Milkshakes

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As a startup co-founder, I spend tons of time sending the kinds of emails most parents (and 25% of all Law and Order episodes) warn people to never respond to. I ask complete strangers I find online if they’ll agree to a meeting. 
 
I email potential customers: “Hey, RocketBolt is a great product that’ll make you tons of money! Wanna meet for coffee?” 
 
I email potential investors: “Hey, RocketBolt is a great company that’ll make you tons of money! Wanna meet for coffee?” 
 
I email potential employees: “Hey, RocketBolt is a great company that’ll pay you tons of money… and we’ve got an office ping pong table! Wanna meet for coffee?” 

For non-entrepreneurs, these kinds of online solicitations probably seem strange in a “To Catch a Predator”  kind of way. For me, the only strange thing is that I don’t drink coffee. And yet, most of my meetings take place in some form of coffee shop. 
 
Because I got tired of meeting at coffee houses and then explaining to my new acquaintance that I don’t actually drink coffee, I decided I’d try something different. I started asking people to meet for milkshakes. 
 
My conversion rate for turning “cold emails” into meetings unexpectedly increased by around 30%. I got more responses from more people, and more of the people who did respond agreed to meet. 
 
If I’m being honest, the likely reason for my increased conversion rate is that suggesting a milkshake – as opposed to coffee or beer or lunch – is just different enough from the kinds of requests people usually get that it catches their attention and makes them willing to respond. 

But screw being honest. Let’s romanticize the reason. I want to believe milkshakes are so delicious that no one I could reasonably expect to have a thriving business relationship with would ever turn one down. It’s a sort of compatibility test. It says: “If you’re as interested in slurping down a smooth, creamy, malted cup of sugary heaven as I am right now, then we’ve got a solid foundation on which to build a thriving partnership.” 
 
So if you want a quick way to convert more cold emails into meetings, try my milkshake trick. And even if you don’t care about getting more meetings, consider this: I’ve left plenty of coffee meetings thinking,“that was a waste of time.” 

But, no matter the outcome, I always leave a milkshake meeting thinking: "That meeting was amazing!" 

Can you say the same thing about all of your meetings?

**Aaron is teaching a public workshop at Duke University on Wednesday, April 1, about sourcing opportunities as an entrepreneur. Come for the free pizza. Stay for the networking and wisdom. (Pizza and wisdom not guaranteed.)