How to Have a Successful Networking Coffee or Lunch Date

I often say that building a successful business requires building meaningful relationships.  But, what exactly do you do after you meet a new person at anNetworking Lunch event and you would like to get to know them better, and maybe deepen the relationship?  Many people ask their new contacts out on a date.  Usually a coffee date or a lunch date.

You might be asking, “But how do I make the most of these networking coffee dates or lunch dates?” Or you may be thinking about how your last networking date went terribly wrong.  Perhaps, you’re envisioning being held hostage at the table while some over-the-top biz owner annoyingly tries to sell you their stuff. Or maybe, you’re thinking about the last person who relentlessly kept trying to “pick your brain” like a vulture in the Sonoran Desert.

If this is you, don’t worry.  Networking dates can be fabulous beginnings to long-lasting and profitable relationships.

Here are my top tips for successfully navigating the networking coffee or lunch date:

  1. Choose your dates wisely. Your time is valuable don’t waste it on folks who are going to “rub you the wrong way.”  Don’t feel the need to say, “yes” to everyone who asks you out.  Choose people whom you like.  Say yes to people who are aligned with your personality.
  2. Don’t try to get married on the first date.  In other words, don’t go into the meeting desperate to get a new client. Always focus on building the relationship first.  People can sense when you’re only in it for the sale.
  3. Take a little time to get to know the other person.  The best way to build instant rapport with someone is to be interested in them.  Ask them about their hobbies, where they’re from, their family, etc.–the same types of things that you would ask anyone you just met. You might find that you have a lot of things in common which always helps in building a strong relationship foundation.
  4. Next ask them about their business.  What do they like about their business? Who are their ideal clients? What would be a good referral for them and what are some signs to look for?  You might also ask what other support they might be looking for in their business. After they’ve had a chance to talk about their business, they will most likely ask you the same questions about yours.
  5. Ask for a referral.  If you feel comfortable that this person is aligned with you, your business, and your values, don’t hesitate to ask for some support.  Most people will be happy to help you out after you so generously offered to help them. Let them know what would be a good referral for you. And simply say, “If you know anyone who is looking for __________ please have them contact me.” If they show interest in your services, great. If they don’t, that’s great, too. They may know someone in their network that is a perfect fit for you. If you have a formal referral program, tell them about it.  Or perhaps you’re looking for something different, like speaking gigs or a web designer–just let them know how they might help.
  6. Go the virtual route.  If you don’t have time to meet in person, set up a virtual lunch date over the phone.  Virtual dates are a fabulous way to connect with people who might not live in your local area, as well.
  7. Stay in touch. Follow-up with them after the date.  Don’t let this be the last contact with them.  And by following up I don’t mean adding them to your newsletter list without their permission.  That’s spam. Actively cultivate the relationship and it will likely pay off.

If you follow these steps, you’ll definitely expand your network and your reach.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please feel free to leave your comments below.  And if you haven’t done so already, don’t forget to sign up for the BrightFire Profits and Impact Intensive, starting Monday January 14, at 12 PM EST.  There’s no cost to attend and you will gain more practical tips on expanding your reach and creating powerful and profitable relationships so you can serve more people and make a bigger difference.


About Tiffany deSilva

Tiffany deSilva is the founder, CEO, and visionary leader of BrightFire Women’s Business Network, LLC.

BrightFire Women’s Business Network is the premiere sales training and coaching resource for service-based women entrepreneurs who want to increase their sales, serve more people, and change more lives.

Feedback & Comments:

  1. I like your solid tips about how to proceed to “dating” when you’ve been out networking. The devil is in the follow-up, as you say. Thanks, Tiffany!

  2. These are seven strategic steps to success in this area of networking. Too often, because two contacts have met face-to-face they move forward too fast. There is no need to rush. As you mentioned, stay connected. Statistically, sales and strategic partnerships escalate after the 4th, 5th or 6th time you connect…pep

  3. Thanks Tiffany for the solid tips on lunch “dates.” I never really thought of networking that way before!

  4. Great “how to” tips. So many people know they should be following up, having coffee, or lunch, yet aren’t sure what to do when you actually get together. Good info on framing the conversation and how to follow up.

    Stay RADICAL,

  5. I love the dating analogy and how you play it out into the practical details. So true that entering a new client relationship can be a lot like entering into a romantic one!

    Love and Success,

    Katherine C. H. E.
    Author, Be True Rich

  6. Great business “date” advice – I have been at the hands of a “pick your brain” vulture and it wasn’t nice. I am sharing this with our member!
    Heidi Alexandra
    Leading Ladies International

  7. Tiffany, I rarely meet in person with anyone any longer, as I’m 100% virtual these days. :) However, your tips work whether meeting F2F or on the phone. One way I like to followup with people is send them something (a link to my work or someone else’s) in which they expressed interest during our conversation. Quick and easy way for me to naturally follow up that feels authentic. :)

  8. Great tips for follow up! So many of my clients leave networking events with a pile of business cards and feel their work is done because the people on the other end of the pile have my clients cards. I say NO! you do not wait to be called, you follow up!! In fact, creating a strategic plan for networking events so that you establish the “first date” as you put it, makes it so much easier.

  9. The choose your dates wisely is a biggie for me. I have a hard time saying no to people that want to meet for coffee or lunch that I don’t really know or don’t believe would be a good connection for me. We have such limited time that its tough to find the right balance, stay true to your values and still build strong relationships and at the same time recognizing that you can’t possibly say yes to every person that wants to meet you and pick your brain.

    • I know so many women feel bad saying “no” to someone. Usually because we don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. However, I believe most people won’t think anything of it if you decline their offer politely. It definitely is a balancing act.

  10. Great tips! And it all starts with #1 – Choosing Your Dates Wisely. This can be really hard to do, especially for women.

    I think women especially are often raised to be “people pleasers” and we don’t always have the skills to say no and move on.

    I’ve observed this often with my own clients. The men will say “It wasn’t the right fit.” and move on. Women tend to say “I just couldn’t say no.” or they feel bad and have to work through saying no.

    But ultimately, if a connection isn’t a good fit, it’s better for both people to say no – so they can move on to the connection that IS right for them.


    • Thanks, Lisa. I agree, women often have trouble with saying no, but sometimes saying no is the best way to be of service to everyone involved. It’s not always personal and women tend to take on a lot of negativity unneccessarily.

  11. Being careful about which dates you accept is the biggest lesson I have learned … Avoid those who just want to pick your brain and get free consulting or coaching … those who value you enough to try to get your advice, but not enough to actually pay you for that advice!

  12. Great follow up advice Tiffany! More and more people are networking but what about the follow up? You’ve outlined some very good choices for following up which is what will really build the relationship!

  13. Tiffany,
    It always shocks me when I learn how people just don’t follow up.
    They make the assumption, the meeting, the networking event,
    the lunch meeting will somehow ‘magically’ create an opportunity.

  14. I like steps 3 and 4 being about them rather than yourself. The best way to break the ice is to get people talking and most like talking about themselves so those are good steps.

  15. Love the article Tiffany! Great strategies to encourage follow-up and empower networking and collaborations. Also congratulations on making Bright Fire Women’s Business Network a reality!

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