Lead generation

What is a lead and how to get leads online?

Leads are at the center of every great relationship and conflict between sales and marketing. Learn exactly what leads are, how to generate them online, and qualify them for your sales process.

what is a lead

Leads are important to every organization. They are the lifeline of any sales funnel. Both the marketing and sales team know this very well. Without leads to convert, there is little to no sales and therefor no business.

But what exactly is a lead? And what does the word “lead” mean to marketers, salespeople and different organizations?

Failure to define a lead within a specific business or organization leads to a conflict between marketing and sales. The marketing team will spend hours and money generating leads, only to have most of those leads dismissed by the sales team as bad leads. This is what happens when marketing and sales do not have the same idea of what is a lead.

In this article we’re look at the general idea of what a lead is, explore what the word “lead” means to marketing and sales. We’ll also discuss how to get leads online and qualify them.

What is a lead?

A simple definition of a lead is any individual or organization that is interested in what you are selling. Basically a lead is a potential customer. Often times a lead will show interest by visiting your website and sharing their contact details like a phone number or their email address.

But a website is not the only place to generate leads, networking and social events can also generate leads. When you meet someone at an event, you tell them about your business, they show interest and you exchange business cards, that person has become a lead for your business.

Sales lead vs marketing lead

Leads are at the center of every great relationship and conflict between sales and marketing. When sales and marketing have the same idea about what is a lead they often have a great and productive relationship.

Conflict between the two teams (Sales and marketing) often occurs when there are different understandings of what is a lead.

Marketing lead

Marketers define a lead as someone who has interacted with the brand, whether through a website or email, shared their contact details- like a phone number, email or a social media account and can be trailed. Because they have their details they can nurture them, and get them interested in what the company offers. For marketers, this is a lead.

Marketing qualified lead (MQL)

In order for marketing to qualify an individual as a lead, that individual needs to complete certain actions or events. An example of a MQL is someone who fills out a landing page form for an offer or downloads a free piece of content and share their email address.

Sales lead

Meanwhile, sales define a lead as someone who already has a vague interest in what the company offers. Often time these individuals require no further nurturing, they may be ready to convert into a sale after a sales follow up call or two.

Sales qualified lead (SQL)

Sales also have to qualify their leads. An example of a sales qualified lead is an individual who has shown interest by making a phone call or sending an email to find out more about a product or service.

How is a lead different from a prospect?

Sometimes there’s a confusion about leads and prospects, some individuals think they are the same thing, other think otherwise. The one thing we all seem to agree on is that both prospects and leads are potential customers.

So let’s defuse this lead and prospect confusion.

As we discussed above, a lead is someone who has only shown interest in your business offering and have shared their contact information. While a prospect is someone whom you’ve moved into a sales process. You’ve had conversations with them via email, text, call or a meeting. They’re not just an email in your subscription list.

So, a potential customer first becomes a lead by showing interest in your company and sharing their contact information, this person is not yet a prospect. To turn a lead into a prospect, you walk them through the sales qualification process to assess if your company’s products or services are the right solution to their problem. This can be done via a series of phone calls, email exchanges or meetings.

How to generate leads online

In simple terms, lead generation is the process of creating demand and attracting strangers to become interested in a company product or service. Online marketing is one of the most popular ways to generate leads.

Examples of online marketing lead generators include Blogs posts, social media Ads, webinars and other online content tailored for a specific audience.

There are multiple ways at which you or your business can generate leads online. They are:


Create high quality content tailored for your target audience. This can be a blog, video, case study, or an infographic. Share this content in online mediums where your target audience spends most of their time. Within that piece of content include a call-to-action that directs to a landing page where your content consumer will hopefully go on to share their contact information, becoming a lead.


Email is one of the most effective forms of marketing. Use your website to capture your visitors email addresses so you can share more content with them, nurture and warm them up for a sale. Use compelling copy in your email and use strong call to actions to move them through your sales process.

Paid Ads and retargeting

The purpose of an Ad, whether on social media or Google AdWords, is to get people to take action on it. Again, use compelling copy for your Ads and use strong call-to-actions to let people know which step to take next if they’re interested in your offer. Be sure to use conversion worthy landing pages with the offer that matches exactly what is promised in the Ad.

Social media

Social media platforms are one of the best places to get leads online. They have a wide range of functionalities you can take advantage of from Instagram’s swipe ups in stories to built-in App forms that users can fill out without leaving the App. They allow you to talk directly with your potential customers via private messages or comments.

On top of all that, they give you access to audience data if you have a business account so you can see exactly you your audience is, how old are they, which country or city they’re from, etc. When using social media don’t forget to include call-to-actions in your posts, share links to your products or services and to landing pages.

Referral marketing

Word of mouth is the most cost effective lead generation marketing available today. People tend to trust information from someone who has used a certain product or service more than the information on the brochure or company website.

So, encourage your satisfied current customers to tell their friends and family, leave a review, write a testimonial or to give you a right to write a case study based on what you did for them. The leads you generate with referral marketing will be already convinced your solution works and therefor will most likely convert without much effort.

How to qualify your leads

what is alead

Not all leads you get will be fit to buy your product or service. So to avoid wasting time and resources nurturing and doing follow ups on leads that will never convert into a sale you need to find a way to qualify your leads. They need to match a certain qualifying criteria.

Meet BANTBudget, Authority, Needs, Timeline, a widely used lead qualifying framework. BANT is used to determine if a lead or prospect has true potential to become a legitimate customer.

BANT basically helps you answer 4 general questions:

  • Can a lead afford what you offer
  • Are they the decision makers
  • Do they need your solution
  • How soon a sale needs to happen

Of course BANT does not mean that the lead will end up buying at a later stage. But BANT will help you decide if that lead is even worth the time, effort and energy. You can further your qualifying criteria however you like, it must be relevant to your organization’s sales process.

Final word

To ensure a productive relationship that moves the company forward, marketing and sales need to agree on a common definition of what a lead is. Furthermore, they should work together to identify the best kind of leads by looking in the past and seeing what kind of leads close more. 

On top of all that, every organization should have some kind of lead qualifying system in place in order to avoid spending time a resources on leads that will never convert into a sale. The leads should progress to sales only when they match the ideal lead persona and check out all the 4 BANT boxes.