No. You Can't Buy Me Coffee
Our story begins with me at an industry event. I’m shaking hands, I’m smiling, I’m swapping business cards with people. I’m trying to represent the brand. I’m trying to meet potential new hires. I’m trying to learn from my industry peers.
Networking is networking, some like it, some don’t. I don’t particularly like it, but it’s good for the company and I can handle it.
Sadly, tragedy strikes my inbox within days of the event. It explodes with dozens of emails from all too eager salesmen offering to buy me a cup of coffee. And of course they’ll also introduce me to their yadda yadda service or their whatever-the-hell product. It’s not a sales pitch, it’s coffee among friends. They want to bend my ear, run something by, have a chat, pick my brain, they want to take me out.
Here’s the problem: we don't know each other.
This person isn’t an industry peer, he isn’t a current vendor, and he wasn’t referred by a trusted mutual friend. He is just a modern day Willy Loman who happened to steal a handshake and a business card.
Don’t get me wrong. I get it. Sales is tough. At Nebo, we go through the pitching process all the time. It can be taxing, it can be brutal, but we don’t skip the process or violate social norms. We have faith in the value of our service and respect for each and every potential client.
The “let me buy you a cup of coffee” dude doesn’t respect the process. After only a polite nice to meet you (that I likely don’t remember), the guy is ready to cash in on our “friendship.” He offers to buy me a cup of coffee as if we were walking out of a Sunday morning pilates class. The $3 cup of coffee is not enough to bypass our regular means of vendor evaluation.
Dear Willy, allow the merits of your product to do the selling. Don’t try to shoehorn it through a coffee date and hope we won’t notice your flaws through the hazy glow of our newfound friendship.
Even if you are selling Hawks playoffs tickets (something I am totally interested in buying if anyone is selling Hawks playoffs tickets), don’t mix your business with my personal. Sitting down to coffee is something I do with family, friends, industry peers, and bright, young minds that I've met that are genuinely interested in learning about a career in digital.
Coffee is a beautiful thing. It's something to be savored. Enjoyed. Shared with people who I want to have real conversations with.
It is not a tactic.
Your offer puts me in an awkward position and forces me to be rude. I can’t say “Hey, we already have a solid relationship with XYZ vendor, but let’s stay in touch.” I can’t say “We’re actually evaluating XYZ service providers, let me hook you up with the right person at Nebo to talk.”
Instead I have to say no. No, I won’t accept your cup of coffee. No, I won’t talk about the weather with you. No, I won’t take an hour out of my day for you. Instead of rejecting your product, I now have to reject you.
But, alas, my answer will always be no.*
And not just no --- F-bomb no. So stop the offers. Don’t make me hate you. Don’t make you hate yourself. You’re better than that, Willy. Chin up.
It’s not personal, so please, don’t make it something that is.
*DISCLAIMER: Please disregard everything above if you are in fact a coffee salesman.