When you get into sales, you will need to differentiate the customers you interact with according to the stage you have reached in making a deal with them.  This is important because you will often be required to make reports, and it is important that the right terms are used to differentiate the sales numbers.

The more straight forward difference between a lead and prospect is the stage either one of them occupies in the purchase cycle.

A lead is based on information that is indefinite and inconclusive.  From an individual perspective, just because I received a lead of an open position does not mean that I will get the job if I apply.

A prospect on the other hand, refers to clients who fall under the company’s qualifying criteria or those who have already began the sales process and are nearing the closing stage.  How then can we determine if it is a prospect or lead?  To answer this question it is important to know the characteristics of either one of these two.

A prospect expresses a keen interest in the activities of a business, you will know this because you will find responses from them on campaigns and comments posted on social media.  They most likely are interested in the point of view of your company, or in the target market of your business.  It is not strange to find that prospects of a particular brand are already customers of another brand from the same company.

Leads are often generated from any of the platforms where a company has a presence.  Be it online, in the media, public campaigns or corporate social responsibility activities, these are all good avenues for generating leads.  They are people who have been taken from the company’s target group and who may either grow into prospects or fall off the cycle.

By understanding prospects and leads,the  sales team can formulate ways with which they can convert each into a sale. The way to deal with a lead is to engage them so that they are familiar with the activities of an organisation.  This will help to arouse in them interest in the products or services rendered and hopefully turn them into prospects.  Easy methods of engagement would be webinars, newsletters, and emails.  A prospect on the other hand needs to be educated on the various options they can make, so that the deal they close is suitable, cost effective and beneficial to them or their business.  Some popular avenues of educating a prospect are technical blogs and checklists.

Since one grows into the other, it is easier to talk of the transition of a prospect v lead, so as to tailor the approach when dealing with either of the two.  Some sales departments interpret the position of the prospect and lead in totally different lights that may cause a lot of confusion.  It is important to understand the relationship you have with your customers regardless of what stage they are at or how you would like to class them.

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