Confidence holds the key to win over new clients

Six tips to help budding entrepreneurs deliver the perfect presentation or pitch.

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Talking the talk and then walking the walk is what will secure you new clients at the start-up phase. Lack of confidence, especially when pitching to a potential client, is a common problem for many entrepreneurs. At the start-up phase you might have to be the chief executive as well as the salesperson of your business.

Though some entrepreneurs might appear overconfident, others lack confidence – something that could affect their sales efforts. When entrepreneurs appear self-assured about their work, that will be contagious and could result in closing a deal, and vice versa.

I did not always have confidence growing up. As a teenager, I was extremely shy when I spoke to strangers or when I had to do a presentation in front of a large group.

Nevertheless, I found that applying certain techniques helped me overcome my shyness. Those techniques, which I will share with you today, have also been a great help to some of my start-up entrepreneur friends when they have delivered company pitches:

1. Since you will be doing the talking and your clients the listening, a lot of focus goes on your voice. Speak loudly and clearly, and adjust your tone to the room size and the number of your target audience. You want to ensure that if you are sitting in a room with clients, that they face no problems interpreting you. You also do not want to sound too loud as that could be perceived as annoying. Vary your pitch throughout the presentation to prevent the audience getting bored. Add interactivity by asking your clients questions where relevant to maintain their focus.

2. Your posture can tell your audience a lot about how confident you are. When you are sitting one-on-one with clients in a cafe or a meeting room, sit up straight with shoulders back and chest open. A good posture signals a positive attitude and confidence and ensures you do not look tired or drained. It also makes you appear trustworthy.

3. Speak slowly and avoid looking nervous. Whether giving a presentation or pitching an idea, follow a structured outline. Doing that stops you looking nervous and saves you from forgetting important points that you want to mention in your presentation. Also speaking slowly allows your audience to concentrate and gives them the opportunity to ask questions. Using a presentation as an aid means your client has something they can take with them after the meeting. Prepared material also portrays professionalism.

4. Avoid nervous gestures. Do not fidget, cross your arms or fold them against your body when speaking to a client. That could signal non-acceptance of what they are saying. Instead, place your arms on your lap or on the table in front of you and listen attentively. This will make you appear less nervous and let you be open to ideas and suggestions by the other party.

5. Do not put yourself down. Repeat positive statements to yourself as you head to your meeting. Do not focus on every word that comes out of your mouth and do not be harsh on yourself if you state a wrong fact or cannot answer a question. You can always promise to get back to them with an exact answer after the meeting. Focus on your accomplishments and what makes your business great. Mention success stories and what you have done with other clients. Highlight your strengths and why you are the right one for the job.

6. Last but not least, dressing well enhances your confidence. Opt for a formal look over casual attire. Dress in an outfit that suits your professional background. Put on a pair of shoes or hold a handbag or briefcase that makes you feel great. Various research studies conclude that well-dressed entrepreneurs appear more confident and have a better chance of closing a deal against those dressed more casually.

Keep in mind that practice makes one perfect. Your pitch or presentation may not be spot on the first couple of times, but that will change over time. Practice in front of a mirror before you head to a meeting or with a friend. Also, always remind yourself that everyone starts somewhere and no one gets it right the first time, even the great achievers out there.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.

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