The coffee shop is the office of the 21st century’. It’s a place where game-changing business deals have taken place, lifelong friendships have been solidified – it even birthed Harry Potter. It’s true, coffee culture and corporate culture come hand-in-hand, but that doesn’t mean your coffee meetings are always brewing business.

Asking someone to “grab a coffee” may seem like a friendly gesture. You may even feel like you’re doing them a nice favour. After all, who wouldn’t want to enjoy a caffeine boost and half an hour of friendly chat with yours truly? However, to some the mere question can seem like an insult, a dressed up, dishonest way of asking for help.

If your coffee meetings haven’t been working out for you, these tips will help…

1. Remember That Time Is Valuable

None of us have the time to do all the things we want to, and taking a coffee meeting can be quite the sacrifice. Never forget this when asking potential business partners if they want a quick brew. Show appreciation and don’t feel rejected if you get the cold shoulder. A “No thanks” is probably not personal, but rather, a logistical problem.

2. Focus On Other Options

In the modern world we are blessed with the Internet and social media. It’s never been easier to get in touch with people we admire. Emails may be somewhat impersonal, but they can also be a great ice breaker that could provide an avenue further down the sales funnel. Fundamentally, your primary goal should be to arrange a face-to-face meeting. If that means grabbing a coffee, then great! If it means a catch up in the office, that’s great too!

3. Be Prepared To Give

When you finally manage to arrange a coffee meeting, remember, you’re there to give – and that doesn’t mean paying for a drink. While taking something may be the final goal, you must be willing to offer something of value. Business relationships that are built upon a selfish agenda never last, no matter how much charm you may possess.

4. Keep It Informal

The coffee shop is an informal setting. When people meet in an office space they’ll be more inclined to dress for the occasion. However, when they meet in coffee shops they’ll expect to roll up their sleeves and be a little less animated. Don’t pretend you’re having a formal meeting when you’re not. Keep things social and casual, yet focused.

5. Have Modest Expectations

Most importantly, you must be willing to accept from the get-go that nothing may happen. While coffee meetings can certainly help, they can also cause you to lose business. Businesses are made up of people, and people like doing business with people. Act too formal, too corporate, and you could walk out worse off than when you walked in.

Finally, if you’re so desperate to have a coffee meeting with a client and really need to retain formalities, forget about cafe culture altogether and consider buying espresso coffee machines for the office instead. Don’t let all these new trendy tech startups fool you, sometimes the conference room is far more fitting than an exterior setting.