Serial entrepreneur Sarah Stedman sidles up to the organic snack bar to meet with an exciting potential client she's wanted to pitch to for a long time. She's feeling smart, sassy and super-energized after a hard morning workout. She has her best suit on, her new haircut has taken 10 years off her face, and she has, what she considers, a dynamite proposal sitting in her sleek, black, soft briefcase.

Fast forward 45 minutes. A dejected Sarah toys with taking the rest of the day off or running away all together. She can't believe after all the time she's put into her project proposal, not to mention the time it took her to pull strings to make this meeting happen, that it all came down to missing the mark on one small point that ripped this incredible job right out of her hands. She missed doing a key piece of research about her prospect that was critical to the deal but so routine, she overlooked it completely. In the eyes of her prospect, she looked like an amateur, and the stakes were too high for him to ignore the blatant error. A major opportunity was lost, and a major lesson learned.

When it comes to talking to any prospective client, whether you're in line for a one-off project or ongoing work, it pays to be as thorough as possible in finding out everything you need to know, do, or have to play the game right.

Do your homework. You have to be able to demonstrate that you understand who your prospect is, what their business stands for, who their customers are, what keeps your potential client up at night, and why they should invest their time and money in your services. You can't leave any stone unturned in ensuring you have all the bases covered.

Go the extra mile. Besides gathering information from your prospect and possibly their colleagues, scour the Internet to see who their competition is. Find articles written about the issues they're dealing with. Start hanging out in the professional places your prospect goes to like networking events, fundraisers, conferences, and meetings. Interview other people in similar positions or at similar companies. Tell them you're doing market research. Most people are quite willing to give you a few minutes of their time, and you‘ll be further educated in the process.

Present just the facts ma'am. Most people in business have very busy schedules, so make sure your presentation is as short and to-the-point as possible. Use industry terms and buzz words that speak to them in their language - but make sure you understand that language! Tell them both the features and benefits of why utilizing your services will improve productivity or their bottom line. Add case studies if possible. Again, be brief.

Don't be wishy-washy. A confident, professional manner is a must. If your research and presentation is impeccable, so should your business etiquette. Choose your words wisely. Show that you really understand their needs and that you're not just looking for a sale, but to form an ongoing business relationship forged on clear understanding, communication, and shared goals.

When courting prospects, that know, like and trust factor comes into play big time, so make sure you present yourself accordingly. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you know it all. Double-check everything, and even have an objective reviewer like a business coach look at your material before the big day. Like Sarah, if you don't do your due diligence, you might just find what seemed to be a sure thing slip right through your fingers.

Author's Bio: 

Influence and persuasion expert, Karen Keller, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and Master Certified Coach with over 25 years of experience. She focuses on women's leadership and empowerment as well as executive, personal, relationship and life coaching. She is also a successful entrepreneur and author. Her other areas of specialization include mentoring, sales techniques, success skills, intuition, body language, management development training, motivational speaking, and corporate training. Discover Influence It! Real POWER for Women now! For your free subscription visit