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What are sales leads? (+5 lead generation tips)

Generating sales leads is easier said than done. Here’s what you need to know before diving in.

Av Vivian Lopez, Contributing Writer

Senast uppdaterad March 22, 2024

Every salesperson is eager to hit their monthly quota—the more sales, the better. But the road to that finish line is reliant on a set of key players: sales leads.

Before sales reps can meet their targets, they need a clear understanding of what a sales lead is and how a lead is different from a prospect. They must also be armed with proven lead generation strategies to get people on the path to becoming a customer.

We’ve got you covered.

What are leads in sales?

Sales leads are people who could potentially become customers in the future. They may or may not have interacted with your company before.

As the sales rep, it’s your responsibility to gauge each lead’s interest level and determine whether they’re an ideal customer for your business. If they make it through the lead qualification process, you must develop a relationship with them and nurture that connection until they turn into paying customers.

Types of sales leads

Leads can be either cold or warm, depending on their level of awareness of your company and its offerings.

Cold leads have never connected with your company or shown interest in your product or service. They may not be aware of your organization and what you have to offer.

Warm leads know about your company and have expressed some level of interest, perhaps by visiting your website or commenting on a social media post. But it may take more nurturing before they realize they need your solution. They likely won’t be surprised when you reach out because they’ve signed up for your emails, seen your ads, shared their contact information on landing pages, or connected with your company in one way or another.

Sales leads vs. prospects: What makes them different?

The difference between a lead and a prospect lies in demonstrated intent to buy.

Sales leads might be a good fit for your business—but they might not. You may find after speaking to a lead that they don’t need your solution or they simply don’t have the funding to invest in it.

Sales prospects are marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) or sales-qualified leads (SQLs) who have been identified as ideal customers for your company and would consider making a purchase. Prospects need your solution; they’re also ready to listen and ready to buy. You just need to persuade them to do business with you.

5 proven lead generation tips

Garnering new leads is a cross-departmental effort. Lead generation requires the talents and expertise of everyone, from sales to marketing teams. Here are some strategies for obtaining high-quality leads to increase your chances of success.

  1. Create original research

    sales leads research
    Becoming a trusted industry expert can often lead to more potential business. You just have to be willing to allocate time and resources to conducting and publishing relevant research for prospective customers.
    In BuzzSumo and Mantis Research’s State of Original Research for Marketing, 55 percent of marketers said they acquired leads as a result of publishing their own original research.

    55% of marketers said they acquired leads as a result of publishing their own original research.

    The more data you gather and compile into notable reports, the more traction your organization will get from publications, social media, and word of mouth. More links across channels will draw people to your website. From there, visitors might sign up for an email newsletter or a free trial, demo, or consultation.
    And just like that, people become sales leads.
  2. Establish a strategic social media presence

    sales leads social media
    Social media might seem like a no-brainer for inbound lead generation. After all, nearly a quarter of marketers surveyed in the Chief Marketer B2B Marketing Outlook Survey reported social media as a top lead gen method with a high return on investment (ROI).
    But generating leads isn’t as simple as posting across every channel. Sure, Facebook and Instagram have infinite users, but does that mean those users are sales leads who are likely to convert? Perhaps, if millennials are your target audience. Is Twitter where decision-makers are spending their time? Maybe, but you’ll probably have more luck on LinkedIn if you are looking for B2B leads.
    Make sure you’re on the channels your ideal customer base uses regularly. But be mindful of how you present your business and offerings on those platforms. You should also interact with users and create or nurture online communities within each channel to attract valuable leads.

    Improve your sales process

    A good sales process is the foundation of any successful sales organization. Learn how to improve your sales process and close more deals.

  3. Attend industry events

    sales leads industry events
    Almost one-third of respondents in the B2B Marketing Outlook Survey indicated that live events garnered leads with a large ROI. But again, you must be intentional about the events you choose to attend. A software company offering solutions for sales teams, for example, won’t gain much from going to a summit for financial advisors.
    Only participate in events—like trade shows, workshops, and conferences—that attract attendees who match your buyer persona. Engage leads with meaningful and informative sessions, network at booths, and offer access to relevant resources such as guides, ebooks, and more. Do everything you can to pique the interest of attendees so they’re intrigued enough to learn more.
  4. Host educational webinars

    sales leads webinars
    Webinars provide potential buyers with the educational content they need to further their professional development. According to the ON24 Webinar Benchmarks Report, 89 percent of small business and enterprise marketers “believe webinars outperform other channels in creating qualified leads.”
    Crafting webinars for your target demographic can result in more leads. For instance, a customer success representative is likely to attend a webinar on how to improve retention and prevent churn. A company might host this webinar and offer a solution that would help attendees accomplish their goals. At the end of the webinar, the company presents this solution and invites attendees to learn more.
    Work with your marketing department to host successful webinars for audiences that align with your ideal customer profile. You’ll attract a list of promising leads willing to listen to what you have to say.
  5. Build a customer journey within your content

    sales leads customer journey
    Content marketing is among the top three channels producing leads with the highest ROI, according to the B2B Marketing Outlook Survey.
    To experience positive results from content marketing efforts, you need to create a customer journey within your content. Take prospective buyers on a journey that steadily increases their interest in your product or service.
    Start with top-of-funnel blog posts built for search engine optimization. Use call to actions (CTAs) and internal links to direct readers to middle-of-funnel posts that introduce your product. Within those posts, link to bottom-of-funnel content—like case studies, testimonials, white papers, and more—where you can place CTAs that encourage the reader to request a demo or free trial.
    In the end, you’ll have leads who are genuinely interested in your company and what it offers.

Maximize sales lead generation efforts with a CRM

With so many leads to connect with, your team should use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to easily track, manage, and engage with potential customers.

A sales CRM like Zendesk Sell enables you to make the most of your lead generation efforts. Sell captures essential lead information and automates lead scoring, so you’ll know exactly which leads to reach out to and follow up with. You can also make calls, send emails, and schedule meetings—all in one place.

Simplify your company’s lead generation, lead management, and outreach efforts so you can focus on what matters most: converting leads into paying customers.

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