New customers are the lifeblood of any organization. That initial contact with a potential client, however, can intimidate even an experienced sales force. Ideas, options and a plan that you execute every time helps turn prospects into customers.

Analyze and Narrow Your Market

Not everyone you meet is a potential client. Not only should you understand the needs and wants of your target market in general, but also the specific wants and of each potential client. Use company websites, business and social events, advertising and social media sites to identify and analyze prospects before making an initial approach. The better you understand a specific prospect, the easier it will be to approach a prospective client with confidence and a unique selling proposition.

Be Enthusiastic but Sensitive

Professionalism refers not just to what you do or say when approaching a potential client, but also how and when you do it. Enthusiasm and body language that conveys sincerity and warmth, such as steady eye contact, a relaxed body posture and “leaning in” can draw a potential client toward you. Just as important, however, is sensitivity, especially when it comes to timing your approach. Study a prospect’s body language and silent messages. If you see crossed arms and foot tapping, arrange to come back another time when the person might be more receptive.

Use an Intermediary

It can be much easier to approach a potential client referred by someone who’s already has a positive experience with your company. According to the Nielsen Company, a global research organization, word of mouth advertising is often the most effective. Set up a referral program in which you encourage existing customers to act as advocates for your business. Combine a recommendation from an already satisfied customer with an incentive, such as a discount on the first purchase or free shipping, to make this an even more powerful marketing tool. Also, set up incentives to encourage your current customers to report back when they hand out a referral.

About Cold Calling

At some point, you will most likely need to make cold calls. The best times are early or late in the day, when potential clients are more likely to answer their phones. Prepare yourself using an approach that works to instill confidence and makes sure you represent your business in a positive light. These include knowing and believing in the products or services that you’re offering, visualizing how you want to be regarded by the people you speak to and doing pre-call research so you can tailor your pitch to the needs of the potential client.