Sales Management

Why Your Definition Of A Lead Is Limiting Your Success

A 'Lead'Having a ‘faceless’ lead is as good as having a pen with no ink!

When I was working in Latin America one of my duties was to train the internal sales team. I remember one gentleman in particular that started, he was probably the most enthusiastic sales person I had ever met.

A week or so passed and I had left him to his own devises to do some Lead Generation. At the time our market was large hi-tech companies that serviced the Latin American region. I recall talking with another colleague when, from across the room, I heard this almighty WOOOHOOO! It was from the new guy.

I rushed over to his desk (proverbial bell in hand ready to be rung) sharing his enthusiasm. From the amount of noise that came from his desk I anticipated big news. When I asked what happened, he said that he had a lead. Ok, I thought, he’s booked an appointment with a decision maker in a large fortune 100 company. GOOD JOB! But no. When he said he had a lead, he meant he had been given a name of someone who could help.

In a heartbeat, everything went back to normal. Followed by tumbleweed across the office floor (ok, that bit is not true!). I was left to ponder this gross misunderstanding.

Recommended for YouWebcast: Sales and Marketing Alignment: 7 Steps To Implement Effective Sales Enablement

The term ‘lead’ gets thrown about more than a Frisbee on Spring Break. There are so many uses of the term it is one definition short of becoming an old wife’s tale. I empathize with you, and everybody, for the confusion. I empathize more for the reason that businesses lead generation activity suffers because of this lack of understanding.

Regardless of how you generate the lead (email, phone, direct mail, carrier pigeon etc), that is the activity, the most important thing is the condition – what constitutes a lead. Ask yourself, what circumstances and criteria do they have to meet before you will take the next step with them.

Lead Generation is about you and your business. Nothing else.

If you currently confuse the term lead with data or sample. Then you are hindering your chances of success. WHY? Because you are likely to miss the point of lead generation in that it is about having targeted conversations with a known amount of prospects that will enable you to hit target.

As such, the definition of a lead is:

  • A qualified prospect that had shown an understanding of your offer(s) AND indicated a desire to learn more about them.


This is the definition we use at The Lead Generation Project because we know that it helps people better understand the process of their lead generation activity top to bottom.

Use this definition, apply the notions behind it and you will see an improvement in your results. Avoid confusing the term lead with the term data, or sample. It doesn’t matter how large your data set is if you are not having qualified leads take the next step.


If you have a minute leave a comment and tell us about your lead generation experiences and pains. Is my definition the same as yours, or similar?

  Discuss This Article

Comments: 2

  • I get really frustrated with this, too. Sometimes when I’m hiring new sales guys I feel like I have to teach them a whole new language. What does a lead mean. What does a sale mean (it means we have the money in our hand, not a vague promise to buy, regardless of how certain you are the deal will actually close).

    I’ve considered outsourcing my lead generation for my business before, but the problem always comes down to definition. I don’t want to fight with some outside company over what I think a lead is. Thanks to affordable sites like Hoovers and LeadFerret I can afford to keep my lead generation in house, because I’ve gone down that road, and it’s headache central.

    • Thanks for stopping by John.

      You’re not alone in your frustrations and it’s interesting how you have drawn a connection between the post and outsourcing (which is a whole other topic for another day).

      Whether outsourcing or training a new person internally, the core concept of knowing what YOU want is the important part. Yes, you’ll have to educate new employees as to what a qualified lead represents for your business. But then you’ll be confident that only prospects that meet the correct criteria will go into the sales process.

      (PS – Most of the time I encourage businesses to retain their lead generation activity internally)

Add a New Comment

Thank you for adding to the conversation!

Our comments are moderated. Your comment may not appear immediately.