Working with clients on a daily basis, even before establishing cooperation, I often hear the question “What exactly is this lead?”.
How to translate this term into Polish, what is lead generation, is it all the time marketing or is it sales? After all, how much will I earn from leads, what is the guarantee that acquiring a potential customer will translate into sales? There are many doubts. With this article, I would like to answer most of the questions in the simplest possible terms and I hope to help you understand the topic. People who are aware of the matter, at this very moment, I refer to our other content, and complete laymen, I invite you to read and ask questions in the comments.
What is a sales lead? 6 simple definitions that will dispel your doubts once and for all.
There can be several definitions and perspectives for explaining a sales lead. Each of them ultimately means the same, although I am aware that the imagination of each of us, and hence, understanding, will work differently. Here they are:
- Potential customer interested in a service or product.
- Sales prospect.
- A person or company that may eventually become a customer.
- The first step in the sales process.
- Potential business contact.
- A customer selected from the target group, declaring the intention to get to know the service or product.
It is worth remembering that a lead is not always a customer. Collecting leads also means acquiring new business partners (partnership and loyalty programs), distributors of our products and services, and subcontractors.
What is a sales lead definitely not?
- A person who is determined to purchase a service or product.
- One hundred percent guarantee of sale or signing a contract.
- An acquired customer.
- Completed sales process.
Why? I will answer this question in the following paragraphs, explaining what generating sales leads is, albeit in the simplest terms:
- Sales potential ≠ sales success
- Interested customer ≠ paying customer
In the entire sales process, the mere acquisition of a potential customer is just a piece of an important path to overcome. Pre-selection, first casting, separation of grain from chaff are the way in which you will only service customers who have declared their willingness to continue the conversation. Preparing a list of prospective customers will allow you to devote much more time (specialist knowledge and experience) to contractors with whom you will define their exact needs and intentions, present a dedicated offer, and examine interest. After all, no one better than you can do that.
3 types of sales leads
When we start a conversation about the types of leads, we must remember that we always need two sides to the entire process: the customer and the company that provides certain services or goods.
Example: So let’s assume that you are considering opening your company, a dream business that you have been thinking about for years. So you are a potential customer. In running it, at the very beginning, you will need software, let’s assume that for the sake of this example it will be a simple system for issuing invoices. The producer of such software will therefore be the other party to the sales process.
You are one when you plan to start your business without knowing exactly what you will need or when exactly you will register a new company. You are not interested in accounting software, chances are you will eventually need it, but neither you nor the software developer know when it will happen. From the point of view of a company that can potentially support you in the future, it is worth educating you (e.g. by providing guides on choosing the form of taxation of a new business activity) and maintaining contact, e.g. with a weekly newsletter or an invitation to an event about the differences between your own business and full-time employment .
It gets much nicer here. You made the decision to quit your warm job and proudly submitted an application to the City Hall to open a new business. The to-do list is endless, you have your priorities, you finally have to rent an office, install a printer and take care of the website. It is still far from issuing the first invoice, although you already know that sooner or later you will be faced with it and it would be good if someone trusted you could tell you how to take care of it quickly and cheaply. The role of the company offering the invoicing software will be to present the differences that separate it from the competition, not only in terms of price, but also in terms of functionality. Convincing you to choose their solution becomes a matter of time and very skilful advice.
Your company is already running, you are just finishing your first project, you are getting ready to open the champagne and issue your first invoice. Time is running out for you, you do not want to be unprofessional in front of your client, if someone would convince you with a good offer, you will be able to buy the software even today. You are a hot lead. The software manufacturer will convince you with good opinions about itself (proof of rightness), a discount for the first 3 months and speed of operation. It is also no coincidence that when you search for “invoicing software” on your own, you should find it in the first three results. Your conversation will most likely be successful.
Generating leads – what is it?
An inherent concept related to a sales lead is its generation, i.e. the use of methods of acquiring potential customers for services or products offered by your company. As a result of running a lead-generating campaign, you get the data of interested customers, which most often include:
- First name and last name
- Professional position
- E-mail adress
- Contact telephone number
- Company name
- A website address
- (optional) The content of the potential customer’s reply, eg “Thank you for the message, please call me on Tuesday at 12:00. “
In order to obtain a list of sales leads, campaigns are conducted:
- cold mailing – sending a message with a proposal to establish cooperation and an appointment for the ordering party (e.g. a sales representative or company owner) for a telephone conversation
- telemarketing – direct phone call to the company
- on LinkedIn – messages to selected profiles that constitute a group of potential customers
- payable per click – Google Ads, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn, Twitter
- other methods (at hotLead.pl, we use approx. 12 different methods of reaching potential customers)
How shouldn’t leads be generated?
The process of acquiring potential clients by an agency does not differ much from the way you obtain leads on your own. Indeed, it is faster, more accurate, and uses advanced technologies. However, as in your case, it focuses on building relationships and personalization. So don’t start generating leads with:
- buying ready-made databases at auctions
- sending mass messages to people who are not potentially interested in your offer
- persistent writing to clients on LinkedIn
- harassing people with unsolicited phone calls or text messages
Where is lead generation in the sales process?
Regardless of the industry, product or service, each sales process has its stages, which are defined as customer journeys for a potential customer. Generating leads is not a complete sales process, but only a part of it, and if I would like you to remember only one sentence from this text, this is it. Moreover, lead generation neither starts nor ends this process, it is often somewhere in the middle, which can be seen in the example customer journey below.
- Lack of awareness and need – the client is not in the target group, this is the aforementioned cold lead
- Building awareness, creating demand, arousing interest in the subject, not the product itself
- (Generating leads) A conscious customer who associates a service or product shows a desire to learn details and compare possibilities
- Presentation of information, offer, details, dispelling doubts
- Finalization of sale, purchase
- (optional) (Generating leads) Supplementary services and products to existing customers
Why is generating leads not generating sales?
The process of generating a list of potential customers is mainly an initial sales selection. It is up to you how you use it and how effectively you use its potential. Generating leads, unlike popular marketing activities, e.g. advertising campaigns, is based on specific calculations of return on investment. If your lead campaign’s ROI is negative, you shouldn’t invest in new leads or consider whether the side effects (e.g. website visits or long-term customers) are worth the risk of spending a lead budget. The question of the sense of acquiring leads with an external agency (sales outsourcing) should also start with the calculation of the number of new leads that appear in your company on a monthly basis without external help. If these are negligible amounts, your sales stand still, and the hired salespeople simulate pro-sales activities, you basically have nothing to lose.
So is it profitable to acquire potential customers if they do not guarantee a sale or signing a contract? Is generating leads obligatory in every company? Absolutely not. The sales process will happen without it, however:
- It will be longer, more arduous and often frustrating with the mere fact that you have to do something you are unfamiliar with
- You will pay salespeople for painstaking work and time when they should sell (I ignore their morale and investment in expensive training, tools that will guarantee the effectiveness of lead campaigns)
- Your company will stand still with a slow pace of sales (even slow development compared to the competition does not guarantee success)
- You will not benefit from its side effects (direct visits to the website, building awareness of your brand and personal branding of your employees)
- Instead of outsourcing sales processes and having peace of mind, not worrying about a constant flow of new leads per month, you will invest money in advertising campaigns and, like most entrepreneurs, you will convince yourself that they bring “some” results
We hope you’ve found some tips about what a sales lead and lead generation are. If you would like to add anything, whatever is unclear to you, write in the comment. We are happy to learn new possibilities and ways that will be introduced as an update to this article.
If you have reached this point, let me know if it was worth it and share your opinion, comment or a thumbs up 🙂 Thank you!