Prospecting vs Lead Generation: Understanding Their Differences

Finding a prospect with the right profile remains among the most challenging things for most marketers. Why? Because it is pretty easy to pick on anyone and start selling your product to them. 

But if they don’t meet the criteria of the ideal prospect, then this will be wasted energy. 

This is why companies invest heavily in data analysis, trying to filter wheat from the chaff. Also, marketing departments spend a lot of time analyzing who perfectly matches the product they want to sell. 

Why is all this necessary? 

Because over the years, sales executives have learned that selling to anyone who pops up is pointless. This is especially critical in cold email marketing; if a company reaches out to the wrong prospect, it will probably never receive a response. 

This brings us to the fundamentals of today: Prospecting vs Lead generation. Who qualifies as a prospect, and how are they different from a lead? Are the differences any significant in an email marketing campaign? 

We’ll elaborate more on their differences while highlighting ways marketers can seamlessly generate leads/prospects in their sales processes.  

Discover the disparities between prospecting and lead generation, key aspects for effective marketing and business growth.

What Is Lead Prospecting?

Let us start with the basics. 

Who is a business lead?  It is virtually anyone you’re reaching out to for a business opportunity. A business lead is, at best, a raw deal of a person not necessarily aligned to become a viable buyer of your product. 

Therefore, you're dealing with a lead anytime you pick on anyone and think of them as buyers without paying attention to the intricate details of whether or not they need your product. 

And so, who is a prospect? - Any lead has shown interest in the product and from the engagement with the sales team, they have indicated that they can actually be in to make the purchase. 

Therefore, a prospect represents a filtered lead who is not just thought of as any other possible buyer but those who are qualified to purchase the product on offer.

Lead vs Prospect

A perfect way to differentiate the two in any business deal is to check out the proceedings of their conversations with the sales agent. For instance, the moment a marketer sends a cold email to numerous people, they are dealing with a lead. 

Usually, the conversation with a lead is one way; the marketer tries to show a probable buyer what is it for them in the deal while the lead is probably not sending enough signals to indicate interest. 

But a lead morphs into a prospect when they start responding to the offer while also giving their view of what they consider about the deal. 

For instance, say you send cold emails to numerous people, and a small number responds, trying to negotiate the offer you presented them. You’re now dealing with prospects; with a little more convincing, you can convert them to buyers. 

Lead Prospecting in Business

It is the process whereby businesses evaluate their current leads to qualify them as prospects genuinely interested in the company’s products. The basis of prospecting lead customers is that we have two sorts of leads. 

First, some are just in for the ride, probably because you contacted them to buy a product/service they don’t even need. Also, we have others who were excited by what you are selling but are yet fully convinced that they need your product. 

The essence of businesses prospecting for sales leads is primarily to find out where to concentrate their efforts on. Prospect lead generation is, therefore, a rigorous process but one with excellent results in regard to sales conversions if done excellently. 

Lead Prospecting Practices: Converting a Lead into a Prospect

Lead prospecting is more than narrowing down to a list of interested customers. It is primarily about qualifying them by checking their eligibility through the following three measures: 

  • First, check out whether they truly require the product you’re selling them. This is the foundation of prospecting lead customers; with zero interest, there’s no way to bring them to your fold. 
  • Also, Lead prospecting involves picking out a customer's pain and trying to subdue it. So does your customer have a problem worth your solution/product? If they do, they are bound to be interested. 
  • Finally, you can have a lead that fulfills the above two conditions but lacks the financial muscle to settle their needs. So ask yourself whether the prospect you’re dealing with has the buying power for your product. 

After picking on the prospecting leads who qualify to graduate to quality prospects, the following steps are critical in making them customers. First, you need to personalize the solution you are offering, making it feel primarily designed for them. 

Don’t treat them as part of a pool of prospects anymore, sending generic emails to them like you would do while they were first leads. Create a personal link, dedicate a sales agent to them, and always be on time to respond to their concerns during the negotiations. 

