Getting a lead is one thing. Turning that lead into a sale is quite another. Indeed, while there are plenty of companies and software solutions that can help businesses drum up sales leads, they can\u2019t close the deal for you. So to find out what organizations can, or should, do to convert leads into sales, we queried dozens of sales and marketing professionals. Here are their four top tips on how to successfully turn a prospect into a customer.\n[ Related: 7 ways small businesses can leverage customer data ]\n1. Give sales reps the tools and information they need to track and manage leads.\u201cTo keep up with empowered buyers, organizations need to equip their sales teams with as much information about the lead as possible: what site they came from, what content they have already consumed, how many touches they\u2019ve had with the brand, etc.,\u201d says Ed Calnan, cofounder, Seismic, a sales enablement solution provider. The best way to do this, he says, is to have technology, such as a sales automation\/CRM solution, that the sales team is comfortable using \u2014 and is kept up to date.\n\u201cA CRM system is such a critical piece [for managing leads], and I continue to be baffled by companies that don\u2019t have a CRM system, much less track leads within one,\u201d says Ryan DuCharme, national account manager, Modernize, which provides home empowerment solutions. \u201cFor the contracting and remodeling industries, [for example,] companies like Improveit!360 and MarketSharp are leaders in the CRM space and have cost-effective methods that will immediately improve lead generation ROI, as long as you commit to using the systems.\u201d\n2. Make sure salespeople are prepared before they reach out to prospects.\u201cSales reps can follow up on leads successfully only when they [are] properly prepared to do so,\u201d says Robin Saitz, CMO, Brainshark, a sales enablement company. \u201cFor example, if leads are passed [on] based on webinar attendance, reps must [know] that webinar\u2019s content and [what]qualifying questions would be relevant to be fully prepared for follow up with an attendee,\u201d she explains. \u201cIf leads come in through a paid social media ad, reps need to know the nature of the offer, and what to probe for in a follow-up call or email. If reps don\u2019t have this kind of background or foundation, leads will go to waste.\u201d\nSimilarly, \u201cif the lead came in through a referral source or partner, take a few minutes to ask the refer[er] why they directed the lead to you, what were the issues and problems,\u201d says Aalap Shah, cofounder and new business development lead, SoMe, a digital marketing agency. \u201cKnowledge is power and can help you set yourself up for success.\u201d\n3. Have sales reps follow up quickly with prospective customers \u2013 and pick up a phone. \u201cFast response times can increase the odds of winning the client,\u201d says Shah.\n\u201cAs a follow-up to any new sales opportunity, [sales] reps should [immediately] email each prospect a piece of content designed to advance the conversation forward,\u201d says Saitz. And this content should be \u201cmapped in context with the prospect\u2019s persona, industry and stage of the buying cycle.\u201d\nBut don\u2019t just follow up with prospects via email.\n\u201cMy number 1 tip for converting leads into sales is to pick up the phone,\u201d says Josh Pittman, vice president, Inside Sales, Velocify, a provider of intelligent sales software. \u201cWhile communicating with qualified leads through email serves a basic function, a lot can be lost using email by itself, as it fails to capture tone and emotion,\u201d he says. \u201cPicking up the phone [and] learning the pain points [prospects] are facing establish[es] a personal connection in real time, earning their trust and eventually their business.\u201d\n[ Related: 15 ways to improve your email marketing campaigns ]\nAnd if you are unable to connect with the lead the first time you try, don\u2019t give up. Leave a message (if you called) and follow up again in a day or two, via email and phone. And keep trying until you get a response. Just be sure not to overdo it \u2013 e.g., call or email more than once a day \u2013 as that can turn off prospects.\n4. Have sales reps avoid the hard sell and instead focus on solving problems. \u201cInstead of launching into a pitch about your product, since the customer has already expressed interest, the most\u00a0effective way to open the conversation is to introduce yourself, [explain] why you're calling [e.g., \u2018I heard you were having a problem with\u2026\u2019] and ask \u2018How can I help you?\u2019\u201d says Jessica Magoch, CEO, The Virtual Sales Academy. \u201cThen listen. Many of your qualifying questions will be answered and the customer will tell you exactly what he or she wants to buy. Then just sell them what they want to buy, [or what they really need,] not what you want to sell.\u201d\nAs for upselling, if you have an additional product or solution that the prospect didn\u2019t ask for, or knows about, but that would help her solve her problem, by all means mention it. Just be prepared to back off \u2013 and focus on winning the initial sale \u2013 if the customer says she\u2019s not interested, or not interested right now. If you make the customer feel comfortable working with you, she will likely continue to buy from you\/your company.