Pay the bill. This isn’t a date.
Delegate the dishes!
If you are in a conference boardroom and there are mostly guys with a bunch of sandwich trays and drinks SO MANY WOMEN will immediately start to clear the dishes once everyone has finished eating. Unless you are the sales executive *and* secretary or the most junior person in the room SIT YOUR ASS DOWN. A secretary or junior staff member should be tasked with this job. Delegate the dishes.
Never have a meeting in the hotel.
You are travelling, so the inherent sleaziness of “come up to my room” looms. Plus, really you don’t want your prospect to know where you are staying. Pick a neutral place that is not a hotel bar where either of you is sleeping and mitigate the Pretty Woman factor. Despite the convenience, don’t meet in the hotel.
Be found, don’t chase.
I got annoyed trying to find “a middle-aged man in a blue suit” when I was out in the field. You end up making awkward eye contact with strange men on conference exhibit halls or hotel lobbies. Solution: I bought accessories like a fuchsia scarf or yellow high heels. I’d make a joke when asked to find my prospect and say “a guy in a blue suit is like finding a needle in a haystack – watch for me, I’ll have on a fur stole!” Be found, don’t chase.
Make your own way.
Don’t accept a ride or give a ride unless you know the person extremely well. Things can get crazy in a car (see: hotel bar) and when you factor in things like your prospect having too much to drink over dinner it just can create an awkwardness that is unnecessary. Also, it’s always slightly too personal to leave a car at the conclusion of the meeting. Drive yourself, Uber, whatever. But make your own way.
Don’t be “that” girl.
If you are at an industry event or networking party, no matter how much fun you are having, make sure that you are not one of the last to leave. Keep an eye on the overall flow of the event and when people start to leave, consider doing the same. “That” girl as the last one at the party is the same girl who is at the bar when the lights come on at the end of the night. Don’t be that girl.
Don’t drone on.
Don’t bring up your children or lack thereof unless your prospect asks or brings it up. And then be brief, a few cute statements or anecdotes will suffice. Then get back to business, don’t drone on.
Don’t get drunk.
This one is obvious, but it’s easy to get carried away when your prospect is having a good time, and you don’t want to seem like a prude. When you know or suspect that your prospect likes to have more than a couple drinks, arrive early to the venue and tell the waiter that you want two drinks with alcohol, and then you want virgins. Pick an easy drink like vodka and soda. That way you don’t look uptight, but you aren’t getting drunk. This trick is also useful if you are pregnant and haven’t told anyone yet and are on the road. The bartender will keep your secret. Don’t get drunk.
Own the conversation.
Despite being on point with all of the above, there will be times when the conversation meanders into unwelcome territory. Practice a few witty retorts that layer on a bit of shame and use them immediately. Do not let inappropriate comments linger. Shut them down with a bit of humor and be the boss. Own the conversation.
When in doubt picture your significant other (or mom).
This rule will always keep you on the straight and narrow. I used to get asked how my husband could deal with me being away so much and always meeting with men. The answer was easy. If I were in a situation that I felt uncomfortable, I’d picture him sitting on the other side of me, and I’d ask myself what he’d think. It’s a great self-regulation tool. If you don’t have a significant other, picture your mom.
Being a woman has its advantages in sales. Mitigate the ick factor and be smart so that you can capitalize on what is useful and eliminate drama. I had a boss who told me “smoke ’em if you got ’em” which is good advice. Leverage the unique things that you bring to the table. If you follow these rules, you’ll mostly eliminate the creeps and being in awkward situations.
By Anna Foat