Whenever I’m offered coffee in a meeting, I say yes. Even if I don’t want one.
I know it’s not cool to admit it but I quite enjoy the last few drops of the ice cold coffee that lie in wait at the bottom of a cup at the end of a business meeting. They have an “I’m-ready-to-leave-and-be-on-my-way” taste about them. An acquired flavour for sure and one I discovered quite by accident.
My weekend coffee is another matter; piping hot, brewed perfectly and preferably grown on an ecologically sustainable plantation by fairly paid workers (have I missed anything?). But in a work setting my coffee standards are rather different.
The first time I accepted a hot drink (to be honest I can’t remember if it was tea or coffee) at a business meeting it was in response to “I’m having a coffee, would you like one too?” offer from the customer I was meeting about his office phones. “Great,” I thought, “a cuppa will be lovely”. And as the meeting progressed I realised that the mood was quite relaxed as we sipped away whilst discussing the relative merits of two different telephone systems.
This was the start of the “great coffee experiment” I conducted over the next few years of my sales career. Where I found that not only did accepting a refreshment make the meeting more relaxed it also gave some natural structure to it’s pace. Small talk (relationship building!) until the coffee arrived, a segue into the business discussion as the coffee is stirred and then down to business.
The great accidental discovery that I made (a bit like Penicillin but without the Nobel prize) was that I could influence how long I got to spend with a customer based on how slowly I drank. Most people are generally polite. Particularly those who offer you a coffee in the first place. And they don’t tend to kick you out if they know that you’re still drinking. (I’ve found that it does help to hold the cup in your hand if you don’t want there to be any doubt that you are still enjoying their hospitality).