Lead Vs. Opportunity — Understanding The Difference And How To Manage Them Successfully For Your Business!

Madhurima Chatterjee

Ideally, your sales funnel would consist of a single step—from leads to clients! Your archetypical customer would approach you, already in love with your product and ready to hand out their cash. What a dream!However, in reality, you have to jump hoops between the lead and opportunity stage, and even then, those opportunities convert into paying customers only if properly managed.For many B2B companies, 73% of leads are not ready for sales—and the secret to undermining that statistic is known to only a few.Want to know how to nurture your leads to make them sales-ready? Then let me tell you—all you need to know is the differences between a lead and an opportunity and the right ways to head them both, all the way to the end stage i.e., trusting consumers.In this blog, I will discuss what leads and opportunities are, how they are different, the correct ways to manage them, and the different ways to convert leads into opportunities through your sales pipeline.

What is a lead?

A lead, is simply someone who has shown the first signs of interest in what your company is trying to sell. They have learnt about your products or services from a variety of sources viz. Socials, affiliates, referrals or maybe a Google search—and filled out a contact form on your website or subscribed to receive your push notifications.

What is Lead?
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Let’s explain this with an example. Suppose you are a marketing agency for B2B SaaS brands. Now, a lead would be someone who books a discovery call from your website, to inquire about your LinkedIn organic growth services. It could also be someone who subscribes to your newsletter from your website.Two things that characterize a lead: first, they are interested in what you have to offer, but you don’t know whether they will buy, and second, you haven’t engaged them yet. Without your sales rep contacting them, you have no idea what it is your lead wants from you, whether you can fulfill their needs if their budget aligns with your quotations, and lastly, if they want to buy from you now or a little later in the future.

What are they worth?

A lead is someone who has already engaged with your brand and its marketing verticals (congratulations, your ads worked!).They know what you do and probably, want to buy from you (if not now, then in the future). However, since these people are already connected to the value you provide, they are primed to provide you with suggestions and feedback to improve both your product and customer experience. The leads you nurture well can eventually turn into brand loyalists and your revenue on the retainer.

What are the different types of leads?

Now, let’s see what different types of leads there are and what are the best ways to nurture them throughout your sales pipeline:Note: You should always qualify and categorize your sales leads in business, so that you know how to market your products/services best.

1. Cold Leads:

A cold lead is someone who exactly fits your ideal consumer profile but hasn't expressed any interest in your product yet. You can compile your list of cold leads using a lead generation software or even, thorough market research. One of the hardest type of leads to convert into prospects, you must learn the art of communicating with cold leads, since they are your potential target customers.How to communicate with them?

  • Set up emailing campaigns, generally with the first reach-out sequence, followed by two to three follow-ups; research and acquaint them with helpful information about how your company can help solve their pain points.
  • You can also direct outreach efforts through cold calls or social touches; be respectful of their time and concisely explain how you can help them when on call, and use social media to update them of latest offers and discounts on your products/services.
  • Nurture them over time since cold leads may not respond to your efforts right at the beginning; send them gentle reminders so that when they are ready to buy, you are the first option on their mind.

2. Warm Leads:

A warm lead is a potential customer who is already familiar with your company's operations or even simply your name. These are the leads that just so happen to read your blogs, view your videos, or maybe became familiar with you through a previous interaction.How to approach them?

  • Set up a meeting on call to personally explain them the features of your products/services that are suited best to their business.
  • If you had communicated sometime in the past (within the last six months) but weren’t a match because of budget constraints or any other issues, reach out to them again.
  • Circle back with an improved value proposition after you research their business and craft your offers, adjusted to the changes in their operations.

3. Hot Leads:

The type of lead has expressed interest in your business presently. They may have completed a demo offered by your business or even contacted you directly to request more information. These leads need to be addressed immediately since they can lose interest if you wait too long to answer. They may also contact your rivals immediately to see which strategy will work best for them.Hot leads are characterized by three features:

  • They need a solution right away and are looking for a problem-solver;
  • They usually hold purchasing or decision-making power for their company; and,
  • They come from a market that fits your ideal customer profile.

The way to convert hot leads to acting fast! You must still research their business to tailor your value proposition to their needs. Still, if your products/services serve their purpose, these leads can usually be closed after a couple of follow-ups and pushed into your sales pipeline towards being converted into paying customers.

