People shaking hands over coffee (Credit: iStock)

Coffee is the most popular drink in America. According to Euromonitor, in 2016 Americans drank 88.8 gallons per person. Bottled water came in at 33.5 gallons.

You may have read about the idea of prospecting by going out drinking.

(Related: The Drinker’s Guide to Prospecting)

Maybe alcohol isn’t your thing.

If you’re a coffee fan, there’s a strategy for you.

Wine and spirits have drawbacks. You can’t drink them in the morning without getting funny looks from people nearby. Your prospect might have joined Alcoholics Anonymous, something they might not broadcast to the world. Coffee has wide acceptance. Here are some ways it can supplement your prospecting efforts.

1. Let’s meet for coffee.

Recruiters do it all the time. As an agent or advisor, when your social prospecting involves expanding a friendship into a business relationship too, meeting for coffee is a low-key way to meet on neutral territory. You aren’t meeting in your office, which could be intimidating. You aren’t meeting at theirs, where distractions and interruptions can break your flow.

2. I’ll bring coffee.

What do you like? You are meeting a client or prospect in their office. Most people drink coffee. It’s done at all times of the day. Offering to bring coffee is a sign of hospitality. Your firm may have even built this into its office culture. When someone arrives at your office, does the receptionist ask if they would like a coffee?

3. Where can you get a good coffee around here?

Wine can be intimidating. Coffee is easy to understand. You visit a prospect or client. The neighborhood is new to you. It’s their home territory. You ask the question. They not only have an opinion; they might suggest you walk over together.

4. Find a coffee shop.

Stop before work. You aren’t going to get many new clients drinking coffee at your desk. Find a traditional coffee shop with a counter in an area with a small business concentration. Ideally, it’s on your route to work. Order your coffee. Sit at the counter. Talk to the people around you. Become a regular. They will ask “What do you do?”

5. Let’s try that new place.

You are socializing with friends/prospects/clients. What are we going to do? Where should we go? There are always new specialty coffee shops opening. They get written up in magazines. Suggest everyone meets there. See what makes them special.

6. Coffee makes a great gift.

You are thinking about holiday gifts for clients. Maybe you need a hostess gift when you arrive at a holiday party. As a coffee lover, you can pick an interesting blend or bean. It’s something that gets used.

7. Don’t forget mugs.

An advisor would serve clients coffee during portfolio reviews. The coffee is served in attractive mugs with the firm’s logo. If the clients remarked “These mugs are nice” he would ask his assistant “Do we have any extra mugs?” The advisor has pairs or sets of boxed mugs attractively wrapped. He would send them home with mugs. Having their morning coffee in their kitchen using a mug with the firm’s logo is a brilliant way to keep the firm (and you) top of mind.

8. Let’s talk coffee makers.

You want something to talk about when meeting new people at social events. Coffee is popular. So far, so good. Get them talking about coffee makers. Many people have machines using single cup pods. Others have fancy chrome machines that cost the equivalent of a small (used) car.

9. Taking clients out, meet their friends.

You want to do something nice for clients. Buying them lunch is more than you want to spend. Going out for coffee is an inexpensive alternative. If you’ve been asking them to refer friends or coworkers, it’s neutral ground. Ask them to bring someone along.

10. Coffee articles to clip.

Glossy magazines are often running articles on new coffee shops, new brands and blends. They run articles about fancy coffee machines. If you have a friend or client who is also a coffee fan, clip the articles and pass them along. (Check with Compliance.) Another less tangible approach is to share a link to the article.

11. It’s cheap.

Going to a wine bar can be expensive. Don’t get me started on steakhouses. Being a coffee lover, trying new places and treating friends to a cup is inexpensive by comparison.

12. Going out after an activity.

Your social prospecting brings you to museum openings. You’ve met a nice couple. It’s still early. Ask if they want to try that new coffee place around the corner.

13. “Best of” lists.

Your city likely has several “reader’s choice” competitions run by local publications. Check out the “Best coffee” winners. Suggest to friends and clients you try them together. Will the client bring a friend?

14. Dollar coffee.

Some convenience store chains serve pretty good coffee. From time to time they do “$1 coffee, any size” promotions. Tell your friends. They tell other people who ask: “Where did you hear that?” Your visibility is growing.

Your love of coffee doesn’t replace your prospecting plan, but it gives you a common interest to share as part of your client acquisition strategy.

— Read How to Order Wine Like a Boss (Without Paying Like One)on ThinkAdvisor.


Bryce SandersBryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” can be found on Amazon.