I was asked by a young woman lawyer recently, "I'm always cognizant of the fact that coming from a young female attorney, an invitation for lunch can occasionally be misconstrued to indicate other interest when I really am interested in a business referral and establishing myself as a go-to person for my area of law." How do you create a situation where you are taken seriously? Be serious, straight-forward and confident. As a male GC of a large company just suggested to an audience of women lawyers, "go after my business in the same way you would represent me if you were already my counsel--be strong and confident."
Any response by your prospective client/reerral source, other than a business response, is often a weak attempt to gain control of you or the situation. Stay in control of the sales process and stay focused on the goal at the moment--whether it's to obtain a date and time for a meeting or lunch. It may be more helpful to schedule meetings at someone's office rather than invite them to lunch or out for cocktails, thereby maintaining a constant business environment for your discussion.
For more tips on building sales confidence, read my book, "The Woman Lawyer's Rainmaking Game," published by Thomson/Legalwks and available at www.legalwks.com/publications, one of the chapters is co-authored by an organizational psychologist and a woman lawyer, and is titled, "Building Your Sales Confidence."