1. Information Qualified Leads (IQLs):

These are the type of leads who found you via. Free gated content, such as an ebook or a case study. They may not have any specific interest in buying from you, but you have access to their contact details—which you can use to follow up with them to qualify their chances of purchasing your products/services.Here’s how you can reach out to your IQLs:

  • Find out more about their business and what they want with your products/services.
  • Nudge them with the latest updates on your products/services, offers or discounts through emails or newsletters.
  • Research their pain points and reach out to them with customized solutions that help them solve their problems fast and easily.
Types of Business Leads
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2. Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs):

These kinds of leads are qualified for fast sales—they are interested in what you’re providing and want solutions to their problems as soon as possible.Here’s how you can assess the quality of MQLs:

  • They download your case studies
  • They subscribe to your newsletter to receive the latest updates
  • They attend webinars that your company publishes

It shouldn't be too difficult to convert these leads into customers because they are interested in learning more about your products. You can easily complete the qualification procedure by email or voice chat. You can arrange a demonstration or presentation if you think they are prepared.The only thing to remember is they also might be interested in what your competitors might have to offer, so you need to be persistent and follow up with them regularly.

3. Sales Ready/Accepted Leads (SRLs):

A sales-ready lead can be qualified as someone who wishes to talk with a salesperson. They might still be debating whether to buy from you, but they are curious enough to bring it up.How you qualify sales-ready leads is up to you, though. A company may consider a lead sales-ready if they have attended a webinar, while others may only qualify them when they have expressed buying interest.Marketers effectively use the BANT strategy to qualify such leads:

  • Budget - Is the potential customer prepared to make a purchase?
  • Authority - Do they have the power to make decisions?
  • Need - Does the potential customer need to be met?
  • Timing - When do they need a solution—immediately or shortly?

Just because they are sales-ready doesn’t mean they want to buy from you currently—you need to nurture them with regular communication to convert them into paying customers.

4. Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs):

A sales-qualified lead (SQL) is prepared to meet with your sales team. They are prepared to buy because they have shown great interest in your offers. They might still be contrasting your offering with your rivals, though. You should treat these leads as really hot and get in touch with them immediately. All you need to do is get in touch with these fully qualified prospects, confirm their identification, and then start guiding them through the sales process.There are multiple ways to generate sales-qualified leads (SQLs):

  • Qualify your leads with lead-scoring
  • Promote your services by hosting an event targeted towards your niche product/service market
  • Automate responses for leads reaching out through social media (for example, Instagram stories, Twitter ads, LinkedIn ads etc.)
  • Enable a contact form for submitting queries, directly from your website
  • Build a lead magnet, that concisely shows how effective your product/service really is, and set up an opt-in option on your website
  • Use SEO tactics for more visibility, and once, your website traffic increases, construct a landing page that covers all the essential information about your product/service in one place
  • Bid on long-tail keywords associated with your product/service
  • Use promotional emails, but sparingly; also select the right promotional platforms where you know your niche market audience is present
  • Utilize a CRM to monitor every individual lead so that none fall through any cracks, and create a sales funnel to automate the lead flow

What is an opportunity?

An opportunity is typically an individual with a good probability of becoming a customer. In other words, they have a pain point that your offering can help them solve. They have the funds and are prepared to make the transaction. It is now up to the salesperson to close the deal.A sales opportunity is more formally known as a qualified prospect. A company must establish precise standards to determine if a person qualifies as a sales opportunity. The sales pipeline is created by the criteria or standards established by the companies.Most B2B businesses lose a majority percentage of sales because sales representatives do not qualify opportunities before putting them through the entire purchasing process—which is why it is important to look into each sales opportunity individually, and qualify them. You can do that according to the BANT framework i.e. verify whether the lead approaching you has (a.) the budget to buy from you, (b.) the authority to make the purchasing decision, (c.) an urgent need for your product/service and, (d.) if they want to invest now or later. You can also use technology such as a CRM tool to automate the lead qualification process.

What is an opportunity?
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What are they worth?

They are prepared to purchase, which is a clear win. They are significantly more likely to make a purchase than a lead or prospect—and you hardly have to work hard to close the deal.You already know there is a need at this point; all that is left is to guide them through the sales pipeline, into becoming loyal consumers.

