How do you approach a potential client?

Say you find a business, you check out their site and realize its getting good traffic and the business is doing good but their website is just bad, and you believe you can design and develop a good site that can help their business.

How would you approach this client without trying to sound like your spamming them, what kind of email would you send?


[FONT=“Georgia”]If their website looks bad to you but is getting good traffic and good business, then I’m sorry, but you have little hope of winning them over.


Unfortunately Shaun is probably correct. If their website is already providing for them, they may not see the need to hire someone to re-develop it. Appearance / design of a website is a subjective area, and what you (and many other people) may consider to be a horrible design, if it is producing for them, perhaps they like it? To try to convince them that their site is in need of work would be an uphill battle.

If you are looking to approach any potential client to sell your services, the most important thing you need to do is find the benefits they would receive by hiring you. If you can show a business that hiring you would increase their revenue by X% or would increase traffic by Y%, they may find value in that. However, if their site is already producing well for them and all you have on your side is that it will “look nicer” … that’s not a good seller. If you can find where the potential client is weak and would like to improve upon, then you may have an “in” to sell to them. But without that, any cold call / email offering your services will be viewed as spam or just general solicitation.

I certainly agree with that! What looks “bad” to you, might look like the best thing since sliced bread to the business and if their “bad” is converting into sales, then that’s what web business is all about.

Just today, I got an email from some little designer who, apparently, thinks my site needs a redesign. Even though she didn’t say so, it appeared that was why she sent the message. However, my site works fine for its purpose and although it isn’t “high-tech”, I’m happy with it.

No matter how diplomatic someone tries to be in sending an email such as that, the first impression I get is a negative one and you know – “you only get one chance to make a ‘first’ impression”.

Moreover, as a business owner, my inbox is inundated with unsolicited offers. I regard them all in the same light. “Spam”.

I have to say I agree with all the other comments here and especially about any emails you send being viewed as spam.

If you find someone you think you’d really like to work with and that could make you more than a few dollars, set yourself apart from the other guys who would just fire off an email and call them and/or spend a dollar to send a letter to them - and not just a sales pitch, but provide some value and info they can benefit from whether they choose to work with you or not.

Even better, send a series of helpful letters - or send something priority mail or in an unusual mailing container so that will stand out in the sea of junk mail they probably have to deal with too.

If you REALLY want to stand out and get noticed - send 'em a ball in the mail at and follow up with a phone call. :smiley:


I’m with Ravedesigns on the benefits of phone calls and letters.

Sending an email is probably the most useless thing it is possible to do.

At the very minimum, try a carefully planned phone call.

For a better approach, phone and find out the name and job title of your relevant decision maker, but don’t talk to them yet (unless it’s unavoidable, eg. because they answered the phone). Send them a letter in the mail, briefly describing why you’re writing and what you can do for them. The persuasiveness of the letter is not critically important - it’s mainly sent to help with the next stage. It also marks you out as different - and perhaps more professional - than those who rely on just an email.

Leave it a couple of days and then phone the person. Typically you may have to get past a receptionist or secretary, in which case the inevitable ‘What is it concerning?’ question can often be circumvented by some variation of ‘It’s about a letter I sent last week’. If you get squashed by the gatekeeper it’s just too bad. You can’t win 'em all. Practice makes perfect. Your tone of voice and an air of polite confidence will make a great difference to your success rate.

Once through to the person you need to quickly introduce yourself and say something you feel comfortable with, such as ‘I’m following up on the letter I sent you last week.’ It doesn’t matter if they say they don’t remember it or they haven’t read it (or even confirm they did read it), because whatever they say you will quickly summarise its contents to set the scene and then attempt to engage them in discussion. The rest is up to you. Now you need to ‘sell’ the next stage (and ONLY the next stage), which is perhaps providing an estimate, or setting a face to face meeting, or whatever. One step at a time. Each step ‘sells’ the next step. And by ‘sell’, I don’t mean some silver-tongued, pre-packaged, cheesy ‘me, me, me’ spiel, but a low key, consultative discussion during which you mostly ask questions.

Proper businesses are quite happy receiving professional sales calls about relevant opportunities from professional sounding sales people - this is how most trade is conducted in the real world, after all.

Businesses don’t sell to businesses, people sell to people. Human contact makes a lot of difference. :slight_smile:


good advice thanks guys

As others have said here, if they are getting good amounts of business from the site, it may prove to be difficult.

My approach would be polite but persistent phonecalls untill I get to speak with the decision maker. I would give a very short introduction as to who I am and go straight to the punchline:
“You have a great business but your website really doesn’t do it justice”

I would then go onto to explain (again, briefly) what is wrong with the design. At at this point, ask him how much traffic he is getting and how much of actually converts into sales/leads. Now you can talk about increasing the conversion rate and actually getting him MORE business from the existing number of visitors coming to the website with a new and improved design. This should certainly appeal to the human instinct - greed.

I see this a lot on the forums… people really like finding websites that are “poorly designed” and want to contact the owners to try to win their business. People generally don’t like being told their website sucks… it’s like telling them their girlfriend or child is ugly. It might be the truth, but no one wants to hear it!!

I find it MUCH easier to build relationships with people and position myself as an expert, then when THEY need help, they contact me. It takes a little more time, because cultivating relationships is a slow process, but is well worth it in the end.

If you do insist on contacting people directly, you’re going to come off as a spammer unless you make it really personal and show them how you can help them. Don’t focus on what’s wrong necessarily, on the negative, but instead focus on the ways you can improve their bottom line or revenues. Approach it from a results standpoint rather than a design standpoint, and they’ll be less likely to be offended.

The absolute best thing you can do to get a client to listen to you is to find a contact/link to the company. This is especially true in my core business of industrial automation. Nobody hires us unless someone knows us. If you can find someone you know in the company to introduce you, your credibility goes way up. It goes way up if you can find a friend of a friend. To a lesser extent, if you can get someone that has some type of interface with the company to let you drop their name you have a decent chance of getting a listen.