From The Editor | June 12, 2017

The Difference Between Sales Lead And Sales Prospect And What It Means For Your Business


By Travis Kennedy

This is an exciting time in the business-to-business world.  Never before has a manufacturer in the water and wastewater market had the opportunity to control their own destiny to the extent it does right now.

Twenty years ago the situation was much different.  It was a “suckers bet” where publishers held huge leverage over manufacturers because there were so few options beyond running display ads in magazines to reach your target audience. Manufacturers were forced to spend $100,000 or more to take out full-page print ads in industry publications in the hope that someone within their target market would find them, be impacted and take action.  Most of the time, that call from a qualified prospect with readily available funds and authority to make a purchasing decision was VERY rare.

Enter the world of digital marketing around the turn of the century.  With many water and wastewater manufacturers now making their digital spend the foundation of their marketing plans, the road towards achieving a flow of sales prospects has become clearer.

The customer journey is much different now than it was in the 1990s, 2000s, even 2010s.  With content playing a MUCH larger role in how potential customers become familiar with and identify with your company, marketing has now become a process of content production, audience presentment, and lead reporting. 

With more content comes more sales leads. I’ve had hundreds of conversations with manufacturers in our market about what constitutes a “sales lead” and as you might guess, I’ve heard many definitions. While almost all definitions differ by company there are two that stand out.  On one side there exists a definition built on some type of interest.  If there is interest in your company’s products AND/OR content and that results in an exchange of information, like contact information, that constitutes a sales lead.  On the other side, I’ve heard company vernacular define a sales lead as a prospect who wants to buy, wants to buy now, wants to buy from them and has the money ready. 

With that, I decided to do some old school homework and try and find the literal definition of the term “sales lead”.  Now, of course no one uses dictionaries or encyclopedias anymore so where did I go..?  Online of course and right to the business version of Wikipedia.  Here’s what it said:

Investopedia Definition:

A sales lead is a prospective consumer of a product or service, created when an individual or business shows interest and provides contact information. A sales lead is not a sales prospect; further qualification and nurturing of the lead is necessary to increase interest.

Once increased interest is nurtured the lead can then become a Sales Prospect and expectations of a sale, timing, and revenue can begin.  The goal therefore is to turn every sales lead through nurturing them over time into a sales prospect.  A sales prospect in almost every case needs to start and will indeed start as a sales lead.  You need ONE before you can get the OTHER.

By producing content, presenting that content to the market and nurturing each sales lead with additional insight and information, you are well on your way to producing more sales prospects than you ever thought was possible.  You now have the tools available to achieve the very thing manufacturers have been trying to achieve for the better part of the last 100 years … Now THAT’S exciting!!!!