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Lead Generation & Research

What is a lead?

A lead is an important term for marketing and sales. Before a product or service is sold, people learn about what it is and what it does and decide whether they need it for themselves or not. Those who get interested and consider buying the product become leads, or potential customers.

However, companies cannot wait for people to find out about their products from advertisements or word of mouth. To see their sales grow, companies make intentional efforts and generate leads on purpose. Read on to learn about different types of sales leads and multiple ways to get new business leads using Belkins advice.

Sales lead definition

What is a sales lead? Before becoming a company’s customer, a business or an individual passes through the different stages of the customer journey. Once an initial, even slightest interest is shown, it signals to marketers and SDRs that a lead has emerged. Marketing and sales have different names for leads depending on the degree of expressed interest in the product or service. A qualified lead becomes a prospect, a potential new customer with a clearly defined intent to make a deal.

However, not only interest defines a sales lead. Fitting a company’s ICP can also be included in the definition. It is common practice for sales reps to contact leads based on buyer’s profiles rather than expressed purchase intent.

There are several types of sales leads, and you will learn all of them later. By clarifying the definitions, SDRs learn to qualify leads and decide when they are sales-ready.

What are leads in sales?

To be precise, in B2B sales, leads are companies rather than people. This idea is best expressed in account-based marketing based on approaching several decision-makers within a target company instead of working with one contact.

In the business-to-business realm, successful high-ticket closing takes a lot of time and legwork on the part of marketing and sales teams and the engagement of at least 4+ decision-makers.

Having transformed their thinking from lead-based marketing to an account-based approach, sales reps can start generating several leads within each target account. It would require different lead generation techniques for each lead. A chief operating officer, CEO, and sales VP should obviously be engaged differently. If, however, each of them sees value in buying your product, your lead generation efforts have higher odds of ending in a transaction. 

What types of sales leads exist?

Leads are classified and qualified based on their interest expressed through interaction with the product or service and their communication with SDRs. Although each marketing and sales team can develop their own classification of leads, the most common types of sales leads include:

Cold leads are those who either match your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) or have had minimal interaction with your company. Sales reps qualify cold leads when they:  

  • fill out an onsite form;
  • sign up for a newsletter or webinar;
  • read, like, and comment your LinkedIn posts;
  • read, like, and comment LinkedIn posts by industry leaders;
  • are referred by your existing customers;
  • are part of purchased lead lists.

Once the leads are qualified as cold, sales reps start nurturing them to help them move through the sales funnel. Cold calling and email outreach are the most common forms of lead nurturing.

Warm leads are individuals who either respond to SDRs’ attempts to engage them in a conversation or keep showing strong interest in a company or a product. If a company has started an online community and leads are active participants, they may not be ready to buy anything yet, but they already have brand recognition and may even be brand ambassadors. Sales reps qualify leads as warm when they:

  • engage and respond to emails and phone calls;
  • participate in the company’s webinars, live streams, trade shows, etc.;
  • ask questions;
  • download free products (i.e., ebooks, case studies, statistics, etc.);

Seeing leads’ unwavering interest in the company or products, sales reps keep nurturing them by writing personalized emails and making phone calls.

Hot, high-quality leads are those who have declared interest in buying the product or service. Normally, leads are hot if they:

  • request a demo;
  • agree to schedule an appointment;
  • have researched the product;
  • are discussing the price.

When sales reps see sales-ready leads, they handle their objections and set up a meeting to hand them over to account executives.    

Leads can also be classified into MQLs and SQLs. Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) correspond to the ICP and look pretty interested in your services, but it does not mean that they will buy from you. A sales-qualified lead (SQL) is a potential client who is in the buying cycle and will most likely make a purchase on your website. 

How to find leads online?

If you want to learn how to find leads via the Internet within saturated markets, you need to study the art and science of lead generation. Many distinguish between generating demand and generating leads. Going deep into the semantics and intricacies of the best practices is not the goal of this article, so let’s just outline the major directions of B2B lead generation.

Content marketing

By creating useful content for target audiences, companies establish themselves as experts in the field, educate people about how to use their products and services, and make genuine connections with leads. The general idea is to tailor content to the target audience but put it out through many sources. A company’s website and social media platforms are the major sources where leads come from.

  • LinkedIn. As the world’s most popular social media platform for professionals, LinkedIn provides many opportunities for lead generation. Boost your lead generation efforts by using LinkedIn Sales Navigator and third-party LinkedIn automation software for advanced company search features, smart reply management, and lead gathering options.  
  • Email outreach. Cold emailing, if done properly, is not spam. Email is a convenient channel to start a conversation with a lead and take it all the way to a purchase. Automation tools enable marketing and sales teams to send bulk text messages with advanced personalization.
  • Website & landing pages. All content marketing efforts drive traffic to a company’s website. Therefore, your website must be sleek and ready for the target audience. With an easy-to-navigate interface, comprehensible copy, and fast loading speed, your website must be filled with useful written pieces, infographics, and webinars. Entertain an idea to start a podcast, too.


Companies that set up customer referral systems and reward their clients for recommending new people to them have a steady and inexpensive source of leads.

How to make leads interested in the product or service?

A match between a lead and a company happens when each side gets interested and responsive in the two-way interaction. The company checks out if leads are a good fit while leads respond only to outreach and content that speaks something to them and about them. How to make leads interested in your product or service? Here are inbound marketing best practices:

  • ICP. Companies that want to truly attract leads start by deciding on what their target audience is like. For this, an ideal customer profile should be created, and each sales lead is matched to it. Any piece of content must appeal to a particular buyer persona. Otherwise, attracted leads will turn out low-quality as they won’t be interested in the company’s product or service.
  • Personalization. Marketers and SDRs engage leads that match the company’s ICP by personalizing their messages. Modern automation tools collect your leads’ names, job titles, email addresses, as well as the company’s size, and other contact information. SDRs and marketers use this data when they create cold email sequences. However, experts recommend marketing and sales teams to go the extra mile and look for shared interests and topics on social media in order to make their personalization more relevant.
  • Lead nurturing techniques. Multiple touches are on the basis of lead nurturing. Marketing and sales aim to orchestrate their efforts in such a way that leads come across the company’s product on social media, advertising, and in a direct conversation via email or phone multiple times before their desire to make a purchase matures. Leads can be reached multiple times through paid ads and search, social media feeds, and personalized emails.

Why is a sales lead important?

Sales leads are the currency of B2B e-commerce. However, from the sales perspective, it is important not only to put a great product out there but also to help people get interested in what you offer. Therefore, marketing and sales are busy with how to generate demand and how to nurture leads into the last stage of the sales funnel.

After SDRs have learned to understand what types of leads are likely to convert, they get better at nurturing leads, expanding their interest to a burning desire to buy, and having great sales rates.

Many companies prefer to grow their B2B sales leads by Belkins. Want to be among them? Give us a call.