Many businesses dread the idea of marketing their wares through sales prospecting, such as cold calls and blind mailings. And they should, because the first mistake is thinking of sales prospecting as its own solution, rather than a strategy which paves the way for future marketing endeavors. Sales prospecting is not a way to tell someone for the first time about your company with the hopes of completing an instantaneous transaction. It’s a way to introduce yourself and your brand so that a potential relationship can be built. But more importantly, it’s a way to weed out interested parties from those who are never going to become customers, so that you don’t waste marketing efforts on them in the future. This can help you further tailor your next efforts and potentially cut costs by only marketing to those who will likely convert to sales.

1)    Start with demographics. When you begin calling or mailing individuals to whom you’d like to make sales, you’re usually working from a contact information list. You can choose your contacts based on general demographics such as region, income, age, marital status, etc. When choosing these factors, you’ll want to be sure to cover not only those characteristics which match your current audience, but also those who you’d like to reach out to with later marketing endeavors. A marketing team who will manage your materials and your campaign once you pass the preliminary sales prospecting point can help you determine which audiences will be most responsive to your efforts.

2)    Sort out the best candidates. Sales prospecting will help you go through your list of contacts and narrow them down to those most likely to build a relationship with your business or make purchases. When you think about sales prospecting as a means to whittle down your wide ocean of prospects to a smaller pond, you can change your entire outlook on the process. While it can be frustrating to consistently receive rejections and not make any sales after hours on the phone, when you adjust your mentality so that you’re simply targeting those who are interested for later marketing, sales prospecting will go a lot more smoothly.

3)    Give them all of the information they need. Once you’ve determined that someone may be interested in what you’re offering, the next step is still not to harass them about sales. Rather than completing a transaction, make it your goal to obtain further information from each person, and then reciprocate by providing them with even more information about your company through the mail, e-mail or even your website. Once you’ve broached a relationship with a prospective client, you’ll want to let them familiarize even more with your brand so that they become comfortable with the idea of using you in the future. You’ll also want to target future marketing to this individual to gradually coax them into sales. Individuals will appreciate the fact that you aren’t badgering them into an agreement right away, but rather allowing them to learn more and make a choice on their own.

4)    Follow-up. It may be tricky just to sit on your hands while an interested party makes up their mind about your business. But just because you’re not jumping at them with sales and deals doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to prompt them. In fact, you definitely should not lapse in keeping contact with anyone who’s expressed interest in your products or services. Follow-up is a key component of sales prospecting. After sending out some materials about your business, you’ll want to reach out again to be sure they’ve received those materials and find out what they think. At this point, your agenda is to perpetuate a dialogue and make sure that your prospect has everything they need to make a decision. This is why it’s a great idea to encourage individuals to sign up for your newsletter or subscribe to your company’s blog. It’s one way to naturally integrate ongoing communications without putting your candidate on speed-dial.

5)    Use marketing to supplement your efforts. After you’ve completed all of the previous steps, you should be working with a tidy list of individuals with proven, expressed interest in your business. The next step is to market to those individuals as part of an effort to build brand awareness and invite them to complete conversions through your company. This is the time to offer unique creative to keep them enthused about using your business in particular, as compared to your competitors. You may also want to now supply sale rates and special offers to further prompt your target into action. Because they’re already been in touch with a representative from your company and have already become familiar with how your business works and what you can offer, closing the deal is that much easier. Plus, after all of your hard work you don’t have to waste more expensive marketing tactics on the original broad list of candidates. You’re now saving money by marketing to those who are most likely to become long-term customers. Best of all, because you bided your time and let them make the choice to use you on their own—so they’ll even think it was all their idea!