It's up to you to convert them.

Staff Writer

You can’t sell anything if you don’t have customers. But to find those customers, you have to go through the long and tedious process of prospecting.

Prospecting is unavoidable, but it doesn’t mean you’re stuck cold calling for hours on end. In fact, cold calling may be the last thing you want to do since only 2% of cold calls actually result in an appointment, according to Leap Job.

Instead, you can make prospecting easier by using a variety of new techniques. So before you reach for the phone, consider using these tactics instead:

1.Search on Google

Sometimes a simple Google search may be the best place to start. So much of what we do is documented online, and that information may be useful to sales professionals.

If you’re looking for someone specific or for information about a specific company, Google can help. By searching, you can find a wealth of information on someone’s spending habits or about how a company is run.

But this information is useless unless it’s about the right people. Identifying those key decision makers is important to take the next step and get them to buy, but it can be a challenge to find them. Gartner Group finds that in a typical firm with 100-500 employees, seven people are usually involved in the buying decisions.

On LinkedInSteve Trehair, managing director of Matrix Marketing, writes, “We’re currently operating in a constrained market, and when money is tight, spending decisions move further up the management chain. In order to speak to the individuals who make buying decisions, you’ll first need to identify who they are and establish a connection with them if you want to be able to influence their decisions.”

The more information you can gather on your target buyers, the closer you’ll be to finding the right people to reach out to.

2.Use social media

Just like Google, an abundance of information about potential buyers can be gleaned from social media. On LinkedIn specifically, it’s easy to search for companies and identify the people who work there.

You can also search on Twitter and Facebook to see what people are saying about your company. If you see potential interest, leave comments and reach out.

In his book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Dale Carnegie writes, “You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them, than in two years by making them interested in you.”

You can also learn information about specific communities on social. Use industry keywords to see what people are talking about and who the major players are. Pay attention to the conversations going on, and see if you can add value to them.

Consider joining groups on LinkedIn to integrate yourself with the industry and online community. Vorsight says you are 70% more likely to get an unexpected sale if you join LinkedIn Groups.

3. Reach out through email

The phone may be a waste of your time, but email isn’t. According to MarketingSherpa, email has two times higher ROI than cold calling.

But that doesn’t mean sending emails out without thinking will get you results. You need to craft an email that will be effective and that means taking the time to understand who you’re sending it to and what they want.

Focus on a specific, clear message and make sure you’re providing value with your email. How does your information benefit them? Don’t make the email too long either. If a sentence can be cut, do it.

If you’re looking to improve your cold email process, there are plenty of tools that can help. By ensuring your cold emails are targeted, organized and purposeful, you’ll be able to generate more leads for your business.

4. Stay up to date on industry news

In an interview with David Skok of For Entrepreneurs, Aaron Ross, author of “Predictable Revenue,” says, “Oftentimes the ultimate decision maker – such as the CEO or VP Sales in the case of Salesforce.com, is not the best person for your initial conversations. I learned this through hard work – cold calling, cold emailing, plugging away. I realized I spent most of my time hunting for the right person – not trying to sell or qualify them.”

Instead of constantly searching for the right people to sell to, keeping abreast of the latest news will give you key insights into who the right people to sell to are.

Many blogs and media outlets report on the happenings of companies – the same companies that you’re aiming to sell to. That means by staying informed on their news, you’ll be in a better position to sell to them.

Forums can also be a valuable resource for industry news and information. Keep up with these and consider subscribing to newsletters for popular blogs and media organizations in your industry.

5. Build relationships

While in a pinch a quick search on Google or social media can help you identify new leads, the best way to continuously find them is to build relationships with the people in your industry.

Go to networking events, join industry associations and be present where potential customers are. Find them on social and engage instead of pitching right off the bat. The more you can build a relationship with a prospect, the more likely they will be to buy from you.

As author and blogger Seth Godin writes on his blog, “You don’t find customers for your products. You find products for your customers.”

You can find a million new prospects but if they aren’t the right customers for your products, it won’t matter. You need to focus on finding the people who are the most likely to buy from you, not just on finding names and email addresses to fill up your spreadsheet.