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First of all, they can buy their own. Second of all, they have enough people to have coffee with, and third of all, they are already hopped up enough.

Another cup of coffee just isn’t going to happen.

Do YOU want more coffee? Is that it? Are you looking for a coffee friend? Are you looking to coffee above your station in life? What are you going to talk about what? Drinking coffee?

You don’t really want more coffee. You want to introduce someone to something that you are selling*. You want to make their day better. You want to help them look great in front of their client when they themselves, are selling something.

Don’t you?

Then start with that. I am writing to you because I have a <product or service> that will <benefit to the reader or listener or viewer> that I would like to tell you about.

That. Is how a coffee starts. Without talking about coffee. Coffee happens during the meeting that you got by doing that ^.

See you have just said something that NO ONE says anymore. A clear, concise statement of what you want, why I should want to know more about you and why this is going to be a great use of my time.

Now everyone does the coffee thing. Or the lunch thing. Which, as we know, is not the way to stand out. By doing what everyone else is doing. Marketing is about not doing what everyone else is doing. If you are doing what everyone else is doing, you are demonstrating from the get-go, that you suck at marketing. Or sales.

People who excel at marketing are the people you want to meet. People who excel at marketing find bad marketing abhorrent. Good for them.

Everyone finds a bad salesman awkward.

Coffee with a bad marketer, and an awkward salesman.

SFX: Sound of footsteps running away.


Great marketing! Salesmanship! Enthusiasm! Individuality! Authenticity!


This is really what is wrong with the whole coffee invite thing. It’s not about the coffee. We both know it’s not about the coffee. It’s about something you want. And so far you haven’t explained to me what’s in it for me. So in addition to your pitch being based on a non-truth, your first communication with a complete stranger is to ask for something.

Give something, or offer something up (not coffee), or invent desire, or communicate a benefit TO THE READER. Not, “Hello, I want to go for coffee with you.” Give first.

If you want something, say it. In my case, if you want a career consult, tell me you want a career consult. Then we will talk about fee and begin a business conversation. Career consults disguised as coffee, or sushi, or lunch, or drinks aren’t very nice. You don’t want coffee, you want a freebie. Ew.

The ‘next time you’re in town’ coffee invitation is one of the worst. Do you know what people who are in town on business do when they are in town on business? They go from meeting to meeting to meeting to meeting to meeting and then they get back on a plane.

Another problem with the ‘Let’s go for coffee’ invite, is that you’re asking a busy person to leave their office and come and see you. Don’t do that. Go to them. Make it easy.

Get them to book a boardroom. Because the conversation you want to have deserves a boardroom. Doesn’t it? What you’re selling, is far too important for a coffee shop.

So please.

Get a great opening line. Find out how to say what you do better than anyone else succinctly and interestingly in as few words as possible (She said, some 653 words later.).

For those of you sending out the coffee invites, I hope this article will help you be brave enough to say what you really want. To go for the authentic communication. I’d really love it if you started keeping score and letting me know if the way I am suggesting helps your batting average. I bet it will.

For those of you who get asked out a lot, I’ve now provided you with a link and a handy response every time you throw up your hands because you can’t believe that the ‘coffee shop’ method actually ever leads to actual commerce. (Don’t you think, it must be or they’d stop doing it. Or do they think that’s what you have to do, and just accept the crickets?)

If you’ve just been sent a link to this article, congratulations. The person who sent it to you has enough heart to give you a second chance. Try again. Do what I’ve suggested here. Market yourself, marketing person! Sell yourself, sales person! Don’t worry, they won’t remember the first botched coffee attempt. We’ll just all pretend it never happened.

Try again.

Just for fun, a final piece of advice: NEVER EVER suggest Tea to a Coffee Person. More on that here.

~ heidi

* Selling is not a bad thing, inauthenticity is.