Ideas for improving your coffee chat conversion rate

GoingToBeAnMD's picture
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Quick Background: I am a mid-career professional, strong background in working in a lot of industries outside of banking/finance. I have been a long time member of WSO (burner account) just because it's a fun board with some smart people. But all of that background dovetailed when I signed on to join a BB at the VP level. I'm not going to be too specific but I have an in-demand skill set and I have enjoyed the transition into a proper banking role. I interface with my MD on a daily basis and some of the results I'm producing are being presented at the very, very highest levels of the entire company. If there is an interest in it, at some point I might do an AMA on how my career ended up at a BB.

So along with the title/status change on my LinkedIn came a lot more attention than I had anticipated. I've had all kinds of people contact me, I had sales emails waiting for me on my first day on the job and I've even had long-lost relatives come out of the woodwork (seriously). But it's also brought out a lot more students that I expected and I get a fair amount of inquiries from students wanting a coffee chat - I'd say I get 1-2/week on a consistent basis, sometimes more. So I thought I'd put together some ideas on how to increase your conversions on these based on my own thoughts and conversations I've had with my colleagues.

  • If you get nothing else from this, get this: read Jeffrey Gitomer's "Little Black Book of Sales". It's a book that's helped me tremendously and relevant to this topic. Basically, no one wants to be "pitched" but everyone wants to do business with their friends. So your goal should be to make friends, not try to pitch yourself. That will help you in landing coffee chats and in other parts of life. Your goal in every coffee chat email should be to make a new friend, not to sell yourself and push your resume.
  • I have been pleasantly surprised at how many of my colleagues have expressed an interest in mentoring others. We recently had an opportunity to guest teach at schools, through a local school district. The sign up list for that was a mile long and many of my friends were doing it as the third or fourth year of volunteering! I was personally involved in the Big Brother program for a couple of years and enjoyed it immensely. In other words, a lot of people that you are reaching out to would love to have someone to mentor
  • Let's be honest, I already know why you're contacting me. Your profile tells me you're a student and I don't need help guessing that an internship would boost your resume. So why say it? If you approach me in friendship and seeking a mentor, I can put two-and-two together.
  • Realize that the coffee chats are a long-term play, not short-term. Approach me for advice, for guidance and for follow-up coffee. The end-game for you is to be a friend and the next time someone in the office approaches me about a short-term analyst job, I can reply with, "Well, I know this young friend of mine . . . " That could be next week or next year, there is no way to tell. It might be long term, but if you do it right, then it's guaranteed to put your resume on top of the stack.

I'm not going to post what the ideal email should look like because the smart ones among you should be able to figure out and the dumb ones will just copy and paste it.

Send me a good article you read, send me a question on how to handle a problem at school. Hell, send me a problem from one of your textbooks! Send me anything other than, "I'm Bob and I am a junior and I would love to work this summer at XXXX. I would like to meet for coffee for some questions . . .". Gee, I wonder what those questions could be :eyeroll: That type of email just makes me feel used, makes you look like you're blindly throwing darts at a board, begging for luck to hit you. That's just not going to have a high conversion rate for you and why would I push the resume of a kid that didn't really seek my advice?

Ask for career advice (in general terms), ask about what I think you should do for grad school, ask about an interesting hobby or post I made on LinkedIn. If someone sent me a draft of an abstract for a school project to review, I would still be 10x more likely to reply to that than Bob's email above.

Good luck and I'll try to answer questions in this thread if there's any.

Comments (9)

Apr 4, 2018

Hey, thanks for doing this. How do you suggest we reconnect with someone we met at a networking event? I usually just send a thank you note, I mean these guys choose to come to campus instead of getting a couple of hours of sleep, didn't want to ask anything else.

"In Sicily, women are more dangerous than shotguns."

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Apr 4, 2018

Good question. I think a key would be to show interest in them as opposed to their company. Did they share a personal experience you remember? Did they do your event because they're an alumni there? Is there an issue you're having that they can help with? Again, look for opportunities to be mentored and seek guidance - I think most people would reply positively to an inquiry like that.

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Apr 7, 2018

Would you recommend the same approach when contacting smaller boutiques for summer internships? I've heard it's better to be more direct in these cases, especially when reaching out towards the end of the recruiting season.

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Apr 7, 2018

1 - Again, this is all a long term play. So you shouldn't be reaching out at the end of recruiting season. Reach out when it's not recruiting season, reach out after you know the person can't help you because they're done recruiting. Reach out because you want to make a friend, not an "in" for a job.

2 - My OP and the approach I'm suggesting is about getting to know the person, not the company. So there really isn't a difference in the approach whether the person is at a small boutique or a large BB.

Apr 12, 2018

In regard to you comment about your colleagues, and perhaps yourself, having interest in mentoring young professionals: Does this mentor/protege relationship develop informally or would you ask the senior 'to become your mentor' after meeting multiple times and developing some rapport?

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Apr 13, 2018

I like that question. This is going to depend both on you and the person you are becoming friends with. Personally, I wouldn't mind if someone asked that as part of a lead-in in their initial letter. For others that might be too "direct". So I would say that you should feel it out but don't be afraid to mention it early on.

Apr 12, 2018

tangential question for OP...what would you say to a former coworker, who you haven't talked to in 5 years after they left the firm for a "better opportunity"....who you had a good working relationship with all those years ago...and has been out of the business now for a couple years and is looking for a way to get back in? How would you prefer to be approached. "hey john, its been years...you free to chat?" or is there a better way to reconnect?

just google it...you're welcome

Apr 13, 2018

That's a really good question. I'll just give you the thought that jumped into my head when I first read your post: Keith Ferazzi wrote the book "Never Eat Lunch Alone", I don't recommend it, it's not good. But I did have one take-away from it.

There's 2 things people will always deeply care about, their health and their kids. So, keeping in line with my previous advice of making friends (remember, no one wants to be pitched) I would start by reconnecting with your friend based on things they care about. It's kind of a dick move to not reply when someone asks about and shows an interest in your kids, right? Maybe you can try reconnecting and establishing a friendship in that manner?

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Apr 13, 2018
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just google it...you're welcome

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