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The Best Places to Meet Up with Prospective Clients (Other than Your Office or Theirs)

The Best Places for Informal Business Meetings for WomenYears ago I had a meeting with a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur, and he made an interesting comment I still find myself thinking about: his preferred place for informal business meetings was hotel lobbies. (Looking back he probably got the idea from this NYT article!) There are obvious advantages to this — they’re nice, public spaces; they usually have food and drink available, as well as bathrooms, free WiFi (or WiFi you may be able to get if, say, you stay one night) — and they also generally don’t mind if you linger or talk. But at the time, I wondered: was that really the best place for informal business meetings for women? Could I steal that trick for myself?

Cut to a week ago, when I had a phone conversation with a consultant I’m mentoring, and we were discussing whether she needed conference space of her own — and my mind came back to the conversation about hotel lobbies. My hesitation here has always been the one a lot of you are probably thinking right now: you don’t want any client to misunderstand you and think you’re propositioning them.

We’ve talked before about where to find new clients and general business development tips — how to network in a general way so you can meet new people who eventually become clients — but not where to physically meet up with prospective clients if you want an informal meeting place — so let’s discuss.

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Finding and Joining Professional Organizations

Finding and Joining the Right Professional Organizations | CorporetteHow do you find out about professional organizations that could be a good fit for you and your goals? How do you decide which organizations to join, whether for networking in your niche, business development/new clients, or just better opportunities? Ladies, what are your best tips for finding worthwhile professional organizations? 

Psst: We’ve also looked at volunteering and joining a nonprofit board.

Many readers offered their advice when we last discussed professional organizations, and we’re including their best suggestions in our list of tips:

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When Your Client Hits On You: How to Deal with Unwanted Sexual Advances at Work

How to handle it when your client hits on you How should you handle it when your client hits on you? We got an emergency email from reader K, who is getting a bit uncomfortable with a prospective customer and his unwanted sexual advances at work — the client asked her out!

I am a [physical product that attaches to buildings*] sales woman. During intermittent conversation with a prospective client I mentioned I am a dancer, he mentioned he used to take dance classes. He asked if my “honey” takes me dancing and I said (in hindsight, I should have just said yes) but I just said “our schedules don’t match up well.”

Later on we were talking about the project via text and he randomly says “we should go dancing!” I said (probably not the best response) “sure – maybe after we figure out these projects” to which he replied, “might have to see how good of a dancer you are first.”

What on earth do I say to that? I don’t want to lose the project (he owns 3 properties that he wants [physical product that attaches to buildings] on), but of course, I am also happily engaged, and not interested in dancing with strangers… all other conversations with him have been appropriate.

I saw there was another post along these lines but the context is a bit different and I’d love some advice from the horse’s mouth. HELP!

Eeesh. We have talked about the sexist client before (a client commented five times in one lunch on the OP’s beauty), as well as in the offensive client (who commented loudly about the price of his lawyer’s purse), but we haven’t talked about a direct request for a date before, and I’m curious to hear what readers say. Some thoughts:

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Feeling Jealous of a Younger Colleague

Feeling Jealous of a Younger ColleagueWhat should you do if you’re feeling envious of a colleague who’s younger than you, seemingly unappreciative of the opportunity you’re giving her, and also — in your opinion — inappropriately flirty at networking events? Reader J wonders:

I’m a 40 yr old business development manager at an engineering firm. I’ve formed a group of female colleagues that helps with networking and business that’s getting notice in my city (like a Stiletto Mafia). A few months ago one of the key ladies in my group invited my junior engineer in my firm to join.

This engineer is funny and smart but also a gorgeous 24 yr old. Now I am torn between wanting to be a mentor and jealousy. I am jealous that she has access to this group of high powered ladies that are my friends and doesn’t seem to grateful that I’m including her. This engineer also occasionally helps with networking. It’s frustrating to attend a business event while these men are flirting with her. She isn’t overt, but she is aware of her looks and plays them up.

I’d like to drop her from the group and ask her to focus on current clients vs networking. Am I being a hypocrite?

I think you’re being honest, Reader J — a lot more than most people would be in person. I don’t think this is unusual, though; I think a lot of younger women alienate good mentors by being too entitled (like the reader who expected her boss to help her network) or arrogant at work, or, here, too focused on other parts of life like flirting. (We have offered some tips in the past on how to network with older women that may help younger readers here!)

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Should You Say No to Sports at Work?

sports-at-workYour office is planning an athletic event, and you want to stay far, far away. Even if you’re worried about feeling awkward, should you go anyway to take advantage of the networking opportunities? How can you say NO to work-related sporting events, like golf and tennis outings, and what are you missing out on if you do? Reader B wonders…

Your recent post about dressing for summer events led me to an older post about how to dress as a golf newbie… and boy, the comments struck a chord with me. Or maybe a nerve. I’d love to see a post, and more discussion, on how to deal with outings of all types — particularly when they’re for expensive and time-consuming sports that you don’t play and don’t want to pick up.

A lesson (or even a few lessons) are absolutely NOT enough to get me through a golf scramble. Can I swing and miss 18 times while joking gracefully? Can I pull off an outright refusal? Is it a bad idea to drive the beer cart (this always sounds like it should come with a costume), or just show up for drinks/dinner afterwards? And what do I do after 17 miserable holes, when my division manager is standing at the 18th with his arms folded to judge my golf game?

For reference, I’m in engineering, not law, with 15+ years of experience.

Interesting question, Reader B! In the past, Kat has recommended participating in athletic work events, even if you don’t think your skills are so hot, but we thought we’d get another opinion as well. We talked to Women on Course founder Donna Hoffman (who also advised us on our recent post on proper golf wear) to get her take on this situation. “Golf is so much more than getting the ball in the hole,” she says. “There are so many more benefits” — including the camaraderie, and the opportunity to build relationships.

Here’s what Hoffman recommends for Reader B:

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CRMs, Business Development Trackers, and Other Organizing Fun

How to Keep Track of Business Development Efforts | Corporette How can you track business development efforts, beyond traditional CRM (customer relationship management) software programs?  We’ve talked about how to build a book of business, but not how to organize those attempts.  Here’s reader EJ’s question:

I have accepted a new job that will involve less billable hours and more business development. I would like to keep track of new contacts made (even if it does not translate into business immediately) and business development generally (lunches attended/seminars/conferences) so that come my review, I can show my efforts and, hopefully, the tangible benefits. Can Corporette readers recommend any specific type of app/software to keep track of this kind of work and the results? Obviously, I will record all of my time in the usually way but I was hoping to use some sort of software/app to collect the data and the results. Any suggestions would be helpful.

Great question, and congrats to EJ on the new job!  I can suggest a few things here, but I’m curious to hear what readers say…

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