Client meetings are the lifeblood for all businesses. It’s where you get to find out what your customer wants, and it’s also an opportunity to sell a few ideas to increase your ROI. However, many small businesses fail to make the most of their meetings, and this can lead to problems later on down the line. Here are a few suggestions to make sure that both you and your client get what you need from them.

Preparation is key.

Preparation is the key to success in anything – and that includes meetings. Find out as much as you can about the company or person that you are meeting – including anyone else that is attending. Ring ahead and inquire about who will be there and make sure you bring the relevant info with you.

For example, if they are bringing someone from their financial offices, then you can almost guarantee that the meeting will include a chat about hard numbers. So you will need to prep for them beforehand! Well prepared teams have a significant impact on the client relationships that produce near-term and long-term benefits, and can vastly increase the value of the company in the long term.

Practice makes an (almost) perfect meeting.

If you are a startup that hasn’t had much experience with client meetings make sure you have a few dummy runs. Get a friend or a member of your family to pretend to be a customer, and get them to throw as many curveballs as they can. It’s not necessarily the content of the meeting that will be important – it’s the way you react to those curveballs. You may only have one shot to impress the client, so being able to think on your feet will be highly valuable.

It’s a good idea to have a meeting objective in mind and works towards it. The meeting prep needs to include a consciously thought-out approach towards achieving the meeting end-goal. And make sure you don’t go over the time allotted for the meeting.

Related: The Ultimate Guide for Leading Fast, Most Productive and Valuable Meetings

It pays to listen.

It’s OK to lead the customer, but don’t let them know that you are! They want to know that they will be heard – and they don’t want to hear a complete history of your business. Give them a platform to speak about what they want, and don’t interrupt them. Anything you say should be linked to what they want in some way, so by all means talk about past clients. But, only if it offers them a solution or explains why they might want to think about a different approach.

When clients are talking to you, it’s a good time to practice listening with an open mind. Listening is hard to do, but it’s how you can find out the truth about what the client really needs from you. The open mind part is to think about what the client is saying, not just what you think about what they are saying.

Record for review purposes.

Make sure you are taking notes at all times, and write down everything you can. It will make sure that you have every last requirement down on paper, and will also ensure that you don’t miss something important. Another option is to use a voice or phone recorder. It will give you a chance to review things later on when you are getting your proposal together. You may also hear something important that you missed during the meeting – which could help you raise your ROI for the meeting.

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