Lead vs. prospect vs. sales opportunity: What’s the difference?

by rob

Leads, prospects and sales opportunities are often confused with each other, but they all mean something quite different, as becomes clear when you know how they all work together as necessary parts of the overall sales process.

What is a lead?

A lead is the contact at the top of the sales funnel and the starting point of your sales process. Generating leads is just the beginning of the process. The lead has come into contact with you and your business, for example via a sales rep or a cold call, but you don’t yet know how interested they are, or whether they’ll turn into a viable ‘prospect’ and later go on to become a real ‘sales opportunity’. That’s the order these things come in: lead first, prospect second, and sales opportunity third.

What is a prospect?

A prospect is that initial contact – the original lead – who has shown some interest in what your business has to offer them, is responding to nurturing, and is moving down your sales funnel.

You have not yet determined if they fit the ideal buyer persona or would benefit from using the product or service, but they have been identified as a potential customer who would consider buying.

What is a sales opportunity?

A sales opportunity is a prospect who looks like they could well become a paying customer. They have demonstrated that they’re sufficiently interested in your product or service, so now your sales rep needs to identify what’s known as the ‘pain point’ – a need that your product or service can satisfy your prospect. If you can satisfy that pain point, there’s a good chance that you can close the deal.

Key differences between lead vs prospect vs sales opportunity

Lead vs. prospect

A lead is someone at the very top of your sales funnel. They are aware of your company and your product/service and have made contact, but have not yet begun moving down the funnel, so as yet show no promise as a potential paying customer.

A prospect, on the other hand, is a lead who has shown some promise as later becoming a paying customer. Simply put, a prospect is a potential customer who is further along the sales process than a lead.

Prospect vs. opportunity

Whereas a prospect is a lead who shows promise as later becoming a paying customer, a sales opportunity is a prospect who is further along in the sales process with a high chance of closing the deal. 

So, a lead is the start of your sales funnel, while an opportunity is at the other end of the sales funnel, the objective being to qualify leads so they become prospects, and nurture those prospects into promising opportunities.

As marketing and communications agency specialists for over 35 years, Alchemis understand the nuances between leads, prospects and sales opportunities.

We can help you grow if your company provides any service that would fit under a marketing, communications, creative, research or digital banner.