A coffee for your thoughts

How many times have you said, "Let's meet for coffee" to a client or potential client? Was it just a fleeting comment or did you actually have the meeting?  When you say that to a friend or acquaintance, you often forget about it.  If you were really good, you played phone tag a time or two and could shrug it off.  If not, you blame it on life getting in the way.  But, you can't do that with clients or especially with prospective clients.  You won't have another chance.  If you forget to follow-up on things you said to prospects, you'll likely miss out on a new client. Potential clients are looking for how you deliver on your promises as a test if they'll do business with you in the future. That new client could have led to direct revenue, referrals, ideas, business connections and more.  

There are very few self-employed service providers who don't need to build relationships in order to build their business. From accountants and financial advisors to realtors and personal trainers, your next deal or your next sessions comes from who you know and how often you've stayed connected with them. Out of sight will translate to out of mind if you aren't putting forth effort. Building relationships takes time and effort, especially with prospects.  It usually takes more than just one email or phone call to win their business.  When you ask a prospect to meet for coffee, your intention is to move the conversation to a more personal stage. Face-to-face meetings are critical at this point, as they provide both verbal and physical cues. You are able to assess a person's body language and tone of voice.  Nonverbal cues from prospects will communicate a great deal of information about themselves. Likewise, you will be able to communicate more information about yourself to them.  If you are genuinely willing and able to provide them with a valuable service, this will come across to them and will be the difference maker. 

Let's grab a coffee

Coffee shops are excellent settings for your face-to-face meetings. As a self-employed professional, you don't likely have a big budget or a fancy office. The cost of coffee for two is reasonable and most coffee shops have tables and sofas that provide a relaxed environment for casual or business meetings. They also have outlets and free WIFI.  You can do most everything you would need for an informal sales meeting.  The big difference is the people and atmosphere around you.  While it may not be perfect for some situations, it actually adds to most.  You'll be energized by the life, personality, creativity and relationship building going on all around you.

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Now I appreciate that trying to schedule two busy professionals can be a challenge, but it's much easier to do with simple online booking software. Systems that offer Invite to Book features can prompt clients that are overdue for appointments or purchases to schedule quickly and easily online. They also provide a mechanism to follow-up on sales leads.  These online scheduling features provide a real-time view into your calendar. This allows your contacts, customers and leads to book available time slots, regardless of whether you are sleeping or with another client. No more excuses about missing an invitation to get together.Additionally, you can use your contacts you've accumulated from your meetings and add them to your monthly eNurturing campaigns. This allows you to stay top of mind with clients in between encounters and appointments.

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Self-employed business professionals use these tools in place of a personal assistant. They avoid the back and forth of phone tag by adding their custom appointment booking url on their business card. They refer to it at the conclusion of every meeting with potential clients. Additionally, some systems such as GoNotes provide simple features to remind clients to book online, wish them happy birthday, and say thank you. Every opportunity you have to communicate with clients and prospects will strengthen relationships and generate repeat business.

Building relationships is critical to long-term business success

Whatever service or product you are selling, building relationships with contacts and customers is critical to your long-term success. Statistically speaking it may take five or more encounters before you make a sale. Continue your initial conversations and don't let your follow-up fall by the wayside.  Commit to making a short list of people you will reach out to this week for follow-up. Start by asking them for a coffee for their thoughts and ask to join you for coffee. 

Lisa Sandoval is a small business and soloprenuer enthusiast. She believes that all self-employed professionals deserve high quality business and marketing tools that  allow them to compete successfully against larger corporations. Lisa is committed to networking, learning and sharing best practices especially for self-employed business owners. Connect with Lisa and share small business and entrepreneurial ideas. She can be reached at https://app.gonotes.com/book/lisa-sandoval