The sales process can be complicated. Yet, I’m always amazed by how many business owners screw up the simple things – like following up on sales leads. Many leads are thrown to the wayside by business owners who think that a prospect, who isn’t ready to commit immediately, is no longer worth pursuing.

Yes, a percentage of your leads will be ready to shake hands and pull out their checkbook immediately. And a percentage of them will come to the conclusion that your products or services are not a good fit. But there is a third, sizeable group: prospects who aren’t ready to commit immediately, but are ripe to be persuaded down the road.

If you don’t pursue that third group, you’re not going to win their business. But as you know, life as a small business owner is hectic. There’s barely enough time in the day for you to accomplish all of the tasks that must get done, let alone pursue leads that won’t convert for months or even years.

So what’s the answer? You need a follow-up system. Here are three ideas to help you get started:

First, enter every single lead into a database. It can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet, but if you don’t have a means of tracking and organizing your leads, you are taking money out of your pocket for no good reason. In addition to the name and contact information for each lead, identify the means by which the lead was generated, the results of your conversations, any specific concerns the prospect had, etc. You’ll utilize this information as you follow-up in the future. Don’t skip this step!

Consider launching an email marketing campaign or newsletter. In order to keep your business on the minds of your leads, it’s important to contact them regularly. A regular e-newsletter is a great way to accomplish this. Bear in mind that these campaigns can’t just be a sales pitch, you need to provide value in order to keep your prospects interested.

In addition to mass mailings and newsletters, schedule “personal” follow-ups at strategic intervals. Use your database to schedule future follow-up efforts for each lead. Whether it’s a phone call, a face-to-face meeting, or even an email, make a point to reach out to each lead and ask them if there is anything else you can do for them. A good timeframe for this can be every 3-4 months (will vary by type of business.)

The idea is to create a system that ensures regular, automated contact in order to maintain top-of-mind awareness and to combine those efforts with occasional personal follow-ups. This approach will allow you to eventually convert a significant percentage of leads that would otherwise have been ignored. And that’s good news for every business!