Choosing which one to employ depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Once you’ve made that determination, the decision is easy.

I frequently recommend using lead generation, and then in the next breath mention sales prospecting when we’re defining new business development strategies and building client campaigns. But, I’ve realized that business owners – and even salespeople and marketers – don’t recognize the subtle differences between them.

Both terms describe a new business development approach, but they aren’t synonymous. In fact, the goals of lead generation and sales prospecting, and when to employ each, often are very different.

Yet, both are essential in driving net new clients for your business.

So, What’s the Difference?

Simply put, lead generation is a long term strategy and prospecting is a short-term, quick hit strategy.

Lead generation is a one-to-many approach, focused on your target market. It centers on prospective client cultivation and nurturing with a goal of building awareness and interest in your target market to generate leads over time. When your pipeline is healthy and you want to keep it that way, lead generation is the approach for you.

Prospecting, meanwhile, is a 1:1 approach focused on a smaller, defined set of prospects in your target market. You use it to quickly identify, engage and close new clients. When your pipeline is thin and you need to replenish it, prospecting is the way to go.

Not understanding the difference can kill your sales pipeline quickly.

When to Employ Lead Generation

Consider using a lead generation strategy when you:

  • Want to build awareness and get prospects to demonstrate some form of interest before you contact them by phone
  • Have the time to execute a series of strategies to build awareness and interest in your target market
  • Don’t need leads right now
  • Prefer to use a combination of personal, digital, and collaborative prospect attraction strategies like I write about in my book, “The Sales Magnet“
  • Want to develop an approach for building a consistent flow of leads
  • Want to attract leads that are warmer and more qualified

When to Employ Sales Prospecting

Use sales prospecting when you:

  • Are thirsty for new opportunities and want to close first appointments quickly
  • Favor a combination of 1:1 calling, email and social selling to uncover new prospects
  • Prefer to focus on a very targeted list of customer microsegments to ensure that your value proposition is specific and relevant to the prospect
  • Aren’t worried that the people you’re prospecting have no awareness of you
  • Are comfortable being rejected or ignored (with prospecting, it may take at least nine attempts before you get a response)
  • Are confident in your ability to quickly and concisely deliver your value proposition, and are comfortable questioning customers and responding to their objections

Choosing which one to employ depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Once you’ve made that determination, the decision is easy. Ultimately, you want to do BOTH prospecting and lead generation. In my next blog post I’ll share how to successfully combine both strategies to uncover more qualified leads.

About the author

Kendra Lee

Kendra Lee is a top IT seller, sales advisor and business owner who knows…

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