A lead, in the context of sales and marketing, is a potential customer.
A lead can be a point of contact, an individual or organization. This potential customer or client is assumed to have an interest or a need for your product or service.
Leads are new opportunities, those that are considered possibilities that may be worth pursuing, to make that all-important sale.
Leads are acquired through all kinds of strategies and opportunities: online and offline advertising, referrals, direct mailing, business networking, at trade shows and product launches, or any other of the myriad marketing techniques available to the sales team or marketer.
Leads—or sales leads—are also terms used for the data involved in the search for a potential new client or customer. The data is used in locating the individual, department or business responsible for making the purchase.
Sales leads categories
A possible customer, buyer or client at the top of the purchase funnels is known as a prospect. Their interest is measured by website tracking, that they’ve made an enquiry online, by phone or in person, and have already requested information about your product.
Moving prospects along the sales funnel towards purchasing your product or service is known as nurturing. Nurturing involves providing the prospect with all the information they require to further their interest in buying the product.
Cold, warm and hot leads
The level of customer interest dictates where along the sales funnel the prospect sits. It’s their readiness to commit to buying.
A cold lead has shown a possible interest: a warm lead has established a desire for your product: a hot lead has an immediate need and use for your services, a budget to be able to pay for it, and a time frame for implementing the sale.
An alternative method of lead categorization is the BANT method—budget, authority, need and time frame.
This is a lead who is interested in your product or service, has a need for it but doesn’t have a need for it right now. The potential of a sale isn’t in the right now but at some point in the future.
A sales-qualified lead, however, shows interest and is ready to take the plunge. If the lead has been acquired and nurtured by the marketing team, this is the point the prospect is passed over to sales.