In the beginning of this guide, we defined what a lead is. As a quick refresher, a lead is not yet a customer, but they’re introduced to your small business. You have to nurture and convert them into paying customers. We also mentioned marketing qualified leads (MQLs). These leads have already shown interest in your products or services. That means they may be more receptive to your offerings.
Prospects are similar to MQLs. They too may be readier to make a purchase. Instead of requiring a little nudge to reach the threshold, they tend to know what they want.
If you’d like a clearer comparison of leads and prospects, this is the chapter for you. We’ll lay out a clear definition of prospects, and we’ll also explain the difference between leads, prospects, and customers. We’ll also delve into how to get curious and reluctant leads to become qualified prospects.
So, what's the difference between a lead and a prospect? You may recall what a lead is from Chapter 1 of this guide. Leads have found your products or brand, most likely thanks to your marketing efforts. They still want to spend some more time learning about your business or products before deciding about a purchase.
When they’re ready, they’ll likely opt into your email newsletter. They may also take advantage of your lead magnets or other targeted offers, although rarely will they make a purchase early on. After all, this stage is all about learning for them. Even if they accept a free offer of yours, they make not make a purchase.
By nurturing your leads via email and content marketing, you may be able to convince them to make their first purchase and become your customers. This may work out, or the lead might decline doing business with you.
That’s why some companies devote part of their efforts into developing sales-ready leads. These leads go through a more specific filtering process so you know they’re the right people to become your customers. Sales-ready leads are open to engaging with you and may be easier to convert. There’s less risk of losing them than regular leads, which can disappear any time.
What about prospects? Prospects are more like MQLs. Think of the word “prospective.” What does it mean? It refers to a higher likelihood of something happening. A prospect then is someone who has a higher likelihood of becoming a customer.
Unlike leads, who don’t know much about your company at the beginning, prospects do. They’re very interested in what you’re selling, too. They’re also much readier to buy compared to your average lead. While they require less nurturing than leads who are just entering your funnel, they do need to be engaged with.
Here’s a great illustration from B2B lead generation company HIPB2B that showcases the difference between leads and prospects.
As you can see, in the sales funnel, your average lead lingers around the top. They may get to the middle of the funnel, but by this point, they’ve probably gone through some filtering process.
Compare that to qualified leads or prospects. They enter the sales funnel towards the middle or even nearer the end. They’re intrigued by your company and prepared to make a purchase. If you communicate with them, you’ll typically hear back from them. That calls for more personalized email exchanges.
In some instances, you might find those who are even more willing to engage with your company than a regular prospect is. These gems are known as lead-qualified prospects or qualified prospects for short.
These qualified prospects have characteristics that set them apart from your average prospect. The first of these characteristics is their interest in what your company has to say. Whether it’s a sales representative or another valuable staff member, when they talk, this qualified prospect listens.
Another characteristic is that these prospects are generally trusting in your company and its employees. This goodwill can then be built upon as you nurture the professional relationship and eventually convert the prospect into a customer.
Lead-qualified prospects tend to exhibit some urgency as well. They’re interested in buying from you soon. This makes it much easier to close the deal and convert the prospect.
They’re also quite confident in their commitment to make a purchase. There’s no wavering here. This lead has done their homework. They know what they need and how much they’ll pay for it. They’re ready to check out.
If you can identify all your qualified prospects and guide them towards the end of the funnel, that leaves you with a lead prospect opportunity. This opportunity refers to closing the deal and making a great customer.
So, how exactly do you turn a lead into a prospect?
To achieve your conversion goals, you should make your own prospecting plan. Plans will undoubtedly vary from company to company depending on your business needs and goals.
In the plan, you’ll want to make several determinations. First, you have to be honest with yourself. Out of your current pool of leads, which ones are most likely to be prospects? If the answer is fewer than you want, it’s important to keep attracting new leads. You might also begin filtering them by specific criteria to ensure they’re as qualified as you’d prefer.
You next have to count the number of customer accounts you can start. Depending on the budget your business has, this may be a lot or just a few. From there, predict what your average sales volume will be after opening these accounts. Finally, create the part of the plan where you decide your means of following up with your qualified prospects. Will it be by phone? Email? Maybe both.
Now you can implement your prospecting plan. Create a list of all your leads and decide which ones are most qualified. These are the ones you want to target first. You must provide incentives, offers, and other deals that make these prospects want to become your customers. These offers should be targeted to their interests, pain points, or other relevant criteria.
Leads are potential customers, but there are some leads that are more interested in doing business with you. These are known as prospects.
Prospects are sometimes further categorized as lead-qualified prospects. These are your most receptive prospects by far. They’ve been open to communication, responded often, done their research, and are ready to make their purchase.