What Is a Sales Lead?

A sales lead is a person or business who may eventually become a client. Sales lead also refers to the data that identifies an entity as a potential buyer of a product or service. Businesses gain access to sales leads through advertising, trade shows, direct mailings, third parties, and other marketing efforts. A sales lead is not really a sales "prospect" per se because a business would need to examine and qualify the potential new client further to determine their intent and interest.

Understanding Sales Lead in the Context of the Sales Process

The sales process begins when a sales professional generates, qualifies, and places the sales lead data into a company's sales pipeline. Salesmen use the lead's contact information to send sales-pitch emails, and direct marketing materials and to make outbound sales calls.

Several factors determine the quality of sales leads, such as whether the individual or business had the incentive to offer contact information, the accuracy of the data provided, and the validity of the sales lead. A sales lead's validity depends on whether the targeted person was aware of the sales opportunity when they responded.

The Age of Internet Sales Leads

A report issued by Pew Research Center in March 2018 states that 89% of Americans regularly access the Internet. Because of this high level of access, the Internet provides ample opportunities to obtain sales leads. However, acquiring sales leads is a strategic process that requires skill and effort.

Businesses gain quality sales leads by using the internet to inform themselves about consumers' unmet needs or problems and then offer solutions to them. For example, technology businesses may provide e-books, hold webinars, and broadcast podcasts to enlighten consumers about using a product or software. Sales professionals could hold interactive online sessions, and publish question-and-answer (Q&A) materials for a similar purpose.

Alternative Ways to Find Sales Leads

The Internet comes with privacy issues

The Internet allows sales professionals to extend their reach globally. However, many Internet users are wary of providing their personal information online. Increasingly, consumers are demanding that the information they submit online is kept private.

Old-fashioned networking still works

Traditional in-person networking tends to be quite effective. Industry trade shows and networking events provide a wealth of sales leads for businesses, as does your local chamber of commerce. Disseminating information about products or services through advertising in local media also is useful.

Social responsibility can foster sales leads, too

By being socially responsible, businesses that give also receive. When a company or its employees donate time, effort, or supplies to local public-service and nonprofit organizations, they not only reap the benefit of feeling good about helping others, but also put their company's name in front of many viewers, which can generate numerous contacts including sales leads.