You’re at a happy hour, a networking event, the grocery store, what have you, and you tell someone you’re in sales (doesn’t matter what you sell). You slip in your pitch; they give you the obligatory nibble that the social contract demands (i.e. their business card, or email, etc.) and you leave happy with yourself, adding another potential lead to your ever growing Rolodex.

But don’t be so pleased with yourself. A prospect isn’t a lead, and a lead isn’t a sale.

So you call them. No answer. You leave a voice mail because 80 percent of calls go to voice mail. And then you wait. The problem is that 90 percent of first-time voicemails are never returned.

A lot of salespeople stop there and tell themselves, “plenty of prospects in the sea,” or whatever. They don’t nurture leads because they don’t think they have to. But nurtured leads offer a 20 percent increase in sales opportunities, and those opportunities are more likely to result in bigger sales than non-nurtured leads.

If you’re unfamiliar with this logic, then consider the following carefully: converting prospects into an eventual sale is tough and requires work. It’s why so many people consider sales an art.

1. Learn Your Lead.

Identifying prospects is easy because virtually everyone is a prospect. But what is driving them to buy any particular product is what sales people are going to need to understand if they ever hope to effectively sell them on anything. Ask questions, and don’t be afraid to get appropriately personal.

2. Connect Personally And Digitally.

You want to make that phone call. You want to shake hands and have that first conversation face to face. But sometimes you can’t, and when you can, the followups are usually harder to do in person, so leveraging the conveniences of digital communication becomes paramount to courting and eventually converting leads to sales. Within the next five years, consumer-to-business interactions will shift onto the digital plane. 85 percent of a lead’s interaction with the company he or she is considering purchasing from will be done through digital portals (i.e. no human interaction). Get ahead of the curve and invest in technology now.

3. Maintain Your Connection.

A large portion of your leads will not initially purchase from you – maybe they don’t have the money or the need, or they just don’t want to. But they might in the future, and when they finally come to that conclusion to buy, you’ll want to be the name they think to call. This means maintaining a relationship with leads, even when their trail has gone cold. Don’t call them every night or email them every morning, but rather drop them a line every few months to let them know that when they’re ready, you will be as well.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Sam Sawchuk

Sam Sawchuk is a passionate social entrepreneur who believes empathy can be our strongest tool in unlocking innovation in business and in life. Sam works with people, companies, and brands to develop strategic initiatives that empower disenfranchised segments of the population and inspire social change. He does this through speaking and coaching, as well as leading his own organizations, Sandwich for a Story and Brandschools. Sam’s work has been featured at TEDx, the Clinton Global Initiative University, the United Nations, as well as numerous other media outlets. He has held various roles in startup communities across North America including Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver and San Francisco with a focus on getting students involved in entrepreneurship. A passionate believer in the power of technology to connect and inspire, Sam has worked at a variety of innovative companies in the technology industry including Uber, Hired and Ayogo Health.