Lead vs. opportunity: Major differences

Lead vs. opportunity: Major differences
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Let’s talk definitions.A typical top of the funnel inbound "marketing-generated lead" is a request for a white paper or eBook. A "sales-generated lead" is an outbound asset, such as a caller who expressed interest in speaking with an SDR or scheduling a call.A “sales opportunity” is the penultimate stage in a sales funnel, who is usually a qualified prospect already familiar with the free marketing and sales materials you have available to attract customers—and is interested in your offers, in an authoritative position to make the purchase decisions and on a time crunch to find solutions to their company’s pain points.The BIG difference between leads and opportunities is that a lead is not a sure thing, meaning they may not possess one (or more) of these following attributes, that can turn them into a sales opportunity:

  • Problem: Say a lead approaching you is interested in your offerings, but cannot identify (or are not aware of) the pain points they are trying to solve with your products/services. That’s where your sales rep comes in—to artfully ask the right questions, to generate awareness about the problems that are hindering their business growth. Once they realise where they stand, what you offer may or may not be the right choice for them.
  • Interest: Yes, your lead may be aware of the pain points in their business, and your company may be providing them with just what they need—but do they really need to solve them urgently (or at all)? Executives must prioritize, and you have no clue where you will land on their list of contingencies.
  • Fit: Now the lead has both pain points and the interest to sort them out, but suppose their budget doesn’t fit your base rate of services? Or maybe your product is suited to companies with 3-10 employees, but they have a workforce in the hundreds? The expectation of your client needs to align with what you can best offer. If both are not well-aligned, they won’t be satisfied with you in the long-term and everyone knows what that means—bad customer reviews, yelp!

An opportunity, however, is a potential source of revenue for your organization, if managed right. The challenge to converting a sales opportunity into a paying customer, is to simply show them why you are the best at you do.Now, how do you qualify the quality of a lead? You can do that using the BANT framework as discussed above. Qualifying lead quality helps you focus your attention where it is needed, and saves you hours of verifying whether every lead you receive through your various marketing channels is worth chasing or otherwise.

what is mean by BANT?
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How to manage your leads vs. your opportunities?

Let’s face it. Keeping track of your leads is hard. When you are going into marketing your products/services fully prepared, you should be prepared to manage the leads coming out of every marketing channel.Be it networking at events, running organic/paid social media campaigns, hosting webinars where you sign up prospects through an online lead gen form, or getting recommended by affiliates and referrals—you should have a system to log in every lead you get for qualification by your sales reps.That’s where a CRM comes in.

What is a CRM?

A CRM or a customer management tool is a schema of processes your company should implement to manage all communications with current, former, and potential clients.A CRM tool benefits your business and especially, your sales team, by storing all necessary contact details of both inbound and outbound leads in the same space and updating the status of each lead, being engaged in real-time. It basically:

  • simplifies the qualification and nurturing of your leads;
  • automates many laborious and manual sales workflows; and,
  • monitors the development of your leads and sales possibilities.

This all enables you to close more sales, improve lead connections, and accelerate your sales process.

What is a CRM?
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Now, there's a very elementary difference in the managment of leads vs. opportunities using a CRM tool.

  • For leads, the CRM qualifies them as cold, warm or hot using a universal framework, such as the BANT and filters out those that are not the right fit for your products/services. This helps you save time and resources.
  • For opportunities, the CRM tool assigns stages that clarify the high value deals at a glance. There is a likelihood associated with each stage, from prospecting to negotiation, that shows you the potential revenue in your pipeline and shows you how near you are to concluding the sale.

As for contact management, your CRM tool acts like a hard drive for storing information about your past, present and potential leads. It hosts all the information in one place—phone numbers, email addresses, past purchases, personal details, etc. It makes things fast and easy for you to locate and share that information with both your marketing as well as your sales teams.Lead and opportunity management is important for both your marketing and sales teams.Your marketing team needs to know about your leads and where they came from. It helps them create email campaigns that are successful and make marketing investments that have a high return on investment.Your sales team, meanwhile, needs to be aware of the opportunities to determine possible sales, cultivate connections and generate income. Opportunities in the pipeline are crucial to sales managers. They aid in potentially generating income and estimating your company’s future performance through the pipeline management data.

How can you convert your leads into opportunities?

