Every customer’s journey starts as a sales lead – a lead that might or might not buy from you.

By nurturing your sales leads and tapping their curiosity at the right time, you can convert them into potential buyers, or even repeat customers.

In this guide, we walk you through everything related to sales leads. From what they are to how you can generate as well as manage them.

Ready? Let’s dig in.

Sales leads Sales leads

What is a sales lead?

A sales lead is an individual or business that is likely to convert into your customer.

Leads can come through various channels. In fact, the end goal of all marketing and sales campaigns is to attract leads.

What is the difference between sales leads and prospects?

Not all sales leads are equal. Some leads are more likely to convert into paying or repeat customers, while others might not convert at all. 

A sales lead becomes a prospect when you’ve qualified them into a potential buyer. That is, when you checked all the boxes of your lead qualification method and they enter your sales funnel.

Qualifying sales leads

You can use several methodologies used to quantify sales leads into prospects. The most commonly used is the BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timescale). To identify if the lead is sales-ready, you can ask them questions such as

“What is your budget?”

This question assesses if it is possible for the lead purchase from you. If they don’t have the budget, you can enquire when they are likely to have.

“What are the decision-making and sign-off processes in your organization?”

This helps you understand if you are talking to the right person who calls the shots in the organization, and assess how long the buying process is likely to take.

“How are you presently handling this challenge? What do you expect differently from us?”

This gives you clarity on their expectations from you and helps you decide if your product/service will actually help them address their challenges.

“What does your timeline look like? By when do you need this solution implemented?”

Understanding your prospect’s timeline is very important before committing to the product implementation or service.

You could also employ other qualification methodologies such as

  • CHAMP (CHallenges. Authority, Money, Prioritization), or
  • MEDDIC (Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision Criteria, Decision Process, Identify Pain, Champion)

If the lead fits the above criteria, you’ve got a good prospect. Otherwise, you might have to rethink the lead as they won’t be a good fit for the moment and will clog your sales funnel. 

The ideal action here is to concentrate on other good-quality leads.

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Sales lead funnel: Where do leads come from

As mentioned, sales leads come from different channels. Broadly, marketing and sales campaigns generate leads, so leads coming through respective channels are:


1. Marketing qualified leads (MQLs)

An MQL is a lead that your marketing team qualifies based on the lead’s activity on your website (example: pages visited) and engagement with marketing content (example: downloaded an ebook on how to use your product).

When it comes to generating leads, the marketing department leverages website CTAs, downloadables, and marketing campaigns such as ad campaigns.

The team also produces relevant content to move leads through their content funnel. Here’s how this funnel is divided:

These MQLs are passed on to the sales team. Using a CRM, this is a breeze as all leads are captured and moved within the software. The marketing team can also track each lead’s status to understand how well they’re converting.

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2. Sales qualified lead

SQLs are the leads that your sales team qualifies or accepts as a potential customer. 

Where the marketing team moves the needle in driving awareness and assisting leads in the consideration stage, the sales team takes on the responsibility of closing deals by helping leads in the bottom of the funnel.

Let’s say a lead reads an ebook about your product’s capabilities in their consideration stage and now wants to understand further use cases on how your product might suit them. A salesperson can help with that by giving a personalized demo.

With outbound sales, sales reps are also involved in finding sales leads and nurturing them with emails and phone calls. They can use tools such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find leads who will benefit from your business offerings. 

An important question then is: 

How do you find the right lead?

Apart from the qualification methodologies discussed above, your sales team can consider the following parameters that gauge the quality of sales leads - 


3. Customer or deal

You’d assume that a sales cycle ends when a lead converts into a buyer. Except there’s more: retaining customers or converting them into repeat buyers depending on your business model.

An eCommerce business, for example, would focus on turning closed deals into repeat orders. Say with the help of discount codes.

Similarly, a subscription-based business would want to take steps to keep their customer engaged to retain them. Overtime, account executives or the customer success team can also target retained users for upselling or cross-selling services to them. Again, a CRM can help you manage relationships with your customer – showing their in-app activity and assisting you in selling more.

