While socialising with clients is by no means necessary, it can be a good way to strengthen contacts made in the more formal atmosphere of the boardroom. I have coached women working in various organisations across the country where male colleagues will often take male clients out to golf, dinners or even strip clubs as a means of strengthening allegiances. The women I work with value their clients and careers but also value the time they have in the evening with their families and friends. While these activities may seem a necessary evil, I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t think twice about how "socialising" might be misconstrued.
Women value forging stronger business relationships but often feel odd inviting a male client on their own for drinks or dinner. As the number of women in senior roles increases, so should the number of creative ways to network, thank clients and generally build these bonds, without compromising comfort levels. There are ways that you can become more adept at choosing when and where to socialise, which will help you build relationships with your professional integrity intact. Here are just a few of them:
Tips for Business Socialising
- Business dinners feature more wine (or normally do!) than lunches or certainly breakfasts. If you worry about how well you will present after a G and T or three, perhaps scheduling business meals earlier in the day would be better way of getting more done without any potential misunderstandings about your intentions or sexual innuendo from the client or other colleagues – not to mention skipping the hangover!
- As part of a growing emphasis on corporate social responsibility, many companies now support charities by taking tables at various events. Find out if there are any opportunities for you to host clients at dinners or fun-days of this kind, as the atmosphere is virtually always very "wholesome" whilst showing you and your company as concerned corporate citizens -a win/win for many of my clients – and good for the charity too!
- If your company does not yet host clients at many events, suggest they do and even offer to do some research-that way you can help influence where sponsorship money is spent whilst showing your initiative at the same time. Many companies sponsor or take marquees at Ascot, the Chelsea Flower Show, even Newmarket Nights or summertime concerts and are given free tickets for their clients in return for their sponsorship.
- If you belong to a smaller company or non-profit, think about how you might use Christmas celebrations to your benefit. If you are an academic, think about inviting a client or sponsor to dinner at the university or college. Think creatively about what type of events both you and your clients would like to attend rather than assume it has to be tied up with the old- boy network of sporting events or golf days.
- Give yourself a break -it’s easy to stress about what you are missing when you are not around for after hours socialising, but remember, very few deals are signed on the dotted line after a boozy night at 2am.
Getting drunk at an event is never a good look, either in front of your boss or clients, though it is a mistake many red-faced junior employees make around this time of year.
This post originally appeared as an article in the December issue of the Doyle Morris Newsletter. You can sign-up to this free monthly newsletter by entering your email address in the form at the top right of www.DoyleMorris.com.