Pushing your lead through the sales pipeline and converting it into a paying opportunity is what your marketers and sales reps aspire to do. For this, they try to tick off the following boxes:

  • Scouring the internet for your ideal leads and contacts who require your goods and services, can afford them, and have the power to order them;
  • Maintaining a mainline of communication with a lead or contact that is effective—by creating points of contact with potential clients to engage with them, demonstrating the value your product or service offers in solving their requirements and building a rapport with them through continuous nurturing, using emailers, social media and your website’s content; and,
  • Pursuing leads through timely scheduled follow-ups keepstheir interest and intent alive until they turn into opportunities. This will typically involve, regular direct communication between them and someone on your sales team or in your company who understands that there is a good chance of making a deal.

Besides these basic steps, here are some ways you can effectively convert qualified leads into paying opportunities:

1. Capture the Right Market:

To capture the right leads, understand the market that you’re operating in, and the behavior of your target audience. Use demographics (age, gender, education level, employment), geographic (location, address, region, country), and socio-economic (life-style, social class, personality, attitude) data of your target audience to show them relevant content and even incentivize them to convert into leads.

2. Segregate Your Leads and Score Them:

Select only those leads based on the business context that you believe would be actually beneficial to your company and are interested in purchasing your goods or services.Investigate these leads carefully, analyze their intentions and interactions with your platform, look into their most recent sales activity, and then get in touch with them. This is crucial, since if your sales team follows up on every lead for your company, they will not only waste a lot of time and effort.You can assess a lead's worth and significance using the lead scoring tool. Lead scoring is considered as a top revenue contributor by 68% of highly efficient marketers. The better it is, the bigger the lead score. Lead quality also entails selecting only those leads with the ideal profiles who can be converted into loyal customers over time.

3. Establish Communication with Your Leads Using Effective Channels:

Nurturing your leads is a regular exercise, lest they lose their iinterest and intent to buy from you.Be modest if you call them to get in touch with them. Make sure they are satisfied and address any of their questions and concerns. Inquire if they'd be interested in a demo call to better understand your product(s) or service(s), frequent updates on your brand's offers, or anything else related. Make it clear to them that you care about them and would stop at nothing to help them better their business and revenue.Delve deeply into the platforms that prospects utilise to interact with your brand. To reach out to them, try utilizing your complete gamut of marketing methods like emails, cold calling, social media, etc.

4. Regular Follow-up:

It is essential to follow-up with your targeted leads on a regular basis and in a timely manner. They must develop the impression that you are concerned about their wants and are ready to give them all the services they require.Don't give up after making that initial demo call or after sending your target audience one or two emails. Follow up with them frequently. Inform them about the services offered by your company and emphasise your unique selling propositions.

5. Employ a CRM to Speed Up Sales:

Having two divisions within your sales staff is always a good idea; one that handles all of your current customers, and the other to manage all of the new leads your company generates.Another way to help your sales team is by utilizing a decent CRM system to track your prospects' sales progress and other associated actions. Additionally, you can employ specialised personnel to keep an eye on and distribute leads to various sales managers. This will assist your sales staff in managing all incoming leads and managing their sales funnel throughout the whole purchase process.

6. Improve Credibility by Highlighting Reviews from Past Customers:

82% of customers responded that their purchasing decision was impacted by reading positive customer reviews and product testimonials. So, make the most of your customer reviews.Make prospective clients read the reviews of your satisfied existing customers to earn their trust. Add them on pages like the home page, pricing page, blog page, and others where people are most likely to read them.You must correctly feed and nurture leads throughout their sales journey to turn them into trusted customers. You should determine your lead conversion ratio and keep track of every individual lead’s journey to identify any opportunities your brand may be missing to convert leads into clients.

Leads Funnel
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Final Thoughts

Qualifying leads into sales opportunities and moving them through the sales pipeline to convert them into paying customers is the backbone of any business. As we discussed above, having an efficient system to verify the quality of leads, communicate with them and find the intent behind their buying decision—is a priority in today’s fast-paced digital selling setup.Consumers that approach you for your products/services are already well-informed, from studying your website content, following your brand on social media and reading your past customers’ reviews on Google. They have probably even evaluated you alongside your competitors and are primed to make a decision, even before they send you their first inquiry.What helps you with closing such deals then? First, directing these qualified leads through the fastest route to your sales reps, without wasting their time.Turn these leads into opportunities with RevenueHero.This sales acceleration platform handles lead qualification and routing, scheduling, and prioritizing leads based on high-value offers as well. Combined with a reliable lead scoring system and seamless integration into all the tools in your GTM stack, you can convert as many prospects leads into sales opportunities as you’d like, and never run out of a full sales pipeline.Wish to learn more? Check out the platform!

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