Prospects vs. Leads


Salespersons must be clear about the prospects vs. leads comparison.

In the post Sales vs. Marketing, we point out that marketing and sales together convert targets for a company’s offerings into customers:

Suspects → Prospects or Leads → Opportunities or Deals → Customers

Are prospects and leads the same? Or are they different? Confusion reigns supreme in this matter!

Prospects and Leads are the Same

Sales reps start their work with qualified leads or prospects and close on them.

In understanding prospects vs. leads, one perspective is that they mean the same. They are used interchangeably in sales discourse.

Indeed, it is commonly understood that sales reps or account executives start their work with qualified leads or prospects and work towards closing them.

They are Different

The other perspective on understanding prospects vs. leads is that leads are different from prospects. But then again, there are two schools of thought here.

Here is a selection of YouTube videos by other authors where they tell us that leads come first and prospects come next. That is, prospects are generated from the leads.

Leads → Prospects

Check out the playlist Prospects vs. Leads (A) on our YouTube channel.

Here is another selection of YouTube videos where the authors tell us exactly the opposite. That is, they tell us prospects come first and leads next.

Prospects → Leads

Check out the playlist Prospects vs. Leads (B) on our YouTube channel.

The Right Answer

Leads are different from prospects and also mean suspects.

The reality is this: Yes, leads and prospects are the same. But they are also different in that leads also encompass suspects.

Leads are what salespersons (typically, business development reps) pursue in search of sales just as detectives pursue leads in criminal cases.

As discussed in the post Suspects vs. Prospects, suspects are buyers at companies that fall within the target market segments. So, by definition, they must be leads to salespersons!

The overall marketing and sales conversion process thus looks like as below.

Leads (Suspects → Prospects) → Opportunities or Deals → Customers

Leads are converted into opportunities and opportunities into closures or customers.

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