There’s a lot of confusion about the definition of a lead, also called a sales lead. Many different terms are sometimes misused as synonyms.
So, let’s try to clarify things, starting from the beginning and going over the whole life cycle of a lead.
Table of Contents
Prerequisite: establishing the ideal customer profile
First of all, how do we want our lead to be? In other words: we are fine with literally every customer or we need him to have some very specific features?
According to our method, we must have in mind a clear picture of our ideal customer before saying that a company is a “lead”.
If, for example, we sell management software for manufacturing companies, our ideal customer could be described in broad terms like this:
– manufacturing company;
– invoicing more than 5 million Euros;
– with at least 20 employees;
– with an IT infrastructure based on a Windows platform;
– which doesn’t currently use any management software (this is just a theoretical example, of course…);
There are always a number of other parameters to consider, but for now let’s stop here.
The first stage of this sort of evolutionary cycle is the suspect.
A suspect is someone (where “someone” in B2B means “a company”) whom sooner or later we suspect might become our customer.
At the moment it’s just an “assumption” on our part, based on a series of characteristics. But that company has not yet shown any interest in the type of products we sell. So, any such interest must be verified.
Warning: sometimes the names of companies on a list are improperly called “leads”.
There are list providers who call such names “leads”. But these are not leads at all!
If we have a list of manufacturing companies, and we know nothing about these companies except that they are manufacturing companies, we don’t have a list of leads: we only have a list of names.
If instead we find a list of manufacturing companies invoicing more than 5 million Euros with more than 20 employees, those companies are suspects; and we have a list of suspects, not leads.
When we know more about the suspect as compared with the ideal customer profile, then that suspect qualifies as a prospect.
That is to say, the more we refine our information of suspects, the closer they get to the prospect status.
If, for example, we knew which of those manufacturing companies have a Windows-based IT infrastructure and don’t use any management software, we could say that these companies are prospects.
But so far, the prospect can also be completely unaware of our existence. That is, it continues to live very well, unaware of our product.
It’s only when he comes into contact with us that the transition from prospect to lead can take place.
If you contact all prospective manufacturing companies on the above list, and someone tells you they are interested in learning more about your product, that company becomes a lead.
Or, if you get a contact on the website from someone who “wants to know more”, that’s also a lead, meaning that it has given a sign of having a problem that your product/service could solve.
From passive as it was, the prospect was activated: in the first case because stimulated by you, in the second case because he spontaneously decided to raise his hand and called you or downloaded from your website a report on the subject, or requested information by email.
At least POTENTIALLY, therefore, it’s a company that could one day consider buying your product. It’s actually a lead.
A lead is therefore a potential customer who warns to some extent that he has a problem that you could solve, and who wants to know more about what you are selling.
Qualified Lead (for those who aren’t satisfied)
For those who make lead generation their specialization, as in our case, generating leads is still not enough.
There’s one possible further step: the transition to a qualified lead.
We talk about qualified leads when the lead also meets a specific set of conditions:
– First of all, we have verified that it meets all the requirements to match the profile of your ideal customer;
– then, it generally warns of a problem, but it’s also well aware of having it;
– and above all, it’s going to do something about it;
– it has a timeline in mind for the solution;
– this timeline is compatible with your sales targets;
– it has allocated a budget compatible with the investment required for your product;
– or it might be in a position to allocate that budget;
– your contact person in the company has a say in the purchase decision;
– etc. etc. etc.
Generating leads is never easy.
And knowing how to generate qualified leads in a systematic way is an even more sophisticated and complex activity because the ending point can only be reached after a well-structured process, which requires competence, experience, and strong professional specialization.
All characteristics that distinguish the services of our exclusive Lead Generation Farm™.
Book a Call with us to find out what Lead Generation Farm™ can do for your business: