Some people make the mistake of thinking that everyone they come into contact with is a viable lead, given the right circumstances and incentive. While it’s true that many of the prospects will have the possibility of becoming a lead, not everyone will become a lead you can convert.

Prospecting, when done properly, should be considered a sales conversation, not a hard sell. Here are a few steps that outline how best to take your potential customers on the journey from being a contact to a viable lead and, ultimately, to being a lead you convert:

Targeting the Right Leads

This step is similar to what happens when you go to any professional or social gathering where you’ll encounter people that you don’t know very well. You may have some limited knowledge about the people you come into contact with, but there’s a lot of things that you don’t know. Consequently, you begin to ask questions, interact and engage in various conversations.

The way this scenario applies to your business is that whether or not you already have some information about your prospects, there is always more to discover. Staying committed over the

long-run to the discovery process is what helps you to eventually connect effectively with highly responsive leads. Conversation starters might consist of surveys sent out to your mailing list or posted on social media, questionnaires generated during the checkout/buying process, periodic prompts to update the personal information they have on file with your company, or requests to weigh in on industry products or hot topics.

Getting a Lead to Know You

Conversations always work best when there’s a two-way exchange of information. People love to talk about themselves, but they also love to commiserate with like-minded folks. In surveys, questionnaires, customer profiles and on social media, your main job is to look and listen. Paying close attention to the information that prospects share with you will help you to tailor the stories, information, and expertise that you share about yourself with them. And the more you share relevant, relate-able content, the more comfortable your prospects feel about doing business with you.

Staying Top of Mind

New relationships don’t become old relationships unless they’re nurtured. It takes time to build a connection with someone. If there are mutual benefits for all parties involved, then everyone is invested in the effort it takes to move forward. Some business owners are afraid of being a nuisance to their customers, so they reach out to them very infrequently. If you think about it, however, brands such as McDonald’s or Coca-Cola didn’t become household names by advertising or connecting with their audiences sparingly.

The only way to move a person successfully along the path from interested prospect to satisfied customer is to have an ongoing, responsive conversation with them over time.You may not get the response you want every time, but with consistent, frequent contact you are sowing the seeds for the familiarity and regular connection it takes to turn impersonal admirers into raving fans.

Getting a Lead to Like You

As mentioned, the lead-to-customer journey is much like growing a friendship. Just as you would spend time with someone you like and do nice things for them, customers need to be shown that you care about them before they can trust in you and give you their business. Periodically offering "new customer only" discounts or freebies, sending out customised birthday and special occasion notifications and giving prospects sneak peeks at upcoming promotions, helps to show them how meaningful their business is to you. It's hard not to like someone who's always showing you that they care and that they're glad to be connected with you.

Go Beyond an EDM

While staying in touch with your prospects via email marketing campaigns is great, keeping the conversation dynamic and varied is a must-have marketing strategy in today’s marketplace. Social media is one of the best places to achieve this type of “intimate” marketing. For example, you can begin communicating with your mailing list on Facebook by using a retargeting campaign. Simply import your lists’ email addresses into Facebook and you can begin more precisely marketing to them based on their likes, interests and online behaviour. According to a recent study by comScore, a leader in digital measurement and consumer behaviour, retargeting campaigns generate the strongest lift in conversions compared to other targeting strategies.

Use LinkedIn

Some business owners bypass LinkedIn when it comes to initiating marketing campaigns. It may not have the same interactivity and mass appeal as other social media sites but, according to HubSpot, it would be a big mistake for marketers to overlook this platform. In a recent study of more than 5,000 businesses, HubSpot discovered that LinkedIn scored almost three times higher in visitor-to-lead conversion rates than both Facebook and Twitter.

Measure Your Conversions

In the end, no amount of marketing and sales conversations are as effective as they could be If you’re not tracking how well the process is moving along. Is your lead clicking on the links in your newsletters or even opening your emails anymore? Knowing whether or not your prospects and customers are engaging with your content helps you better understand the optimal ways to reach out to them.

And when you clearly understand their specific needs, you can revise your offerings accordingly. The best way to achieve these kinds of insights is by tracking your prospects and customers via sales funnels at each stage of interaction with the prospect. The surveys that I mentioned earlier, as well as things like transaction questionnaires or request for product reviews, all have the ability to capture valuable data which can then be used for your next point of contact with the customer. This is the type of engagement that creates long-term loyalty.

Ultimately, the sales process is all about supply and demand -- customers will always come along for the ride as long as you’re meeting their needs or solving their problems