Sales lead generation: 11 ways to get more leads

Now, let’s walk you through ways to generate more leads:

Email Marketing

Email marketing involves running email sequences for lead generation where you build relationships with recipients to convert them into leads.

To give you an idea, you can run a newsletter for your blog subscribers – sending high-value content such as promotional offers, interesting resources, upcoming webinars, etc. Then create a follow-up campaign for nurturing sequences.

Outbound sales using cold outreach 

This involves reaching out to potential leads by cold emailing or calling them. Employee productivity software, Ambition, tapped into cold emailing to add 73 new leads to their sales pipeline, for example.

Social selling

Social selling involves leveraging social media to find and nurture leads. MeetEdgar, for instance, nurtured leads with their Twitter chat, and then went on to share discount codes to close deals.

Content marketing

This covers creating engaging content such as blogs, templates, whitepapers, and ebooks to move leads down the sales funnel by offering value. 

Case in point: Freshsales creates templates such as this one on sales reports that interest the target prospect.

Customer referrals

Customer referrals are businesses coming to you as a recommendation by your customers.

A well-defined referral strategy, for example, offering discount codes to those who refer your business can help generate leads.  

Sunglasses company, Shady Rays, encourages its customers to share email addresses of others they think would buy from their brand. This is in exchange for $15 if the lead makes a purchase.

Warm-up cold leads

Warming up cold leads involves using a thoughtful, tailored strategy such as a hyper-specific ad campaign to engage cold leads. Why? Because not all cold leads are lost deals. 

For instance, take the time to understand why someone dropped out of the sales funnel. If, let’s say, it’s due to price, offer them a discount to re-engage them.

Revisit lost opportunities

Not all prospects turn into buyers – some might drop off in the final stages. Say, they had an issue with the contract or they might have chosen your competitor. Either way, it helps to revisit those leads and understand how you can address the issue to convert them.

Networking events – conferences and webinars

Networking is centered around building relationships and offering value to reel in interested leads into your sales funnel by hosting seminars, workshops, webinars, and meetups. LearnWorlds Summit 2021 by LearnWorlds is a good example of this.

Digital Marketing campaigns

This entails digital channels such as social media and the search engine to attract leads. Shopify’s ads on social media are a case in point.

Brand awareness campaigns

These campaigns are specifically planned to familiarize your audience with your brand so as to pique their interest and get them to dig for more details.

Example: McDonalds’ marketing strategies have been so iconic that their logo gets recognized far and wide. Similarly, Nike does not use their brand name anymore, and just uses their logo as it brings immediate recognition.

Targeted Marketing campaigns

Creating campaigns that talk to the prospects’ pain points shows that you truly understand their challenges and can help them identify with your brand. 
For example, End the War campaign by Freshworks, has a series of videos that depict the typical misalignment between the sales and marketing teams in any organization. It highlights the issues that arise due to this misalignment and showcases the solution.

Sales leads management

So far you have learned ways to generate leads. But that only makes up half the picture. 

The rest? Nurturing the sales leads so that they aren’t just ready to buy from you, but happy to buy from you.

Hence, once you have a lead in your sales funnel, your next step should be to nurture them. By doing so, you are moving at the sales lead’s preferred pace – offering value as they make their decision to buy from you.

The underlying idea behind a successful lead nurturing strategy is simple: improve your buyer’s experience so you can turn them into loyal customers. We know this is easier said than done.

This is where a CRM system can help you. It not just saves and manages sales leads, but also helps you engage with them contextually and improve their buyer experience. 

Let’s see how. 

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How to use a CRM software for sales lead management

Using a robust CRM software, you can ensure your lead nurturing strategy is well put together and consistently offers value to manage prospect relationships. 

Here are 8 ways a CRM can help you with sales lead management: 


Optimize website conversions

Powerful CRMs that come with Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) capabilities can help you track your visitors’ activity on your site and identify what engages them and where they’re losing interest. Freshsales Suite allows you to

  • Visualize your website visitor’s actions with session replay
  • Understand the most clicked CTAs and banners with heatmaps
  • Learn where most of your visitors are dropping off with scroll maps.

