What is a lead?

Published March 22, 2021 | Written by Vitalie Vovc

Even though it sounds basic, this question is not that easy to answer. If you ask your colleagues “what is a lead?”, I bet you will get as many different definitions as the people who answer.

With sales and marketing rapidly adopting digital in order to accelerate business opportunities, you can no longer afford to have multiple abstract definitions on what a lead is. The reason? If you want a well-defined lead management process, you need to start with a clear and solid foundation. This foundation requires a common definition canvas across both of your sales and marketing departments.


The definition of a lead

A Lead is a person at the top of your sales and marketing funnel who has shared contact details by interacting with your content or company on your website or external channels.

Let’s take an example.

A person visits your website and lands on your case study gallery after a couple of page views. To download a document, this visitor must fill in a short form with an email, a name and a job position. Now you know who this person is. Let’s call her Emma. Emma is now a lead in your prospect database.


The position of the lead in your sales funnel

All the leads are not the same.

Some of your leads will be in your business target, and some won’t. How can you better understand those leads that have the highest potential? A critical element in the foundation we mentioned above is – a Buyer Persona.

You may ask, “What is a Buyer Persona?”. Here are a few ideas that you need to develop an effective Buyer Persona that go well beyond their contact, job and demographic details.

  • Where are they in the value chain?
  • Is this specific person the economic buyer, a technical influencer, or what is their connection to the ultimate decision-maker?
  • Do you understand the pain they are trying to solve, and does your solution meet that need?
  • Where are they on the continuum of decision-making authority?
  • What is their understanding of your company and your products or services?
  • Are they in “learning-mode” or “project-mode”?

Among all the leads that match your buyer persona, the level of engagement, maturity and education about your company, solutions or technologies will be different for each one.

If you are able to gain this level of understanding, you will be able to more accurately anticipate the position of this lead in the buying cycle. We usually demonstrate this with the sales and marketing funnel that you may already know:

lead stage funnelThe typical sales and marketing funnel


As you can see in this funnel, the lead is at the very top.

If this lead shows a strong interest in your products or company, and matches one of your buyer personas, it deserves to be called a Marketing Qualified Lead , otherwise known as a MQL.

After a short email or phone qualification, if this MQL has a real interest in your product for a project, then it needs a sales follow-up. This MQL becomes a Sales Qualified Lead, or SQL.

Lastly, this SQL will enter your sales process to become an opportunity that can then be more effectively converted into a customer, or lost... But that’s another story.


This whole process is what we call the Lead Management. Check out our Lead qualification 101 for chemical suppliers if you want to improve or setup an effective lead management at your company.



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