What is Lead Generation?

It is the process of piquing a lead's interest primarily to prepare them for a business engagement that will result in a sale of the company’s products/services.

Lead/sales generation takes numerous forms depending on where it is applied. For instance, when conducting an online marketing program, marketers generate leads by collecting customer data by asking them to fill out a form. 

Next, they use the collected data to reach out to the leads and engage them to determine if they can become prospects. 

So why is Lead Generation in Sales Important? It arouses the lead’s interest in a product they’d not have bought, probably because they have never interacted with it or it appears way too expensive. 

Hence, lead generation in sales is the anchor upon which customer interest begins. 

Lead sales generation 

The fundamental principle of lead generation in online marketing is ensuring you can draw prospects to your website. For instance, say that you’re an insurance firm selling premiums. 

Bringing the lead to your website is the only way to begin an engagement leading to sales conversion. The next hurdle is proposing the business idea in a way that excites the leads to share their contacts with you to kickstart the sales process. 

So how do you deal with traffic generation? There are several ways businesses can achieve this. 

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

It is a marketing mode that involves advertising with search engine firms. For instance, you can pay Google to send customized ads to customers who have searched for products/services similar to what you’re selling. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

You can draw traffic to your site if your website is properly optimized with keywords that align with the common client searches. This is the natural traffic generation method primarily because it enables search engine Algorithms to find/propose your site organically. 

Social Media Marketing

Does your business have a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or other popular social media platform? These are great avenues for tapping into clients as they naturally check out other content. 

Social media marketing is effective but requires page optimization to boost traffic. 

Offline Events

Think of a conference you once attended whereby the hosts pitched on a particular product. This is an example of an event that can significantly draw the attention of the leads to your presence. 

After the conference, the organizers most likely took your contacts for future communication. This is lead generation at its best!

Engaging Leads

Lead generation is the initial step toward announcing your presence to prospective customers. But you’re yet to engage significantly with the lead to make them interested in your offering. 

Here are some subtle ways of engaging online generated leads after generation to encourage them to share their contacts for future interaction. 

Pitch Engaging Content

Entice the lead into wanting to know more about you by presenting exciting content to them. For instance, include a blog on your website explaining the various products you sell. 

If well convinced, they’ll have no problem giving their details, which you can use in future marketing, such as sending cold emails. 


Sales generation at the first instance of lead interaction can be more thrilling via webinars. This invites clients to chip in in the live video interaction and share their insights on the topic under discussion. 

Webinars are very effective in sales generation because video pitching is more convincing than other forms of information presentation. 

Landing Pages

How good is your landing page? Does it present your products explicitly while elaborating on their perks? Leads are ready to share their contacts as long as you convince them you have solutions to their problems. 

How is Lead Prospecting different from Lead Generation?

Now that we have elaborated on the distinctive features of lead prospecting and lead generation, you’re probably wondering why some people often use the terms interchangeably. 

Are they any different? Instead, which is the better one for customer conversions? 

Prospecting leads and sales generation are different in principle. But they are used simultaneously in sales and marketing primarily because they are complementary practices. Both are fundamental in lead conversions. 

Let us highlight their subtle differences using various simple examples to help you understand why they can drive sales up the ceiling when used together. 

Sales vs Marketing 

Sales generation is a reserve of the marketing department in a company. This is the unit responsible for announcing the business presence to prospective leads. Thus, all marketing moves, including TV and Radio advertising, aim for lead generation. 

On the flip side, the sales team is mandated with lead prospecting. They are vital in identifying the leads ripe for conversion to prospects and pushing them to accept the deal on offer. Hence, the sales team is the cog of a marketing campaign as they take over the conversion process. 

Interest vs Dedication

A lead will show low interest in the product or service under offer. They can simply visit your company’s website out of curiosity or subscribe to the free version of a product. 

Hence, at the primary level, the lead may or not proceed further with the cooperation once their trial period lapses. 

But a prospect takes it a notch higher. In addition to showing initial interest, they are inquisitive about how to continue with the service, say, after lapsing a product-free trial period. 