Based on what you find, you can optimize your website and maximize factors pushing them to covert.

Sales leads - conversion rate optimization Sales leads - conversion rate optimization

Capture leads directly into your CRM

Having figured which areas/pages engage visitors the most, position webforms to ask for lead information.

For example, you could have a webform on your blog to capture lead details to add them to your newsletter for further nurturing.

Similarly, employ chatbots to welcome visitors, ask them what they’re here for, and subsequently capture lead information.

Sales leads - webforms Sales leads - webforms

Reduce lead response time

82% of the buyers expect you to respond to them immediately (within ten minutes). To top that, 78% buy from the company that responds first

To ensure your response time is low, a good CRM system comes with auto-assign capabilities that route leads from different territories to specific salespeople. This way,

  • Sales managers need not manually assign sales leads
  • Salespeople can immediately start engaging with leads as they come in
  • Internal routing is reduced when queries come in, and leads get their questions addressed from a territory or product expert.
Territories Territories

Target the right leads with relevant campaigns

CRM software with marketing capabilities allows you to segment incoming leads from marketing campaigns based on

  • Lead demographics (where they are coming from, job title, and industry) and
  • Behavior on your website (example: pages visited, content downloaded).

This allows you to personalize your engagement with them by sharing targeted content at the right time. For example, for leads who have abandoned their carts, you can trigger a reminder message about their carts, or include them in a discount campaign you are running.  

Segment sales leads Segment sales leads

Prioritize high-quality leads

An AI-powered CRM, such as Freshsales Suite, gives you predictive contact scoring – a score that indicates how likely a lead is to convert. This helps you target high-quality sales leads, so your sales pipeline is full of leads that are likely to convert. 

The predictive contact score can help guide your actions too.

For example, spending time on personalizing an email to a lead having a high score instead of one that likely won’t convert.

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Boost email engagement

Improve the quality of your emails by making them visually appealing. In fact, if you haven’t already started an email campaign to attract leads, your marketing teams can easily do so by using in-built templates that Freshsales Suite offers.

They can also experiment with and create their own designs using the drag and drop editor. It allows them to effectively and effortlessly

  • Build own email design
  • Optimize the email for different devices
  • Understand email performances with analytics
  • Schedule emails to reach your sales leads at the right time
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Automate follow-ups

80% of sales take five follow-ups after a meeting so missing a follow-up doesn’t make sense. With a powerful CRM, salespeople can get regular alerts to follow-up with prospects to engage them consistently. 

They can also set up sales email sequences that can send out automated, yet personalized emails to your sales leads.

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Have contextual conversations

With a unified customer view, you get a 360-degree view of all lead interactions including

  • Their recent interaction with your business via email, SMS, chat
  • Phone call recordings
  • Pages they visited on your website
  • Marketing materials downloaded
  • Note, reminders, and upcoming appointments
  • Chronological view of recent activities

And more!

If a specific lead has been in touch with a particular salesperson, another salesperson can view the same lead’s past interactions and any notes that the rep may have made on the lead. Thus, getting the necessary context for driving meaningful conversation with the lead.

In short, you can use a CRM to empower salespeople to have contextual conversations with the right leads at the right time.

Everything about a sales lead in a single screen


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You’ve qualified a sales lead - what’s next?

Once you have qualified a lead, you can use a CRM to further drive them down the sales funnel by staying on top of the deals.

How? With the help of deal insights that give you a visual picture of deals in your pipeline – divided by leads that are ‘likely to close’ ‘at-risk,’ and ‘gone cold’.

You can get granular details such as the best time to engage each lead by clicking on each deal in the insights pipeline.

Therefore, increasing the odds of closing deals.

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Ready for your first CRM?

Try Freshsales Suite (formerly Freshworks CRM), a cloud-based CRM for your sales and marketing teams. Freshsales Suite helps businesses scale faster and puts refreshing business software in the hands of small businesses, as well as enterprises. 

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use, ready-to-use CRM (plus a 21-day free trial to start off with), we’re here.

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