The Confidence Factor for Women: What is the cost of a coffee meeting?

“Can we meet for a cup of coffee?”

I used to see it as an innocent gesture of creating value by connecting with new prospects or just an intimate form of networking. It never dawned on me that coffee was a new expense in my life that caused me to reevaluate a delicious cup of caramel macchiato with soy foam.

As I travel from city to city giving keynotes for universities and corporations on the value of women leaders, the inbox messages to join me for a cup of coffee pops up on my phone the moment I land. “What hotel are you going to? I want to meet you for coffee.” As I debate the value of a impromptu coffee request, I quickly evaluate the reciprocal value of my time.

In my former days, these requests would be simple to answer: yes! Without haste, I would accept and run to meet “someone” I connected with on social media, etc for a quick cup of joe. It was a tempting distraction from my day as I would try to find ways to break up the time so I would not be overwhelmed by the enormity of tasks. A one-hour meeting may run over into a 2 to 3 hour “pick my brain” session with no outcome. Besides, how can you convert a coffee meeting without boundaries into a client when you agreed to sacrifice your time for a cup of mocha?

The relationship started at a disadvantage.

However, my first business advisor told me that it was a great way to build a following and covert business. In the end, it was an expensive “pick your brain” session with a $7 prize at the end; a cup to go. Following up with these “coffee meetings” proved to be another challenge where there was never another chance to reconnect, unless they needed another reason to pick your brain.

The business grew, and a cup of coffee with me became more expensive. Now, I had to factor in the loss of time and productivity for a chance to meet someone for coffee. People will try to “guilt” you into a chance meeting when there is no value for moving forward.

What are coffee meetings costing you?

Well, it depends. This is not a universal concept for every business model, but for those who sell intellectual capital based expertise, it is something to consider. Every consultation, and coffee meeting has a cost. The true question is how much do you value your time? Prospects who are committed to doing business with you do not need additional validation on your value to move forward. If it is a friendship connection or just additional support/advisory, maybe a cup of joe is the best way to create a partnership. Prospecting rarely works when you are easily accessible.

Before you accept your next coffee invitation, make sure you set boundaries. I tell everyone who asks, “I reserve coffee meetings for my investors at this time.” It immediately creates the standard.

Carol Sankar is a high level business consultant and the founder of The Confidence Factor for Women in Leadership, which is a global executive leadership firm focused on diversity and inclusion initiatives for high level women. Carol has been featured at TEDx, The Steve Harvey Show, Bounce TV, Inroads, The Society for Diversity, SHRM, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, Homevestors and more. For more details, visit

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