Accelerate Inside Sales

Sales Prospecting Vs. Lead Generation - Know the Difference

Sales Prospecting Vs Lead Generation.png

Sales and Marketing are two very important pillars of any business setup.

While there is little confusion amounting to knowing the difference in these two vast verticals, their further business catalogues have a different story altogether.

So, if I were to ask you to define the terms ‘sales prospecting’ and ‘lead generation’ what would you say? You would perhaps say that they are essentially the same thing, synonyms for a strategy that serves a shared purpose.

Many people would go on that route, and honestly nobody is to blame. But, you would be wrong if you think they are reciprocal expressions- synonyms. They are very distinct and categorically different from one another.


The truth is that while the basic, high-level definitions of prospecting and lead generation are similar, they’re far from interchangeable. In fact, the goals of prospecting and lead generation- and the situations in which one makes sense over the other- often vary significantly.

  Prospecting or lead generation? Unfortunately, far too many business owners don’t understand the differences between lead generation and prospecting, and simply assume that using one or the other is acceptable. To the contrary, both strategies are important to employ in your business if you hope to maximize your potential return on new business development, and they should be executed uniquely by different people- lead generation by your marketing team and prospecting by your sales staff.


The most prominent difference between sales prospecting and lead generation which is of great value upon understanding is in terms of their engagement. Leads are characterized by one way communication, while prospects are characterized by two way communication. A lead has reached out to a company– through a form or sign-up and provided their information. Once the company has that information, they enter the lead into their nurturing process, wherein the lead receives communications from the company with hopes of driving further engagement. More qualified leads may engage with the content. Prospects, on the other hand, are created after a ‘sales-ready’ lead is contacted by a rep. In order to be elevated to the status of prospect, the lead has to engage in dialog with the rep. This could take the form of a chain of email messages, a phone call, or a meeting.

Another point of consideration herein is the approach and strategy which is usually put in practice while enumerating prospects or evaluating leads generated. For sales prospecting, activities such as networking, cold calling, and referral generation are used often. And if we look at it technically, lead generation activities are the marketing department efforts to generate leads for the sales force. Things such as advertising, direct mail, publishing white papers, pay per click, etc.

Usually, in a small scale business setup these two terms are used interchangeably. The reason for which this primarily mounts to is ‘lack of specifically designated teams and departments for sales prospecting and lead generation’. It is a common practice that prospects qualification and taking the generated leads forward, towards further nurturing process is carried out hand-in-hand and simultaneously, and the allotted team is often the same.

It is imperative to understand the difference between these two terms. If your business needs to generate leads immediately and it executes an initiative designed to nurture leads in the long-term, you’re probably going to run headlong into a brick wall. Conversely, if your company’s goal is to build relationships with prospective customers over time, but your actions suggest urgency and aggression, you may turn customers away before ever having the chance to engage with them.

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So, when you’re trying to decide whether prospecting or lead generation is best for your business, there are two big things you should consider:

  • What are your short- and long-term goal
  • Which strategy will be most effective in helping you accomplish those goals?

So, if you want to plan and set forth a futuristic vision to cultivate and have in your kitty decent number of customers, lead generation should be your forte for now. As, it is a comparatively long-term process. But, if your pipeline is thin and you need to replenish it, or maybe you’re a few deals short of your quarterly quota and you need to quickly identify, engage and close new customers, prospecting is the best practice then.

Hope this was helpful to further maximize the capabilities of running a smooth marketing to sales process. If you have anything to add, let us know in the comments section below.

Topics: Inside Sales