Christopher sent me a note on LinkedIn asking me to explain the difference between a lead and a prospect. I answered by telling him my version of the difference, and I added the definition of an opportunity to help him with his question.
What Are Leads
A lead is the name of a company or a person. They might be on a list your company purchased. Or they might be on a list of people who attended your webinar or downloaded your white paper. They haven’t yet risen to the level of being a prospect because you can’t tell from their activity whether or not they have the kind of challenges you can address. To find that out, you have to pick up the phone and call them. We call this activity “prospecting.”
What Is a Prospect
A prospect is a person or company that has the kind of problems or challenges around which you can create value. If you call a lead and they don’t have these kinds of problems and challenges, they are not a prospect. You qualify leads. You disqualify them if you cannot create value for them or if they will never perceive the value you create.
You know that I write the words “dream clients” a lot (that link takes you to a video that explains it in greater detail). These ideal customers are like “super prospects.” They will perceive what you do as creating massive value. They are the very top of the stack when it comes to prospects. This is where you should spend your time.
What Is an Opportunity
And finally, we come to opportunities. In order for a prospect to become an opportunity, the contacts have to agree that they have something that they want to change and they are considering you as a potential partner in helping them make that change. That change might be around a problem or a challenge. Or it might be helping them to take advantage of some future-oriented opportunity. But unless they agree that they are going to explore change and consider you, you still have a prospect.
It doesn’t matter how much pain your prospect is in. It doesn’t matter how much better things could be. Unless they want to change, it’s a prospect. If they can’t benefit from what you sell, they are a lead worth disqualifying.