The Coffee Shop Interview

Transform your relationships and your business through great conversation.

Transform your relationships and your business through great conversation.

The Coffee Shop Interview is our how-to guide to having deeper conversations. The key is to shift your focus from being interesting to being interested! Download the e-book for free here:

The Coffee Shop Interview


The Coffee Shop Interview will transform the way you approach business and personal conversations. The idea is simple but powerful: your job is to find out as much about the other person as you can, in a way that leaves them feeling understood and affirmed. That’s it!

Now that you know what it is, it’s just as important for you to understand what it ISN’T. When you are doing a Coffee Shop Interview, you want to take your agenda entirely off the table. If you are in a sales role, your challenge is to never bring up your product or service, and if the other person asks you about it to gently turn the conversation back to them. You’ll have plenty of time to talk about your business later. This conversation is about THEM! On that note, don’t even think about bringing along any pamphlets, samples, or other swag from your business!

Getting Ready for the Interview 

There are some practical dimensions to this conversation that are critical to setting yourself up the right way for the interview. You want to do everything you can to ensure you are fully present in the conversation, with no distractions. Your phone should be in Do Not Disturb mode or left in the car…definitely not anywhere in sight. You don’t need a laptop or any other technology around you. 

You can bring a notebook, but you do NOT want to be scribbling notes the entire time. You want to set your conversation partner at ease and not have them wondering what you are writing down and why you are taking so many notes. You can jot down the notes you want to remember after the conversation is over!

Adopting the Right Mindset

In the Coffee Shop Interview, the energy and approach you bring to the conversation is essential. If you are only pretending to be interested in them while secretly thinking about your own agenda, the other person will sense it! 

These Six Principles will help you to get the most out of your interviews:

  1. You are not the center of the universe; other people are.

  2. Paying attention to other peoples’ lives is the secret to success.

  3. In conversation, it is far better to be interested than interesting.

  4. Consciously move the emphasis from “what’s in it for you” to “what’s in it for them”.

  5. The more you contribute to the lives of others, the more will be given to you.

  6. In every meaningful interaction, resolve that the other person will leave feeling better about themselves than when they arrived.

It seems crazy, but by placing our emphasis on others, in turn you will get more of what you want. But that emphasis on others has to be genuine!

Get Related

The Coffee Shop Interview is 100% about building an authentic relationship. To do that, you have to show the other person you care. How do you do that? You get related

Getting related means building trust and connection. They have to know you hear them. Hearing them is not the same as listening to them. They need to know that you are feeling what they are sharing with you. This means showing empathy. It means looking them so square in the eye that they know you care about what they are sharing.

 The other key to getting related is to create a space where they feel safe to show some vulnerability. You are asking them some deep questions, questions they are probably not used to being asked. But just asking the questions isn’t enough - you have to give them permission to give you the real answer, not the sugar coated version.

Creating that safe space is different every time. The two things that we have found work most consistently are (1) to gently affirm them as they begin to open up, and (2) to “tell one on yourself”. 

As the other person begins to share something real, you have to show them that you can handle it and are not going to judge them. Often that is as simple as giving them a positive comment back or thanking them for having the courage to share something like that. They simply need to know that if they put something heavy on the table with you, you are going to stay there with them and not pull back.

Telling one on yourself is the simple act of lowering your own guard to share something that is not only vulnerable, but that casts you in a slightly embarrassing light. You don’t want to go too far here to make someone uncomfortable. Instead, you are trying to help yourself be relatable. Remember, you are doing this to serve the other person by helping them to feel comfortable and safe. Trust your gut on what you share and do it from your heart, not your head.

The Script

Just kidding. There is no script! Think about your favorite interviewer - maybe a TV or radio personality, someone amazing at getting to the heart of their interview subjects. You would expect they probably do a lot of research ahead of the interviews. They probably even have a list of questions prepared. But do they simply look down at their paper and ask one question after another in order? Of course not! They work hard to have a conversation that flows and they find the areas where there is passion for the other person, and then keep digging. 

That is exactly what you want to do when you are interviewing. It’s great to have done some preparation ahead of time. You might check out the other person on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn a little more about their interests, or you might have the reference of a mutual friend that can give you some background about them.

For those of you who want a little extra guidance, in the appendix of this guide you can find a Questions Bank that has some example questions organized by the FORD concept (Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams) to get you started. Just promise us you won’t read them one by one in order when you are interviewing!

Having the Conversation

As you do your Coffee Shop Interview, there are a couple of things to keep in mind that will help you to ultimately be able to serve the other person. If you are going to be able to serve, you have to get a real understanding of what is missing in that person’s life. This is where you have to dig deeper than others often do in your questions. Check out the questions bank if you need some inspiration and a couple of “super questions” that really cut to the heart of the matter.

When you are asking your conversation partner what he or she wants to have more of in life, get really specific, and write down the answers. You are trying to give the other person permission to dream in a concrete way. By remembering the specifics of those answers (what restaurant they love, their dream car or vacation destination), you can remind them of those dreams to motivate them to take positive steps.

Did I Do It Right?

