How to Prepare for a Great (Business) Date

Young Lovers in the Snow © by Alex Proimos (2009)

Getting to know someone new can be daunting, especially when you don't know the other person's intentions. It takes time to peel back the many layers that may reveal a sweet heart or rotten core, alike. Many of us have learned -- the hard way -- to keep our guard up and set realistic expectations for a first date. And when it comes to business, being ready for a first date  is equally important as it is in a romantic setting.

It takes four adoptable roles to be a good business date:

  1. Prepared investigator. Don't treat your business relationships like blind dates. Your instincts can guide your final judgment, but you still have to do your homework. Go trigger-happy on Google; check your social networks for common contacts and ask for honest insights. Take the time to research the history and expertise of the person and their company. Being prepared doesn't just give you the upper hand -- it also allows you to pre-qualify your date and know enough background to break the ice for a more engaging conversation.
  2. Strategic interrogator. Take the time to get to know each other through conversation. This is your honeymoon stage, so enjoy it! But remember, the process of building relationships is a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure you have a mutual understanding and share common values before jumping into "bed." Ask enticing questions based on your research and understanding of their needs. This will give you clear answers and show you've taken a professional interest in the other person. Note: This is one area where playing hard to get will do more damage than good!
  3. Genuine listener. Being a good date requires listening, and the best way to do that is to give away the power and let the other person take the wheel. When it comes to building a business relationship, it is critical to show that what is being said is truly being heard. Start by taking notes and using them as a reference. In dating and in business, I find that people genuinely appreciate when you remember the little things, like how they take their coffee or where their favorite restaurant is. In doing this, you'll have the materials to develop a backbone and inspire reliability and trust.
  4. Definitive decision-maker. Every growing relationship eventually needs some version of "the talk" to define boundaries and guidelines going forward. If both parties agree to take it to the next level, then make it official. However, business relationships require more than the "Facebook official" commitment. Draft a clear and thorough contract to help avoid assumptions. Determine the roles, responsibilities and terms of each partner. Make sure to promise execution and what the potential gain will be.

Although romantic and business relationships may not be easy, they're worthwhile. There's a reason they call it "dating" -- it ideally doesn't happen just once. Forging a meaningful business bond can take several meetings. Therefore, being an active player from the beginning and following through with obligations is key to sustaining a relationship and building trust. As Greg Behrendt, author of He's Just Not That Into You says, "Don't be with someone who doesn't do what they say they're going to do."

Lauren Perkins is a brand evangelist and digital tastemaker who delivers integrated solutions from a unique entrepreneurial perspective. She is currently the CEO and Founder of Perks Consulting, a digital and creative services marketing agency specializing in the fusion of lifestyle and technology based in New York City.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.

About Lauren Perkins

Lauren Perkins is a brand marketer and digital evangelist. An entrepreneur at heart and problem-solver by trade, Lauren is currently the Founder and CEO of Perks Consulting, a digital brand and marketing agency specializing in the fusion of lifestyle and technology based in New York City. Lauren is a contributing writer to Inc. and Forbes Woman, and regularly teaches at General Assembly. Follow her at twitter.com/laurenperkins.

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