The terms lead, prospect, and opportunity all deal with different stages of sales, but they are often used synonymously, so their definitions can be blurred. This article will explain the difference between these three concepts and how they serve for a more productive lead generation.

B2B and B2C Sales Leads

A lead is an unqualified person who is interested in your services, who has fallen into the orbit of your enterprise, i.e. a potential client. The fundamental difference from other types is that the lead does not have enough information about the product or service, but only intends to obtain it. Therefore, it is impossible to know how much the lead really is interested in becoming a client. Examples of a lead showing interest in your services:

  • Authorization on the website
  • Downloading documentation
  • Responding to ads
  • Calling the line

Leads have certain characteristics that professional marketers know. Lead categorization is important in helping you implement a more cost-effective marketing approach.

As it will become clear later, B2B (business-to-business) sales lead generation differs markedly from B2C (business-to-customer). Ignoring these differences leads to serious loss of profit, because the behavior of a business is very different from that of the average consumer and the general strategies do not work the same.

The so-called “ideal lead” depends on the type of enterprise. Therefore, the grading of leads will depend on the characteristics chosen, the type of prototype usage, or product clarifications. These characteristics will indicate the likelihood of a lead becoming a prospect.

Lead vs Prospect

A lead who meets the ideal criteria becomes a prospect as they go down the sales funnel. A lead only becomes a prospect when it can be categorized. In the first stage of identifying a prospect, both in B2C and B2B sales leads, the company must obtain data on the location of the lead.

B2B sales lead generation

Further, in the case of B2B, it is important to find out the industry of the company and its scale. Following this, it will become known whether the lead will be satisfied with the possible benefits from the deal and whether they can complete the deal. You also need to find out if the other party has the authority to close deals, or the contract will be drawn up with another entity.

This will allow, for example, a marketer to make a relevant mailing, which is easily accomplished with a utility called Folderly. This handy tool can help you generate leads for the Belkins‘ by optimizing email submission and analysis.

To turn a lead into a prospect, various communication channels are used besides emails: social networks, conferences, referral links, websites, phone calls, and so on. At each stage, the type of communication should be different.

In this way, the prospect becomes an opportunity.

From Prospect to Opportunity

As you can see, these definitions help to choose the right attitude towards each type of customer. Now let’s look at two interpretations of ‘opportunity’:

  1. Leads that have passed the stages listed above and are ready to buy.
  2. Leads who interacted with staff but showed no interest.

The second interpretation is presented for a broader understanding, but the first one is more relevant for this article. These leads, the ones who are ready to buy, have a high value because they meet the criteria of an ideal lead. Thus, the deal can be closed easier and faster, and there is hope for long-term cooperation.

Having determined the meaning of opportunity, let’s now talk about the signs that make a prospect an opportunity. Leads who have already responded to your suggestions or are responding to your posts on social media should be worth their weight in gold. It will not be difficult to turn these leads into opportunities; mailings and special offers will do the job. It follows from this that the opportunity must not only be identified, but also formed and organized.

Having received information about the company, a lead turns into a prospect. Having become interested in the company and its products/services, the prospect becomes an opportunity. The next step is to determine how the opportunity can be identified, created and used.

How to Define an Opportunity?

Based on previous experience, the company needs to identify the markers that indicate the willingness of the opportunity to become a real customer. This requires:

  • qualitative research
  • correct accents on markers
  • tactics of interaction with the prospect
  • analysis of the work done

It is a cycle. Research is needed to identify the characteristics inherent in the customers who transact with the company. Having obtained a variety of metrics, you need to highlight those that are really important and affect the likelihood of a deal.

When identifying opportunities, the company also creates them, therefore it is important to pay attention to the strategy of interactions with the prospect and record each action. This is necessary if the company wants to keep improving the strategies. By noticing and editing ineffective actions, you can significantly increase the number of customers and, therefore, the profit.

What to research?

Passing the stages from lead to opportunity provides a lot of materials for research. What information is most important to a manager? It is necessary to understand the real needs of the lead, since often the search for a product does not indicate those.

The second indicator is the urgency of need. Last but not least, is the offer suitable for the prospect? If the answer is no, then the deal should not be completed as it will end up in disappointing reviews. Better to offer them a more suitable option. These are just a few useful criteria out of the large amount of data that qualitative research can yield.

Create the Opportunity Yourself

The results obtained will help not only to identify the opportunity, but also to successfully create it, thanks to the methods already obtained through experience. The above steps are necessary to create an opportunity, but it does not end there.

Step-by-step guidance

Having learned all the necessary information about the client, you need to guide the lead to the deal step by step without leaving them. As soon as the lead generator has done its job, the prospect must receive proper attention.

Clarifications

Since the prospect knows that they need something, but does not know what exactly, they have to get a clarification, and the marketer has to help in formulating the need. As we already mentioned, new businesses leads may be interested in a product that will definitely not suit them. In such cases, the prospect also needs help.

Heighten curiosity

The focus on the proposal becomes greater when the problems that force other customers to agree to the purchase are explained. In the case of B2B deals, businesses have many problems, so prioritizing proposals to solve specific problems increases the chance of turning a lead into an opportunity. IT B2B lead generation is the first step, after which you need to explain the benefits the solution brings in the long term. It is clear that, at this stage, individual assistance and enough attention to the company representative are required.

This Looks Like a Sales Funnel!

We just described a kind of sales funnel, but with shifted emphasis compared to the standard concept. In fact, these approaches do not interfere with each other. Sales funnel stages:

  • Awareness – a lead learns about the product/service
  • Interest – the lead is interested in the product/service
  • Decision – the prospect is focused on the product of a specific organization
  • Action – the opportunity takes steps to buy

awareness-interest-decision-action

Source: digital nomad cafe podcast

The concept of a “sales funnel” is good in that it helps to determine the effectiveness of a marketer’s actions, and as a result, to manage a marketing campaign more effectively.

Conclusions

A precise distinction between these three types will help to better understand the status of the client both in the case of B2B online lead generation and offline B2C. All of these classifications are designed to help determine the effectiveness of the methods used by the marketer as well as the sales force.

This classification is also useful for its understanding of the client:

  1. A marketer can influence every stage the prospect/opportunity/lead goes through.
  2. The client is the main value, even if their interest does not correspond to the parameters that the company is ready to satisfy.
  3. The concept is not as idealistic as the concept of BANT. The latter concept assumes that the sales department can quickly learn about the client’s budget, authority, needs and deadlines. The definition of opportunity gives a softer and more realistic view of the transaction process.

By constantly repeating experiments, which are also called deals, the sales and marketing department will be able to find quality leads, bring them to the transaction, and turn them into regular customers much easier. It will also help determine the required number of leads for sale. With such a systematization, it will not be hard to buy (that is, bribe) business leads, especially if you learn from mistakes.

In any case, it will be more productive to turn to professionals from the B2B lead generation company Belkins.

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