Business Development: It’s like dating, for work.

3 min read

I’ve done a lot of online dating in this town. (Luckily, it worked out, and I have a fabulous husband now as a result.) Recently, I’ve noticed that my professional life feels a bit like my old dating days. I spend a lot of time blindly meeting people I don’t know in the hopes of forming lasting relationships on behalf my organization. And while the emotional stakes aren’t quite as high, there really are so many similarities.

Most of the time, these meetings are set up over email. Since it’s quite often someone I don’t know, I’ll say something like, “I’ll be the super tall gal with long blonde hair,” so they know who to look for. (Perhaps this is the professional equivalent to wearing a rose in my lapel or some other romance novel goofiness.)

I walk into Calvin Fletcher’s/Mo’Joe/Foundry/Quills/Henry’s/Please-god-anything-but-Starbucks full of anticipation. I scan the coffee shop for someone sitting alone watching the door, sometimes awkwardly asking (the wrong) people “Are you so-and-so?” If I’m first to arrive (more of a rarity than I’d like to admit), I situate myself facing the door to longingly look at everyone who walks in.

A note: It’s rare these days to go into a meeting without knowing what someone looks like. LinkedIn is a great help. But, just like with online dating, you find the occasional person who looks nothing like their profile pic. Those 1980s glamour shots don’t hold up.

Sometimes these meetings are all in the name of networking. Maybe I’m hopeful that our companies can work together somehow. Or perhaps I’m looking for a board member for an organization I serve. Other times, it’s the first pass at specifically learning what a potential client might need. And sometimes, I just think someone sounds really cool or interesting, and I think we could benefit personally or professionally from “hanging out.” All of this is done, of course, with an eye toward getting Well Done in front of more and more people as I work to bring more great clients through our doors.

I often excitedly head back to the office after a first meeting. I’ve had a great time getting to know someone, and I’m hopeful that we can find a way to work together. It usually takes plenty of more relationship building, but when it’s right it’s right, and we get a terrific new client.

Occasionally, I come away from the meeting certain that we’re meant to be. I’m sure that the other person feels the same way and we’re destined to work together. That doesn’t mean that it always works out. I may get a rejection with a reasonable explanation, or I may get kicked to the curb without knowing why (something that never happened to me while dating…ahem). Or, I may even get ghosted—a phenomenon as prevalent in professional life as it is for daters.

After a week’s worth of first dates (er, meetings), I often come away with a slew of great potential clients, additions to my networks, or sometimes even friends. I get so much out of interacting with so many different kinds of people, and it is a joy to share the work of Well Done with them. I am enriched every time someone tells me how they got where they are, what they care about, or what their marketing challenges are.

I guess what I’m saying is: Let’s get together. Coffee’s on me. I’ll be the super tall gal with long blonde hair.