One of the things about going to sales conferences is you hear a lot of people promoting their products or services about acquiring prospects and leads, faster, easier, and with less hassle.
Since so many people end up in the business world with all levels of education and background, terms tend to mean different things to different people. The terms “leads” and “prospects” tend to be used interchangeably. Making sure everyone in your company is on the same page with definitions, we recommend distinguishing the terms, particularly in cases of sales processes where eventual clients go through many different stages of engagement.
|Prospect||someone who fits the criteria for your Ideal Customer Profile and may or may not be interested.|
|Lead||someone who fits the criteria for your Ideal Customer Profile and is interested in your product.|
For example, someone going through the entire sales process will start as a prospect, become a lead, then a customer, and finally an advocate.
Why is this important? We can all agree that using the same terminology helps clarity in communication. Standardizing the terminology across your company will help everyone distinguish who is a maybe and who is greenlit for the sales team. With the tools and technology we have available, knowing where someone is in the sales process can prompt specific actions to get them to the next stage. If you are working with a prospect, you need to build trust and communication. If you have a meeting with a lead, you need to go through the process of identifying their pains so you may solve them. Identifying pains with a prospect might be too much, too soon and come off as pushy.
As more and more people (particularly millennials) switch careers and even industries at the drop of a hat, standardizing terminology across your company will prevent long-term confusion. New people will assimilate more quickly. Your sales process will get more specific allowing you to better engage your prospects and solve the problems of your clients.