The young designer meets with the business owner. He shows his portfolio, proud as a peacock for the wonderful logos, posters and web pages he's designed. He tells the owner his design philosophy, his going rate and then asks for the owner's business.
He doesn't get the job. The owner doesn't even pay for the coffee.
He walks away with his beautiful stainless portfolio and curses under his breath that the business owner is a jerk for not understanding real talent when he sees it.
What our friend doesn't recognize is — whatever they may be. I've found it very possible (even likely) that the portfolio never needs to be shown to a prospective client. Especially in today's world, where your website is your OPEN 24 HOURS sign. Your prospect will have already viewed your work before he's ever met you.
Focus on the business owner.
The "mission" then, is to listen and to ask a series of questions that draw out what the owner is most interested to achieve; where there may be new opportunities; and what concerns he's in need of fixing. Most importantly, you're a conduit to getting him sales. How you fit into the equation is the answer you seek. For many, just figuring out the equation is half the battle.
Freely providing opinion, counsel and advice on how to handle the work is something worth providing. All too often, designer's become very protective of their work - fearful that it will be stolen. The truth is that most people can't do what designers do. Go ahead and offer up big ideas... the more the merrier. It has been my experience that the report (read "trust") with the prospect increases dramatically, allowing the project to be awarded to you without ever even asking for it.
Now, young designer, go out and "sell" by asking the best questions in town.