Whether it's a sales call, a job or media interview, or any other work situation in which you'd like to leave a positive impression, there are several things you can do to stand out from the crowd. That's according to Stephanie David, founder and CEO of the social good-shopping website PopNod. Having worked for years in sales and business development for behemoths such as Microsoft and Lockheed Martin, and now running her own company, David says the following strategies work.

Start with a gripping question.

For example, in a sales call you might start by asking prospects about their biggest pain points or what keeps them awake at night. "It helps me understand what are the things that really matter the most," says David, "[and] gets into some of the personal motivations of [an] audience." 

Prepare three islands of safety.

Specifically, David means stocking your mind with anecdotes, analogies, and statistics you can pull out in the event you're asked a challenging question. It's important to have several superb answers at the ready that can cover your bases. "[It may be] bringing in concrete statistics and numbers about performance and ratings from customers," she says, "or anecdotes on how [you've] successfully implemented a specific solution."

Convey your ideas simply but with passion.

Authenticity is a character trait people appreciate, so it's important to communicate your passion about a subject. "I believe that the audience will see the sincerity and passion that you emote and translate that to the spirit behind your business," she says. "I found that even when I was working for large corporations, even if I was one of many employees, I had to make sure that I was representing my company in the best light by showing the passion I have for what we offer our customers."

Paint a vivid picture of an improved reality.

Here's where it helps to have already asked about a person's or team's biggest problems that need solving. "If you are able to paint that vivid experience for them about the process and the end state," David says, "that is something that will really [speak] to the client's pain points." 

Want more advice on making great impressions? Check out First Impressions: 5 Things Not to Screw Up, in which I interview a longtime CEO who agrees with David that preparation and passion are key, while offering three other bits of advice.