Lead or prospect? What’s the difference between the two terms?

Many people are unsure about the difference between a lead and a prospect and often, you can hear the same word being interchanged to refer to the same thing. But are they the same? No.

The difference relies on their level of maturity within the sales cycle. Let me explain: a lead is a simple contact that you only have limited information on, but who may have shown interest in your company – it may be a contact from an event or someone who has responded to an email. They cannot be considered a prospect – that is to say, a potential customer.

So, a lead becomes a prospect once it is considered qualified and given to a salesperson.

Here, there are two options:

  • Have someone (normally an SDR) go and get information about the prospect and/or call them to pre-qualify.
  • Use software like Plezi to detect as soon as a lead becomes “hot”, and qualify it based on their interests.

Then, the “qualified contact” can be transferred to a salesperson immediately for initial contact, what’s more, we can also predict the probability of their purchase with a forecast for turnover.

Within B2B, a large amount of sales work is about converting prospects into opportunities, meaning “qualifying” leads which have been generated by campaigns and other marketing operations. On the other hand, with outbound marketing, salespeople contact as many people as they can (often badly qualified) and the research on them is not only done manually, but can take a large amount of time with limited response.

The solution to this has to be inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing software means you have a very clear idea of your prospect’s interests. For each given contact, you’re able to see what pages they have visited on your site, what articles they read, content that has been downloaded and if they shared that with their network. Further to this, once a salesperson has access to this information as well, it informs their approach and what they know to be the prospect’s need.

Rather than pre-empt the prospect’s readiness, you can contact them at the right time, just as they show signs of interest. It doesn’t mean that Sales don’t need to research who that person is (company, products, seniority etc). This is pretty easy to do – life must have been so much more complicated before Google and Linkedin!

The last step? The sales team need to convert that prospect’s potential into a reality! To close the sale.

Some of this can depend on how your company defines its calls cycle, or acquisition tunnel. But what is important is to make sure that both marketing and sales teams have the same viewpoint.

Learn how you can improve your lead generation with automation software by downloading our white paper below. Or met us know in the comments section best practice in your company.

John Hughes

UK Business Developer for Plezi, get in touch with him concerning inbound marketing, marketing strategies or anything that's on your mind.