Sales Lead vs Prospect

Across the board, every business person knows that sales is a massive overall goal. You want more of them.

And sales teams are not the only departments with an important role in driving quality sales. Your marketing department launches social media campaigns and digital marketing efforts with that intention in mind. Your customer service team nurtures your clients throughout their journey. In fact, every cog in your business machine sets out to drive sales and boost revenue.

The ironic part about all of it is that when everyone wants to increase sales, each team member can lose focus.

Even if you are a business owner, you can easily get terms like “sales lead” mixed up with “sales opportunity” and “sales prospect.”

And your sales lead is key to business prosperity, regardless of whether they are B2C or B2B leads.

Today, we go over the difference between leads and prospects. We also give you top tips to succeed when you approach the two and everything you need to know along the way, like how to spend your resources in the most cost-effective way. 

What is a Good Sales Lead?

First, you have to understand what a sales lead is and how to identify a quality one versus one you should not bother with.

You have to take advantage of sales lead generation for long-term business growth.  In fact, often the first step you want to take in your sales process is often lead generation.

Have you ever gone hiking a trail and seen those little wooden signs that serve as mile markers? Think of your sales lead as mile marker one.

In general, a sales lead is a person who might have an interest in one of your company’s products or services. However, that is all you really know about your business leads. You do not yet know what product or service they are interested in or why they are, to begin with. And you really do not yet know when they will buy.

These are basic business leads, where you might only know their name and/or email address. 

So what’s the best kind of sales lead? Successful businesses often call them sales-qualification leads. With these, you could also already know their:

  • Geographic location
  • Job and income information
  • Age range
  • Sex/gender

Your sales team qualifies them to check if the basic lead is worth pursuing. They verify them to know if they even actually need your products or services. Then, your sales reps know if and when they should reach out to the business lead to close a sale.

To get a good sales lead in the first place, your marketing team uses leads marketing methods. You capitalize on search engine optimization tactics and email marketing campaigns to find leads online. All of these and more cater to your target market so that you already have quality leads reaching out to you.

So with a basic lead, you have introductory information about someone who might want to buy something from you. With a good sales lead, you know and understand them so that you increase your likelihood of closing the sale.

What is a Prospect in SalesWhat is a Prospect in Sales?

A prospect is ultimately something your company creates through sales qualification.

You use that process and those tactics that we just laid out for you to turn a sales lead into a prospect.

A simple definition for a sales prospect is someone who your team identified as an ideal buyer. This ideal buyer is in the stage of purchase consideration.

A prospect is a potential customer. It is someone who shows an active interest in your products or services. They engage with your brand’s content, like email newsletters, phone calls, or more.

Prospects have problems that you have to leverage with custom-fit solutions. You have to nurture them through their entire buyer journey. The best way to go about this is with communication.

Your effective communication efforts ensure that you bring your prospects all the way down through your sales funnel. That entices them to stay on with your business as loyal customers.

How Do You Differentiate Between a Lead and a Prospect?

We already gave you a general idea of the difference between a sales lead and a prospect. But now, let’s get into several specific reasons why they are so different and the specific ways you have to deal with both of them. Later on, when you might lose sight of these differences, refer back to these for clear-cut information.

Let’s start with communication. When you and your various departments communicate with your leads, it is specific to your target audience in general. But you do not individualize your communication efforts for a single person. It is more of a one-on-many style.

When you communicate with your prospects, however, it is a one-on-one situation.

Your marketing efforts also have to vary depending on whether you’re talking to a sales lead or a prospect. After all, a lead is not a prospect just yet.

As you market to a lead, ensure that your main goal is to nurture them through your sales funnel to turn them into a prospect. As you do so, double- and triple-check that your sales and marketing departments are communicating with one another for a streamlined approach.

Stylistically, sales leads are just that: sales-related. Think of B2B leads again.

You’ll probably be emailing them sales eBooks and white papers with links to your latest blog post about the best ways to close more sales over the phone. You might even suggest they download some of our other free resources on closing deals on social media.

Depending on if you are a B2C lead, you also have different approaches to lead and prospect communication.

As you can see, there are multiple things to take into consideration as you differentiate between a sales lead and a prospect.

How Should You Approach a Lead_

How Should You Approach a Lead?

As a sales team member, marketer, or business owner it is easy to fall into the trap of persistence. But by all means, never let that trap get so sticky that it turns into being a pesky salesperson.

No lead wants an annoying sales rep blowing up their phone at all hours. It feels like the spam that never ends.

The first step in approaching a lead is to determine if they are a decision-maker or not. That shows you how persistent to be in your overall approach.

The right level of perseverance could turn a lead right into a prospect.

Make sure that you have top talent taking care of lead management. They should identify the specifics of the lead they are working with. They have up-to-date CRM software to analyze lead data and align it with the relevant market segmentation.

Bottom line: do your research.

How Should You Approach a Prospect?

Approaching a prospect is of course different from approaching a lead. But start out just the same: with the right amount of perseverance. Also, you still have to figure out some more details about your prospect to understand who you are working with, marketing to, and selling to.

Only then can you get into a prospect-specific approach.

The big-ticket item here is to emphasize the benefits of your product or service and business as a whole. Below are a series of questions you need to answer. Use these questions to figure out what stage of the buying process that your prospect is in:

  • What do they know about what you offer? How much do they know altogether?
  • What do you know about them? What industry are they in? What business do they run or work for? What are their industry-specific challenges?
  • How many times and how often do they visit your site?
  • How could your product or service help them? What do they know about how it could help them?
  • What is their budget?
  • Would they like a proposal? How would they like you to approach it? What is their communication and learning style?

What About Sales OpportunityWhat About Sales Opportunity?

You might think: “What about sales opportunity? You left that one out! What’s the difference there?”

A sales opportunity is someone who was already a lead. They went from a qualified lead to where they are now, which is a qualified prospect. A sales opportunity is not just a possible customer; they are a probable customer.

Your opportunity has a pain point that you can solve with your product or service. They also are already interested in what you offer and you know that they are a good fit.


A sales lead, prospect, and sales opportunity are easy to get mixed up.

Think of it like this, going in order from the top of your sales funnel to the bottom:

First, your sales lead opts into some form of your content or answer a cold call.

Second, you qualify your lead and they become a prospect.

Third, you qualify your prospect. After talking with them, they want to consider your product or service. That’s when they become a sales opportunity.

It feels like an extensive process. That’s why we’re here for you at Selling Revolution.

Not only do we know how to get you the right leads, we know how to increase them, too. And we never stop there. We know how to recruit and train your sales team’s top talent.

Check out our blog if you need more quick tips to succeed. Once you browse through our featured media, though, you’ll see just how much we can help you reach your sales goals. For your tailor-fit and long-term business solutions, book a call with the pros today.