Sales leads vs prospects – what’s the difference?

When we look at the sales process, it doesn’t take much to realize it’s everything but simple. There are many terms and jargon used in both sales and marketing processes, which can be confusing for even those in sales, let alone the rest of us. One of the most common confusion is about sales leads and prospects. They are two entirely different terms and yet many fail to understand this, so they continue to use them interchangeably. This brings us to the sales leads vs prospects situation, in which it’s necessary to clear out the differences so everyone in your teams is speaking the same language.

Comparing the sales leads vs prospects and the differences between them?

In both sales and marketing, there are some clear differences between the leads and prospects. This usually means the different stages at which potential customers, or contacts, are currently in the sales funnel. But this also means there are numerous other factors, like communication, that differ and apply for each stage.

For example, if you are using our click-to-call software on your website, every click that turns into a call is bringing you leads. It’s up to you, your communication, and the potential relationship with callers to turn them into prospects. And, finally, valuable customers. On an additional note, it’s important to remember that the term “prospect” should not be confused with “prospecting”. Because “prospecting” is basically a process of finding leads.

What are sales leads?

Sales leads are the key factor that can determine the success of your campaign and the growth of your business. Everything else in the sales starts with them. So, at the basic level, the first step in your sales process is to generate leads. Those leads can be people with interest in your product, but you know nothing about them at the moment. The important parts here are initial contact and communication. Which, at this stage is usually still a one-way communication. In simple words, sales leads carry the potential to become customers, but they haven’t made a decision yet.

A businessman using a smartphone to choose between a variety of different ways of communication.
You can get contacts through a variety of means, make sure to stay on track with the technological innovations.

They come in different forms, of which some of them are:

  • Lists with contacts you gathered from third parties
  • Email listings
  • Contacts you collected from other channels or networks
  • Callers you are calling back the first time
  • People who initiate the contact through social media, like with the likes, or comments
  • Inbound marketing contacts
  • etc.

One good example would be visitors on your website who are either leaving information in contact forms. Or, those who are directly calling you for the first time to ask for information. Only after the initial, two-way, communication, you will be able to classify them into potential prospects or uninterested parties. Following the example, one of the most important factors for success here is to know how to reduce the bounce rate on your website.

What are sales prospects?

The potential customer becomes a prospect once your lead moves one step further down the sales funnel. When you look at the other factors, it’s when the initial engagement turns into two-way communication. Basically, once the lead shows real interest in your product or service, it has the potential to turn into customers. At this moment, with confirmation of real intention, the lead becomes a prospect.

The “Enter” button on a keyboard transformed into a blue shopping cart button.
The work is not over until you motivate them to make a purchasing decision.

More than a few good examples of prospects are:

  • Leads you have communicated with over the phone
  • Email responders
  • Those who initiated the contact through your website and are interacting with you
  • People from social media and other networks with which you have a conversation
  • The call center callers who are looking for more details about your products or services
  • and many others

While leads can be observed as the initial contacts, prospects are those who require additional attention. You have to nurture the relationships with them until they are ready to make a purchasing decision. This leads us to the main goal, and that is to push the prospects down the sales funnel further until they become customers.

Transforming the sales leads into prospects

Knowing how to convert more leads into sales is an essential part of the business process. But, even after understanding the differences, it’s crucial to first understand how to properly turn your leads into prospects. Generally, this is the natural sales process that leads to acquiring more clients and customers. When you want to turn your leads into prospects, first they need to fit specific conditions:

  • have to belong to your targeted audience
  • show intent to buy
  • have the authority to make a purchase

Only when they fill all the criteria, in practice, you will be able to move them down the sales funnel. While for the leads the main goal is to make them interested in your offer, for prospects, the goal is to finalize the sale. This is the part of business operations that requires close collaboration between your marketing and sales teams. The exchange of information between them, and the alignment of their goals, can be a decisive factor that can make the difference between success and failure.

For leads – it is mostly about information

You need to ensure that leads first qualify for the next step and determine how to approach the situation. Which agents should make the call, how persistent your representatives should be, or what type of information you need to collect? These are all question that needs to be answered before you “threat” the leads further.

For prospects – it’s all about relationship

The most important part here is relationships nurturing. Every potential customer has specific needs, and you will have to have a good insight before you are able to establish a close connection. With the information you have, you will assess what to emphasize throughout the communication. Whether it’s pointing out benefits, providing more details, or making specific estimates about the willingness of your prospects to close the deal.

A hand is shaking another one that emerges from a monitor.
It’s essential to establish and maintain a good relationship with your potential and existing customers.

It requires a lot of work to move your leads down the sales funnel and transform them into prospects. And even more to make turn them into valuable customers. That’s why comparing the sales leads vs prospects and understanding they are the two different stages of the process is of the essence.

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