Also, a business lead trying to negotiate for a better deal than what is offered is probably a prospect in the making. Therefore, it is up to the sales agent to gauge the degree of interest to qualify the contacts from a lead to a prospect. 

Finding Vs Converting

Another angle to view prospecting vs lead generation is the initial processes involved in each aspect. Lead generation is akin to mining the people who can be future customers. 

It's more generic and involves paying little attention to the specifics of the people the marketer is dealing with. 

Conversely, prospecting leads is about guiding them to the next stage. It is all about dealing with the individuals at their personal level and telling them more details about your products and why they need them. 

Manual Vs Automatic 

A magnet automatically traps the elements that are naturally attracted to it. Essentially, this is the basis of lead generation. It is like setting a light trap to effortlessly draw fireflies to the light source. 

Even in lead generation, the numerous attracting methods invite all interested people to assemble on your website. Next, you will need to break the ice on why you’ve called them over, and this is where prospecting comes in handy. 

Taking the same analogy, lead prospecting is the manual bit. 

Here, the marketers cannot afford to set further ‘traps’ as it’ll be futile in qualifying those interested into prospects. 

Rather, the matter is sieving out those who believe in your products/services from those unknowingly ensnared in the ‘trap.’ So salespersons need to deal with them manually, one by one- listening to their individual needs and responding to each of them uniquely. 

Quality vs Quantity

With lead generation, the higher the number of people you reach out to, the better. Primarily, this is an information spread phase. So you need to operate on volumes to ensure you have quite a vast pool to fish the potential prospects. 

But prospecting for sales leads is about the quality of those who you have. Are they good enough to become customers? Do they have the needs that my product is addressing? Taking care of such queries is the salesperson's role in qualifying leads to prospects. 

Thus, the aim is to have a shortlist of a few prospects with a great chance to buy. 

How do you know which one to use?

A successful business marketing campaign depends on the simultaneous application of both techniques. But businesses' priorities vary in determining which of the two should take the fore role depending on the issues at hand. 

For instance, take a startup venture with very low overall popularity. Such an entity cannot afford to concentrate on lead prospecting as, fundamentally, they don’t have a base of clients to pick out from. So the bulk of effort should be in lead generation processes such as:

  • Digital Marketing
  • Social media awareness
  • Organizing Awareness Conferences

Next, after successfully attracting the leads, the business can enter the next phase of qualifying them as prospects per their ideal customer profile. Who are some of the leads whose interest is beyond reproach? Pick them out and proceed to the sales prospecting step. 

The select people are the group you reach out to via lead prospecting techniques such as the following: 

The rule of thumb is that a business's choice should be informed by what is most pressing when choosing where to invest more in- either lead generation or prospecting. Though ideally, you should systematically use the two techniques together. 

But at times, a company can focus on one at the expense of the other, depending on the prevailing conditions.

Lead Prospecting via Email Examples

Your prospect has a particular need you have realized you can help solve. Therefore you need to send them a customized email to ensure you can up their interest and have them more interested in your service. 

Lead prospecting emails should have the following core elements. 

A Congratulatory Email 

Start with genuine flattery. Look for something outstanding the lead has done and let them know that you acknowledge it. Where do you source all this information? As a sales agent, this is where the bulk of work lies. 

Check out the lead’s social media pages, LinkedIn, and their company’s websites for developments such as funding updates. Here’s an example of how the message should appear. 

Hey Kissinger,

Congratulations on achieving the latest Taekwondo badge. It indicates your commitment and courage to accomplish any task you take on. 

This should open up more doors of success for you in the future. 

Regards, Tyler. 

Why this sort of email? It's a great way to engage the prospect, as they will genuinely be flattered that you did your homework and knew of their achievements. So be sure to get a thank you message with the prospect also wanting to know who you are. 

Provide Value

Talk to the prospect about the improvements you can bring to their websites, but refrain from being overly salesy. At best, your value at this stage should be free of charge so the prospect sees your genuine need to help. 

