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women business development golfAre there different challenges for women in building the kinds of business relationships that lead to sales? I have been looking at how women build relationships with prospective male clients. What kinds of outings work for women? Are they the same as those that work for men?

I recently did a series of interviews with women attorneys about how they build relationships with men they hope will become clients. Building business relationships through one-on-one social events (e.g., dinner or drinks) can still be harder for women. What about sporting events? Lots of business relationships are built at sporting events and on the golf course. It is common sense that the most successful outing will be one that both parties enjoy. Are women as likely to enjoy building a relationship at a ballgame or on the golf course?

Many women like ballgames; many men do not. But it is safe to say that men are more likely to love attending sporting events than women. If a firm or business makes sporting tickets available for business development purposes, they may be catering more to the interests of men. And if they make only two tickets available, they may put women in the awkward position of having an outing look like a “date.”

The amount of relationship-building and work that happens on the golf course may be exaggerated. But important conversations do occur over golf. Some women have felt it necessary to learn to golf to avoid missing out on these conversations. One woman I interviewed feels it is important to play – and be willing to “pick up your ball.” She noted that the woman hanging out in the spa (getting a massage or facial) while the men golf is less likely to be engaged in business-building conversations!

In my interviews, several women told me they simply do not enjoy golf or are not good enough at it to play with a male prospect. (I am in this camp.) They simply find other ways to build relationships. At least two women told me they are more likely to invite a prospect to the symphony or the opera (if they know he likes that kind of performance) and do not at all feel disadvantaged by staying off the course.

What kinds of events have you seen work for women in building business relationships? Do you think women are less likely to be successful using sports to develop business?