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In the marketing world, the terms “lead” and “prospect” are thrown around quite frequently. Many people tend to use them interchangeably, but the truth is, they are not the same thing. 

Understanding the difference between leads vs prospects is your first step towards having a successful business. If you or your staff don’t know the difference between the two, it can greatly hinder your company’s ability to qualify leads, turn them into prospects, and ultimately, sales opportunities. 

Don’t worry if you or your team have the habit of using the terms lead and prospect interchangeably. We’re here to set you on the right path so that you can set your team up for success. 

So first, let’s take a look at each of these terms and what exactly they mean.

What Is A Lead?

To put it simply, a lead is someone whose contact information you’ve received through one of many ways. Maybe they’ve filled out a form on your website and given their name and email address, or you met them at a trade show and without further conversation, they handed you a business card. Or perhaps they’re a mutual contact, or you found them on social media.

Regardless of how you received their contact information, if they’re in your system, they are a lead. They haven’t given you any indication of whether they’re actually interested in your product or service yet, your marketing team has yet to qualify them, and you don’t know anything about them other than their name and email address. 

A lead isn’t a sure thing. It first needs to be qualified by your team to decipher whether or not they fit your perfect buyer persona. Is your company something that could help them? Do they have a need for your product or service? Do they have any specific pain points that your product could ease? 

These are all questions that need to be asked and answered in order to turn a lead into a prospect.

What Is A Prospect?

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A Lead to Prospect. How?

How To Turn Your Leads Into Prospects

So now you’ve got your leads, but how can you turn them into prospects? 

In order to turn a lead into a prospect, you need to qualify them. It’s important to do some outreach to determine whether or not a lead fits your ideal customer profile. There are three best practices to turn your leads into prospects. We’ve outlined them for you below.

Qualifying your leads

This is the first step to turning a lead into a prospect. In order to qualify a lead, you need to take the information you do know about them, for example, their company name and email address, and do some research. This will allow you to decide whether your company is a good fit for them and vice versa. Google their company, check them out on social media, ask mutual contacts about them. Have they mentioned a specific pain point to someone that your product or service can solve? Is their company even a good fit for your product? These are the questions you need to be asking to determine if your sales or marketing team should take the next step and reach out to them. Once your leads are qualified, you’ll be able to differentiate between which ones are likely to purchase and thus are worth pursuing as prospects, and which ones aren’t.

Nurture your leads

Once you’ve qualified a lead, you may find that they’re not at the point of being ready to purchase your product or service. This is why you need to nurture them. Keeping the conversation going is a great way to nurture leads. Send them newsletters or emails that include things like websites or blog posts you feel they may be interested in. Get to know them outside of their business. If a lead or prospect feels heard, understood, and known, they are more likely to buy and remain loyal to your brand. And the more you know about them, the easier you can pick up on pain points without them having to even mention them. A “consistent and well-planned communication strategy,” is key to nurturing your leads, says Justin McGill from LeadFuze.

Listen to your leads’ problems/needs

Active listening is one of the greatest qualities a team member can have. More than ever before, companies are looking for active support from those they do business with. They want to know that they can call you at the drop of a hat for any problems they may have. Communicate that with them, and they will quickly turn into prospects. If you can predict a problem or need before a lead even mentions it, that’s a big check mark in the plus column on your lead’s pro/con list when deciding to do business with you.

Build a relationship with your leads

Don’t let your leads feel like just another number on your list. That’s a quick way to get them to go to your competitor. Leads are far more likely to do business with someone who engages with them, knows them, understands their needs, and, above all, is relatable. The more you work on that relationship with a lead, the higher the chance they’ll turn into a prospect and then a paying customer.

Three Types Of Leads

There are three types of leads you must know about to run a successful business: Information Qualified Leads, Marketing Qualified Leads, and Sales Qualified Leads. We took a deep dive into the world of qualified leads in our article entitled Marketing Qualified Leads VS Sales Qualified Leads: The Ultimate Comparison Guide. So if you’re looking for a greater understanding of the different types of qualified leads, we suggest reading that article. But we will also jump quickly into each one here to give you a starting point.

Information Qualified Leads

An Information Qualified Lead (IQL) is someone who has given you their information in exchange for some of yours. For example, someone who’s visited your website and signed up for a newsletter, or inputted their contact info in order to download an informational ebook. They are at the beginning of their buying journey. They likely don’t know much about your product or services and are simply checking out the market. IQLs are low priority for a sales follow-up call. They are at the very tip of your sales funnel.

Marketing Qualified Leads

A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is typically a lead that has been generated from some form of marketing effort. Perhaps they clicked on a paid ad to get to your website or read one of your blog posts. As we wrote in the above mentioned article, “A Marketing Qualified Lead is a prospect who shows more potential to become a customer than other leads. They have engaged with your brand or website, submitted contact info, downloaded a free webinar or demo, etc. They are interested in your product or service but have not yet made any concrete moves towards a purchase.” MQLs tend to need some extra nurturing before they can be moved down your sales pipeline to become SQLs, or Sales Qualified Leads.

Sales Qualified Leads

A Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is a lead that has been funneled through your sales pipeline from IQL to MQL, and from MQL to SQL. They are ready to hear your best sales pitch and are primed for purchase of your product or service. It’s very important that your marketing and sales teams work together to funnel MQLs down the pipeline and convert them into SQLs. If these two teams aren’t working together, it can be detrimental to your business and can result in MQLs being converted before they’re ready, thus making them not want to purchase after all. A Sales Qualified Lead has had the proper amount of nurturing from your marketing team and is just one step away from becoming a paying customer.

Best Tools To Manage Each Stage Of The Sales Process

With so many different tools out there for every stage of your sales process, it can be difficult to know where to start or what to look for. We’ve made it a little bit easier for you by including some of our favorite tools for each stage.

For Prospecting: Wingmate

Wingmate offers you simple yet powerful CRM solutions and lead tracking to help you capture the best possible leads for your business. Our lead capture app is a quick and easy mobile tool for your field service staff to capture valuable prospect information that they come across while out in the field.

For Nurturing: HubSpot

When it comes to tools to help you nurture your prospects, there are few as innovative and all-encompassing as HubSpot. Their ServiceHub tool allows you to connect with your customers so you can exceed their expectations. Turn prospects into happy customers, and turn happy customers into growth.

For Sales Engagement: Pipedrive

With Pipedrive’s suite of CRM tools that allow you to track your sales activities, it’s never been easier to bolster your sales engagement. Schedule your activities in their tool and Pipedrive will monitor your performance and tell you what your next step should be. It’ll coach you on how to reach your targets and drive your sales engagement.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve learned the difference between lead vs prospect, it’s time to take that knowledge and pass it on to your team. Let them know that the two words are not interchangeable, and then teach them best practices so that they can turn their leads into prospects, and turn their prospects into sales.  

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