What is a 'Sales Lead'

A sales lead is a prospective consumer of a product or service, created when an individual or business shows interest and provides contact information. Businesses gain access to sales leads through advertising, trade shows, direct mailings and other marketing efforts. They can also purchase sales leads from third-party companies. A sales lead is not a sales prospect; further qualification of the lead is necessary to determine intent and interest.

BREAKING DOWN 'Sales Lead'

The sales process begins when a sales lead is identified, qualified and placed into a company's sales pipeline. Sales professionals use the lead's contact information to send sales emails, make outbound sales calls and provide direct marketing material. The quality of the sales lead depends on whether the individual or business was incentivized to give contact information, or if the sales lead was aware of what he or she was signing up for. The more qualified a sales lead is, the more expensive it tends to be for a business to acquire it.

Internet Leads

Across the board, 85% of Americans use the internet in 2015 as compared to just over 50% in the year 2000. The internet can provide a fertile ground for quality sales leads, but finding sales leads requires more than simply sending notifications to social media followers. People are more likely to become sales leads and qualified sales prospects when businesses take the extra effort to engage them through marketing efforts that educate or offer solutions. For example, technology-focused businesses can offer a free e-book or maintain a blog with information about industry-specific topics. Sales professionals can also engage prospective leads by being responsive to questions on social media or by hosting educational webinars.

Networking and Local Media

The internet makes it possible for sales professionals to reach an indefinite number of geographically diverse sales leads, but person-to-person contact can still be the best way to find sales leads in local communities. For example, a salesperson looking for local sales prospects for a business-to-business service could find potential sales leads at community networking events in his field. The local chamber of commerce can also be a good place to find leads. Small company owners looking for sales leads can also help business or consumer leads find out about their product or service through local media mentions. Small business owners should be prepared to pitch their story to journalists at local news outlets instead of waiting for the media to find out about their business.

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