If they show interest, you will escalate the offers with a premium version offer later in the deal. The general rule at this juncture is that you must take caution not to exaggerate the problem the prospect is having. Simply make it sound like a minor tweak you can fix in a few minutes. 


Hey Kissinger, 

Thumbs up for setting up a great website with exquisite loading times and a perfect user interface. On these, you’ve done what 90% of bloggers fail at, which shows that you’re poised for big things as you continue adding up the content. 

But I realized the blog section has a readability issue we can help you fix. Our editor will also analyze for the correct use of keywords to help boost its ranking on Google. If you’re okay, I can send one of our SEO experts to fix this. 

Kindly let me know if you’re in for this via a reply to this email. 

Regards, Tyler. 

By providing value, you have the prospect by the scruff of their neck. They are drawn to the offer primarily because they feel it can significantly improve their business. 

Lead Generation For Cold Email Examples

Above, we have covered how to lead prospects into a fruitful engagement that will set the ground for a sales conversion. But how do you first get the leads via email? Without leads, you have no chance of generating prospects. 

This is why the lead generation process via cold emails is significant in the bigger pipeline of gaining prospects. Below we’ll look at a few cold email templates for lead generation. Take a look. 

AIDA Cold Email Template

It is a technique that follows four main stages of email writing, with each part being highly important in primarily catching the lead’s attention and keeping them interested. 


Draw the lead to the email with an outstanding hook that makes your email shine high above the rest of the emails they have received. 


What are some of the lead’s interests? Allude to them in this email to keep them engrossed in your email. 


Elicit the urge for the prospect to enter the deal by illustrating what is in for them. 


Finally, guide them onto the next course of action they should take after interacting with your submission. This could be asking them to call or simply reply to the email for further engagements. 


Your Site’s loading speed needs fixing. 

Hey Kissinger, 

We are an SEO optimization company, and we really like your site. Kudos for building it up to the present level, but we believe, like many other bloggers, you could be having an issue optimizing its loading time and appearance on a mobile device interface. 

Today, over 50% of web visitors do so from their mobile devices, so optimal site performance on such platforms is cardinal. 

If you are in for a briefing on how to make this work, we’re ready to see you through it. 

Reach out to us by filling out the form attached to this link. 

Best Regards, Tyler- Head of Marketing, Stratton and Briggs SEO. 

BAB Cold Email Template

This method involves getting into the lead's mind, awakening their pains, showing a way out of their struggles, and offering to alleviate them. These are the three primary elements of the BAB template. 


What is the problem the lead is currently facing? Highlight it at the beginning of the email. 


How should it be after the lead has fixed their problem.? Here highlight the pleasure or reprieve the prospect will realize if they overcome the pain you highlighted. 


Finally, position yourself as the agent of resolution. Offer the lead a way out of their challenges by guaranteeing ultimate fulfillment when they take up your product or services. 


Hey Kissinger. 

I just realized your website loads quite slowly, especially with a poor internet connection. This can frustrate visitors, and quite a number could probably feel that it's not user-friendly. 

A fast website is among the things that can propel its rankings to astronomical levels. Speed of loading is held in the same regard as site content optimization, so it's critical. 

But this can be fixed by modifying its structure via our plugin. It highlights the parts that could render it to load slowly and fixes them immediately. 

Reply to this email for more details on our plugin and how to use it to accelerate your site’s loading speed. 

Regards, Tyler- Head of Marketing, Stratton and Briggs SEO. 


There’s a thin line between lead prospecting and lead generation, but we believe we have quashed all the blurred areas you had about these techniques before. The bottom line is that you need both for a successful marketing campaign. 

We’ve also given you several examples of lead generation and prospecting leads to sales. Here’s our final take on this: Always treat the prospect as a customer you met long ago. On leads, don’t address them as strangers, especially when sending cold emails. 

Personalize the messages, and you’ll have an elevated chance of converting them to sales. 

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