How to impress potential clients

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As a small business owner, winning over a potential new client can mean the difference between paying the bills and closing the doors, so impressing new clients is more important than people think. If you’re running a small business, what can you do to help protect potential clients?

Be Prepared

You never want to show up to a client meeting unprepared. Not only does it make you seem like you can’t get the job done, but you’ll also find yourself scrambling to convey what you need to get across. Before you attend a meeting, put together an agenda or even a welcome packet for your potential client. This gives them something that they can take home with them and also provides you with some talking points if your conversation runs dry.

Spell Check and Double Check

Nothing looks worse on a client proposal than a misspelled word or incorrect grammar. It makes you look unprofessional and can send your clients right back out the door. Don’t just rely on basic spell check that comes with programs like Microsoft Word – they often don’t catch things like improper grammar or incorrect words.

If you’re not a natural editor — and many people aren’t — there are plenty of tools that can help you fix those mistakes before they embarrass you or cost you a client. Grammarly is a useful tool which you can use for free, though they do have a premium option that has more features. The Hemmingway app is also good. Not only does it help you fix grammar problems and eliminate passive voice, but it will also let you know what reading level your writing is at so you don’t make your proposal too difficult to read.

Dress the Part

When they meet with you, potential clients will be looking carefully for red flags. One factor they will use to assess you is the way you dress. Sleeves that are too long, jackets that don’t sit right on your shoulders and pants that are too baggy may all be considered red flags. Before heading to a new client meeting, you should make sure your clothes are appropriate for the situation and that they fit you properly.

One clothing item you may want to invest in is a tailored suit. A suit that is tailored to fit you will make you look more put-together and more professional. If you put someone in an off the rack suit next to someone in a tailored suit, the difference is dramatic.

Don’t Underestimate the Handshake

If you don’t have a firm handshake, your clients might think twice about signing with you. A strong first impression starts with a strong handshake. This simple movement can say a lot about you — a strong handshake conveys confidence and provides a point of connection between you and the potential client. A weak handshake, on the other hand, portrays you as unconfident and nervous. An overly aggressive handshake, in which you lock the other person’s hand in a vice-grip with yours, can chase people away because it makes you seem overeager, even if you are confident in your proposal.

Work on finding the right balance for your handshake, and make sure it isn’t too weak or overly aggressive. Perfecting your handshake can help make your potential clients feel a bit more comfortable while conveying that you’re serious about the work you do.

They say that you never get a second chance at a first impression, and that goes double for client meetings. Make sure you’re prepared, well dressed and ready with a good solid handshake, and everything else will fall into place that much more easily.

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Scott Huntington is a writer from Harrisburg PA. Find his work on Business Insider, Yahoo Autos, Time, INC, and more. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington.