The (Lost?) Art of the Handshake
May 7, 2012
Just last week I had a meeting with a new client. We walked up to each other and reached out to shake hands as is customary, but in the process our hands did not meet with the surest grip. Immediately my client apologized for the poor grip we tried it again with more success the second time. Immediately I knew a few things about my client through this interaction.
A handshake says a lot about you, probably more than most people realize. It can convey confidence, warmth, and honesty, or it can signal weakness, uncertainty, and disinterest. Either way, it sends a subtle yet powerful message about who you are, that is not lost on prospective clients.
After my latest experience I was inspired to look at the art of the handshake and take a look at some pointers to ensuring you’re sending the right message to your client.
Look Them in the Eye
As you extend your hand, establish eye contact and smile. Don’t be afraid to show some teeth even. A warm and sincere greeting can make you an instant friend — and all things being equal, people prefer to deal from friends.
Avoid the “Power Grip”
A handshake should be firm, but not overly forceful. Beware of the unconscious tendency to pull the other person toward you as you shake. This can be interpreted as aggressive, and the prospect’s resistance to you will go up a notch or two.
Nothing Too Wimpy
Over the years I’ve met many new clients all starting with a handshake and I’ve never been more amazed at how many people offer weak, halfhearted handshakes. This is a major turnoff to many people and you’ll do well to remember firm and friendly always sends the best message.
Get A Good Grip
Never grasp the other person’s fingers. Take their entire hand completely in yours, and gently shake it two or three times. As a rule of thumb, I aim to make contact with the base of the thumb which usually ensures a solid grip.
Say Something Positive
No handshake is complete without a spoken greeting. You can’t go wrong with, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” After the initial greeting, your conversation should begin while you are still shaking hands, for example, “Dave tells me you’ve made some significant additions to your product line.” Your hand should be slowly and somewhat reluctantly withdrawn as the person begins to speak. This slow withdrawal indicates your keen interest in the person and what he is saying.