How do you know when you have been successful in interviewing someone? You have been successful in your interview if you are able to answer the following questions:

  1. Do you know this person better than almost anyone else in his or her life?

  2. Do you know what his or her dreams and goals are?

  3. Do you know if they are willing to do what it takes to achieve those goals?

  4. Do you know what is missing from his or her life and why? 

  5. Do you know if YOU would want to partner with this person in your business?

  6. Do you know the reasons why your company would or would not be a good fit for this person?

The ultimate purpose of the Coffee Shop Interview is to find out what is missing in the life of the person. It will most likely be one of three things: money, health, or time. Most people want more of all three, but only one of them is popping their eyes open at 2:00 in the morning. It’s your job to figure out which one that is!

From the interview, you will determine if and why what you are offering would be a perfect fit, and eventually present it to them based on WHAT THEY SAID. Note the emphasis on eventually. You are definitely NOT doing this in the initial interview conversation, and often it will take 5-7 interactions before you have built the trust and relationship for them to be ready to hear about a business opportunity. You’ll know because they will be practically or maybe even literally asking you to go there. This is what is so amazing about the Coffee Shop Interview. It is all about attraction rather than promotion. The other person will feel so connected to you that he or she will be leaning into the idea of partnering with you.

With Great Power…

As you master the Coffee Shop Interview, you are going to be amazed by the depth of conversations you will have. You will discover that people will share really meaningful personal details of their lives. In many ways, this will give you a roadmap to their heart that gives you a lot of power to influence. This is why the Principles of the CSI are so essential. You MUST use this power to serve the other person, NOT to serve yourself at their expense.

Setting Up the Next Interaction

In the Coffee Shop Interview, your main job is to be a great listener and build trust. As you close out the conversation, you want to make sure you do not invalidate all the great work you did listening by being pushy at the end. All you need to do is make sure you have the other person’s contact details and you have given yourself enough of a connection to be able to follow up.

After the conversation, the most important thing you can do is to CONTACT MAP the details of that conversation. This is going to support you in your follow up and in strengthening your relationships and your network over the long haul. To learn more about Contact Mapping, head over to

With the notes from your Contact Mapping in mind, you will follow up with the other person and speak directly into what they already shared with you: “Hi ______, it was great talking the other day. I have been thinking about you. When we spoke, you mentioned {XYZ challenge in your life: tied to money, time, or health}. I think I might have an idea for you.” 

When you are truly sharing based on a desire to help the other person to address the challenges in his or her life, whatever you offer can be received as an authentic desire to help instead of an unwelcome sales pitch. This gives you the best possible chance of succeeding in sharing a business opportunity, but even more importantly it honors your relationship such that no matter the outcome, the other person feels loved and served through the conversation.

Wrapping It Up

Using the  Coffee Shop Interview will give you a newfound toolset to have meaningful, authentic conversations with everyone from a complete stranger to a longtime friend. In each case, you will be able to develop a deeper relationship and identify opportunities to serve others. As you shift your focus to serving others’ agenda instead of your own, you will find that new opportunities will manifest themselves that benefit you while still serving the needs of others. 

We are excited for you to join us in leveraging the power of the Coffee Shop Interview in your relationships. If you get stuck or have questions/feedback, we want to hear from you! Drop us a note at and we will be sure to get back to you.


Questions Bank

  • Family

          • Do you have a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend? How did you meet? How long have you been together?

          • Do you have any kids? What are their names and ages? Tell me about them!

          • What is your relationship like with your mom and dad?

          • Do you have siblings? Where do you fall in the order?

          • What do you value about your family life? How important is family life for you?

  • Occupation

          • What do you do for a living? 

          • Do you like your job? Do you like your boss? Your coworkers?

          • Did you go to college? Where did you go? What did you study? If you could do it all over, would you study the same thing?

          • How did you get into what you do today?

          • What do you like most about your job? What don’t you like?

          • Have you ever heard of Network Marketing/MLM? What do you think of it? Ever done it yourself? 

          • Do you think you’re making enough money in your current job? 

          • Have you ever had a “side hustle”?

          • Have you ever considered changing careers? What would you want to do?

          • Do you have a college fund for your kids? Do you own your house? What do your retirement savings look like? 

  • Recreation

          • What do you like to do in your free time?

          • Do you like to travel? Where have you been?

          • Do you exercise regularly? What do you like to do? Do you eat healthy?

          • How is your health? Are you able to do all the things you want to do? Do you have the energy?

          • What was the last book you read for fun?

          • What keeps you from doing more of the things you love?

  • Dreams

          • If you had a “side hustle” that could give you an extra $250 a month, what would that do for you? $2,500?

          • If your boss pulled you into his office tomorrow and told you you were getting a $10,000/yr raise, what would change for you? $25,000? $50,000?

          • If you could help out anyone in your life in some meaningful way, who would that be? What would you do for them?

          • What would your dream house look like? Dream car? Dream vacation?

          • What would be the perfect day for you?

          • If you could define a dream job for yourself, what qualities would it have? What qualities would it definitely NOT have?

  • What “pops your eyes open” at 2:00 in the morning? This is an awesome question! What you are trying to do is get them to share what is really bothering them - it is likely to be something around their time, their health, or money. Save this question for the right moment, but use it. People aren’t used to hearing it and so it will push them just enough to make them think.