can explain it to others in a way that’s both coherent and compelling.

Irony – it’s Customer Discovery
While this might sound like a, “how to get a meeting with Steve” post, the irony is that this “ask for a two-way meeting” is how we teach entrepreneurs to get their first customer discovery meetings; don’t just ask for a potential customers time, instead offer to share what you’ve learned about a technology, market or industry.

It will increase your odds in any situation you’re asking for time from very busy people – whether they are VC’s, company executives or retired entrepreneurs.

Lessons Learned
Wanting to have coffee is an ask for a favor
Offering to share knowledge is a different game
Try it, your odds of getting a meeting will increase
And the meetings will be more productive

About Steve Blank
Retired serial entrepreneur-turned educator and author The Startup Owner’s Manual

Read more Steve Blank posts at http://www.steveblank.com.

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