The difference between Prospects, Suspects, and Sales Leads

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Getting leads and prospects into the sales funnel is one of the shared goals of your marketing and sales departments. However, the people and companies in your funnel are not the same and require different attention from marketing to become a buyer.

You have a lead, but are they just a prospect or are they ready to buy? We can sum up the difference between prospects, suspects and a sales lead in one word: commitment.

Difference between a suspect and a sales lead

A sales lead is interested in learning more about your products or services but has not shown interest in purchasing yet. They might be someone working for a decision-maker or the decision-maker themselves. A sales rep has likely already spoken with them, discussed their pain points and their situation. 

Sales leads do not qualify as prospects, but they have a good chance of becoming your next ones. You should target, research and qualify leads to include them in your marketing funnel.

A suspect, on the other hand, will not have divulged so much information. You may target a suspect for marketing purposes, perhaps they downloaded an asset, but they have not indicated any  interest in buying. It can be challenging to determine if this person is a potential customer because they have not expressed their intent thus far.

Comparing a sales lead and a prospect

A prospect has expressed interest in buying from you, whereas a sales lead has merely shown interest in your company.

A sales lead is someone who holds an interest in what you offer but has no intention of purchasing soon. They need more information before they commit, which is why they are leads. Your marketing team might keep in contact with this person to continue gauging their intent to buy.

A prospect has the power to purchase the item you are trying to sell, unlike leads, who may only work with the decision-maker.

The critical difference is that sales leads show some level of interest but may not purchase immediately. Prospects actively engage with your products and services as they are close to purchasing.

Qualify to differentiate prospects, suspects and sales leads

The qualification process is the first opportunity for targeting prospects, suspects and sales leads. A successful qualification process determines which people under each category are worth personal attention from sales and those that marketing should handle. Consider it a gatekeeping method for the sales process.

Not only is it important to qualify the people you are reaching out to, it is also important to know what they want. Some questions that can help you discern this include:

  • How many times have they interacted with your content?
  • Do you know how exactly your product or service could help them?
  • Do you know what their budget is?

One strategy you can leverage for qualifying leads is to have a clear picture of who your target audience is. Suppose you are differentiating between suspects and prospects. You could tailor content to their company, products, and industry trends. You might also qualify (or unqualify) them by sending a personalised email campaign and noting their level of engagement with it.

Approaching a prospect, a suspect, or a sales lead

You should engage sales leads by updating them with insights. Note your prospect’s pain points and align your communication to these points. You might offer new perspectives on the solution to their problem or simply share content from your company that is highly relevant to their issue; this will demonstrate to them the value of your relationship.

When you approach a prospect, it is essential to explain your value proposition and why your product or service will benefit them.

You can use an email marketing strategy to engage your sales leads. You might send them a personalised email or provide incentives to take action, such as filling out a form to download a whitepaper. Take advantage of rewards-based invitations to optimise conversion rate instead of merely getting more leads or suspects in general.

You might also reach out to the person on different platforms than you previously had. Perhaps your first engagement with them was via email, but they responded to you once and did not hold a conversation. You might then tag them in a LinkedIn comment on a post shared by your company or written by your CEO. Again, this is a great way of continuing the conversation and showing them where you add value. 

How Resonate supports the sales process through marketing

It can be challenging to know when someone is just a prospect and not yet a sales lead. The process of identifying prospects, suspects, and leads in your marketing efforts will guide you on the most effective tactics for securing buyers.

Resonate is a full-stack marketing agency with content marketing experience focused on B2B clients. We are always happy to discuss new ideas with potential clients about boosting sales through B2B Marketing.

RK is the CEO & Co-Founder of Resonate.

RK is Resonate’s chief strategist, thought leader, and IT industry veteran. Our clients depend on RK to advise on their business strategy, channel strategy, and sales strategy. 

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