Just like prospecting for gold, sales people prospect for sales leads or customers. These are potential contacts a seller seeks in order to close a deal or agreement for services or supplies. They are generally considered the first step in the entire sales process.
A "lead" can be an individual or business who has shown interest in a service. A sales person might seek sales leads out independently or purchase a database that lists leads. The perfect conclusion to a lead is a presentation, sale, or agreement.
Most businesses need leads to survive. An advertising agency looks for accounts, real estate agents look for home buyers, and consultants look for clients. Some businesses even specialize exclusively in lead consulting.
For example, an admissions advisor at an online college might call people who have shown interest in the school by filling out a form on the college website. The form information becomes the lead. Forms like this usually consist of a name, email address, mailing address, and phone number. Submitting this information voluntarily makes this person a sales lead.
Once the potential student starts giving the school money for her education, she becomes a student, and consequently she goes from lead to sale. If that person decides not to become a student, she remain in the leads database and can be contacted again for future interest. Not all leads turn into sales.
Developing sales leads can be done in many ways and is often approached systematically. The purchase of lead databases is popular with businesses that thrive primarily on outside sales. These databases consist of a business owner's name, location, phone number, fax, and any other relevant information. Sales leads are very valuable information, and often demand a high price.
Sales leads can be acquired through word-of-mouth, Internet research, and trade show participation. Lead prospecting can be a full-time career, or just part of the final sales goal. Prospecting is an important element in establishing business relationships.